Robert Weaver, a citizen of the Quapaw Tribe, was nominated to serve as director of the Indian Health Service but never secured a confirmation hearing in the Senate. Courtesy photo
Health | National | Politics

Trump nominee for Indian Health Service drops out amid doubts about record




'Indian Country deserves better'

Quapaw citizen Robert Weaver no longer up for key post
By Kevin Abourezk
@Kevin_Abourezk

Robert Weaver, President Donald Trump’s embattled nominee to lead the Indian Health Service, is no longer under consideration for the job, a spokesperson told Indianz.Com.

“Mr. Weaver is no longer the Administration’s nominee for Director of the Indian Health Service,” the spokesperson from the Department of Health and Human Services said in an email on Wednesday afternoon.

No explanation was given for the termination of the nomination, as the spokesperson declined to say whether Weaver had withdrawn his name or if Trump pulled it.

But the failed bid represents a rarity for the IHS, which has never seen a president's nominee fail to advance in the process, though former IHS director Chuck Grim withdrew his nomination to a second term as director in 2007.

Weaver, on the other hand, never even received a confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, another rarity for an Indian affairs post in any presidential administration.


Weaver, a citizen of the Quapaw Tribe, had come under fire in recent months for possibly misrepresenting his credentials and educational history, as well as for leaving a former employer in financial trouble, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to The Journal, Weaver fell behind on billing insurance companies and collecting payments for Herndon Snider & Associates, a mental health service provider. He also had been questioned for failing to disclose all of his campaign contributions to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, which was established to re-elect Trump, Roll Call reported.

The IHS has been in the hands of an "acting" director for more than three years now. The lack of leadership has tribal leaders worried about a health care system that affects more than 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.

"We keep hearing positive signs on one hand and negative on the other," President Jefferson Keel of the National Congress of American Indians said of the stalled nomination during the organization’s winter session in Washington, D.C., last week. "We just don't know. That is inexcusable."

Robert Weaver Campaign Contributions

Committee Name Contribution Date Amount
TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN COMMITTEE March 19, 2017 $500
TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN COMMITTEE April 19, 2017 $500
TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN COMMITTEE May 19, 2017 $500
TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN COMMITTEE June 19, 2017 $500
TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN COMMITTEE July 19, 2017 $500
TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN COMMITTEE August 19, 2017 $500
TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN COMMITTEE September 19, 2017 $500
TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN COMMITTEE October 19, 2017 $500
TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN COMMITTEE November 19, 2017 $500
Source: Federal Election Commission

Some tribal advocates had voiced support for Weaver’s nomination in recent weeks, including O.J. Semans, a citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe who closely followed the process.

In a letter sent to tribal leaders this week, Semans called on them to demand a confirmation hearing for Weaver. Semans criticized The Wall Street Journal’s reporting on Weaver’s nomination and accused Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), the Democratic vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, of using the newspaper to stall the nomination.

“I find it disturbing that Senator Udall is providing questions to the WSJ and then he is using those same questions to hold up Mr. Weaver’s nomination hearing before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee,” Semans said. “Why is a senator and his staff, who have the best health care money can buy, really going against the wishes of tribal leaders?”

Semans cited a host of tribal organizations that have voiced support for Weaver’s nomination, though Indianz.Com was unable to verify those claims.

However, in an HHS news packet describing Weaver, several leaders in Indian Country voiced support for his nomination. They included President Russell Begaye of the Navajo Nation, Chairman Ernie Stevens of the National Indian Gaming Association, a non-profit organization, and Chairman John Berrey of the Quapaw Tribe.

“Robert has served as a hospital administrator, and been involved in native healthcare practices for American Indians and Alaska Natives for many years,” Berrey was quoted as saying in the news packet, a copy of which was obtained by Indianz.Com. “He has received many awards for his service to his tribe and Native Americans."

"It would be a great honor to have such an outstanding advocate such as Robert to be selected to lead the Indian Health Service,” said Berrey, who also sent a letter to Udall's committee earlier this month, calling for a confirmation hearing.

More Robert Weaver Campaign Contributions

Committee Name Contribution Date Amount
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE March 19, 2017 $125
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE April 19, 2017 $125
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE May 19, 2017 $125
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE June 19, 2017 $125
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE July 19, 2017 $125
DONALD J. TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT, INC. July 19, 2017 $375
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE August 19, 2017 $125
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE September 19, 2017 $125
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE October 19, 2017 $125
Source: Federal Election Commission

Udall, for his part, called on President Trump to select a strong nominee to lead the IHS, which has faced long-running questions about the substandard quality of care.

“Recent reports that Mr. Weaver intends to withdraw himself from consideration seem appropriate given the serious questions recently raised about his suitability to lead a vitally important health agency overseeing critical care for over 2 million people across the nation," Udall told Indianz.Com. "Now the Trump administration must honor its trust responsibilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives and nominate — and fully vet — a director with the strongest possible combination of leadership and fiduciary skills as well as experience running a large public health system."

"I urge the administration to work to prioritize upholding the government-to-government relationship by seeking tribal input as it begins the process of selecting a replacement nominee," Udall said. "Indian Country deserves better.”

The IHS isn't the only federal agency without a permanent leader. Tara Sweeney, whom Trump nominated as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, has yet to receive a confirmation hearing. Sweeney would be the first Alaska Native to oversee the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Just last week, Trump nominated Jean Carol Hovland, a citizen of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, to serve as the Commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans, another agency within the HHS. Her nomination would be handled by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

Note: O.J. Semans Sr. spoke to Indianz.Com in his personal capacity, not as a representative of any tribe or tribal organization. This post has been updated to reflect the nature of his comments.

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