Category Archives: updates on washington legislation
The House and Senate have been on break and will return to session on March 25th. Before break and at field hearings, they were busy with hearings on important criminal justice topics; stopping drugs from entering Indian Country, reauthorizing of the Violence Against Women Act, and the crisis on Murder and Missing Indigenous Women.
On March 11, 2019, the President released his fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget request to Congress. The budget proposes cutting FY 2020 non-defense discretionary funding by $54 billion (9 percent) below the FY 2019 level, and by $69 billion (11 percent) after adjusting for inflation. The proposed budget would cut the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education (BIA/BIE) by about 10.5 percent compared to the 2019 continuing resolution level.
Other agencies would see cuts including 12 percent for the Department of Health and Human Services, 18 percent for Housing and Urban Development, and 31 percent for the Environmental Protection Agency. The Indian Health Service budget request for FY 2020 is $5.9 billion, which is $392 million or 7 percent above FY 2019.
Bureau of Indian Education Eliminations
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Eliminations
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Eliminations
U.S. Department of Education Eliminations
USET and other organization are asking for help lobbying for tribal consultation on the changes to Medicare and Medicaid funding to Indian country. The rules have changed that leave it to State’s to set work requirements for eligibility for Medicaid funding through the 1115 waiver process. This could severely impact Indian Health service funding. Therefore AI/AN Medicaid recipients must be made exempt from these barriers to accessing the health care to which they are entitled, and CMS has a duty to ensure that this occurs as a part of the waiver process. Medicaid currently represents 67% of 3rd party revenue at IHS, and 13% of overall IHS spending. Tribal organization are advocating that any proposed changes to the administration of Medicaid must be preceded by comprehensive consultation with Tribal Nations. Currently, the 1115 waiver process requires that states engaged in Tribal Consultation prior to submission of 1115 Demonstrations to CMS. CMS must ensure Tribal consultation with Tribal Nations occurs at both the state and federal levels before state waiver applications can proceed.
No doubt you have heard the news about the CEO and founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg testifying on Capitol Hill, and explaining why he didn’t protect his Facebook subscribers from privacy breaches and those that promote false and fake news. Well Indian Country is not exempt. See Washington Post Article:
Well fake news happens about Indian Country too. An article has been circulating on Facebook in recent weeks you may have seen published on May 5, with the headline, “In Victory for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Court Finds That Approval of Dakota Access Pipeline Violated the Law”. That article was cut and pasted from an article a year ago. A Vietnamese site claiming to be about Native American affairs has recycled the story to gin up clicks and advertising revenue. For some reason news about the Standing Rock reservation and Native American affairs in general have become a favorite niche of foreign-run Facebook pages and websites. If you see a news report about these topics pop up in your newsfeed, always check if you are looking at an original source before liking, sharing or commenting: it could be you are looking at old news being repackaged and fed back into your news stream by some guy in Macedonia or Kosovo wanting to make a few quick bucks.
At the relief of Indian County Congress passes an Omnibus bill in March, holding the course and adding a little money to the Indian Affairs budget. It was an uncertain, beginning to the year, that saw continuing resolutions, potential government shutdowns, a deal to raise budget caps, and a last-minute veto threat from the President. At the end the legislation provides $1.3 trillion in omnibus appropriations for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018.
Congressional appropriators rejected the deep cuts proposed in the President’s FY 2018 Budget Request, including those for federal Indian programs. Some of these provisions include:
- Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA): BIA is funded at a total of $3.01 billion, an increase of $203.8 million or 7.1%.
- Indian Health Service (IHS): IHS is funded at a total of $5.5 billion, an increase of $497.9 million or 10%.
- Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Funding: The bill contains a 3% set aside for Tribal Nations within the VOCA fund, or $133 million for the delivery of victim services in Indian Country.
- Opioid Epidemic: From a total of $1 billion in new grant funding to address the opioid crisis directed at state and Tribal governments, $50 million is set aside for Tribal Nations. In addition, $5 million is set aside for Tribal Nations to provide medication-assisted treatment. Finally, $7.5 million is provided for the BIA’s Law Enforcement Opioid initiative.
- Infrastructure: spending would increase for BIA and IHS construction, BIA road maintenance, and a $100 million competitive grant program is added under Native American Housing Block Grants (NAHBG) in addition to the $655 million provided for the NAHBG formula grants.
- Road Maintenance: will receive a 14 percent increase to $34.6 million.
- Restoration of the Tiwahe initiative: at the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.
- Violence Against Women Act: $2 million to implement both training and specific Tribal court needs, and $13 million to address the needs of Tribes affected by Public Law 83- 280.
- BIA Construction: would increase by $162 million to $354.1 million, an 84 percent increase.
- Opioid initiative:5 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Law Enforcement.
See Link: Budget Report
An interesting strategy has been proposed this last week to handle 2019 appropriations bills. Nearly, 16 Republican senators announced a willingness to work through August recess to complete spending bills and confirm more of President Donald Trump’s nominees. Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, who has led the effort, hinted that a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky would be forthcoming. “The Senate should immediately begin work on one or several consolidated appropriations bills, so they can be openly debated and amended accordingly,” the senators wrote. “Our defense priorities are bipartisan, and they should come first.”
That letter signals a willingness by the conservatives to bundle spending bills together, perhaps using the “minibus” strategy in which several regular appropriations measures get combined on the floor. Normally, senators would not want the chamber in session well into August during an election year, with lawmakers eager to be home and meeting with constituents and voters. The Republicans seem to want to avoid a last minute continuing resolution to keep the government funded past the end of September and they want to confirm a large number of Trump nominations as August approaches. Some of the 77 confirmations that took place by unanimous consent or voice votes as the August recess got underway in 2017 might have happened without a cancellation threat since that’s been the normal practice of the Senate.
These 16 senators, however, believe the threats affected the behavior of Senate Democrats. “Our diligence was rewarded with reason, and that can happen again,” the senators wrote.
Meanwhile dozens of Indian Country leaders were on Capitol Hill last week to present their budget priorities to key members of Congress before the Appropriations subcommittee on Interior. The testimony from tribes and Indian organization, representing every region of the nation, had a consistent message – Indian Country needs additional funding as part of the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities. The panel’s Republican and Democratic leaders, for the large part, have embraced that goal.
After hearing from the tribal witnesses, the House Appropriations subcommittee on Interior will spend the next month or so drafting the Interior appropriations bill. The package is typically released sometime in June, with lawmakers aiming to get it passed before October 1, the start of fiscal year 2019.