Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
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Health | Opinion
Mark Trahant: OMB poses a challenge for Obama


"Every president is challenged by the nature of bureaucracy, and the agency that best reflects that power is the Office of Management and Budget. OMB is where many good ideas all but disappear from public discourse. The agency is a budget traffic cop, saying “no” to any agency request that it thinks cost too much.

These days the Nixon administration gets much credit for the president’s July 1970 Indian affairs message that called for a sharp break with the past. “This policy of forced termination is wrong, in my judgment,” the president said. “We have turned from the question of whether the Federal government has a responsibility to Indians to the question of how that responsibility can best be furthered.”

But Nixon’s words were not all that different from President Johnson’s message to Congress in 1968. LBJ also said it was time to end “the old debate” about ‘termination and he stressed self-determination. But the president’s words fell flat because there wasn’t support in Congress or the bureaucracy for such substantive change.

This is the context for President Barack Obama’s meeting with tribal leaders Nov. 5. “I know that you may be skeptical that this time will be any different,” the president said. “You have every right to be and nobody would have blamed you if you didn't come today. But you did. And I know what an extraordinary leap of faith that is on your part.”

And that leap of faith was matched immediately with the sort of action that doesn’t draw headlines. The president picked the OMB as the key agency to implement the government’s new policy. “I hereby direct each agency head to submit to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), within 90 days after the date of this memorandum, a detailed plan of actions the agency will take to implement the policies and directives of Executive Order 13175.”"

Get the Story:
‘UNREALISTIC’ HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR TRIBAL CONSULTATION (Mark Trahant 11/9)

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