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Senate Indian Affairs Committee holds hearing on fiscal crisis






The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing this afternoon to focus on the "fiscal crisis" in Indian Country.

The committee considered two major topics. The first was the failure of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service to fully fund self-determination contracts despite two rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both agencies are now on the hook for hundred of millions of dollars in unpaid contract support costs. Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, the head of the BIA, admitted under questioning that some $1 billion is probably owed.

The IHS, meanwhile, has only resolved 16 out of 1600 claims in the 16 months since the Supreme Court decision in Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter. At that rate, the problem will never be resolved.

The second major issue was the sequestration of the federal budget. A panel of tribal leaders testified that they have had to cut programs this year and are facing further cuts in the coming year if Congress and the executive branch do not resolve their stalemate.

The hearing lasted almost 2 hours.

Committee Notice:
OVERSIGHT HEARING: "Contract Support Costs and Sequestration: Fiscal Crisis in Indian Country." (November 14, 2013)

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