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Democrats push $463 billion federal spending measure

The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service will see slight boosts in their funding under a massive $463.5 billion appropriations measure unveiled by Democrats on Tuesday.

The Republican-controlled 109th Congress adjourned last year without passing all of the federal budget bills. Though the House had approved the Interior Department's funding measure, the Senate failed to act.

To address the situation, Democrats introduced a joint funding resolution for 2007 that will maintain funding for most federal agencies at 2006 levels. They also cut out thousands of earmarks, also known as pork projects, that affect millions of dollars in spending.

"I don't expect people to love this proposal, I don't love this proposal, and we probably have made some wrong choices," said Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wisconsin), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

But some Indian programs were spared from drastic changes. Democrats funded IHS with $2.8 billion, an increase of $125 million to fund patient care and clinical services.

The BIA was funded at nearly $2 billion, with $75.4 million set aside for post-secondary education. The money means schools like the United Tribes Technical College in North Dakota, whose leaders have repeatedly battled against funding cuts, should receive funds for the current year.

"We are not a pet project," said David Gipp, the president of UTTC. "We are not a shady deal or some boondoggle that nobody knows about."

Elsewhere, the measure provides $42 million to make water, land claims and other types of settlement payments to tribes. That's $8 million above current levels and $3 million above the amount approved by the House last year.

The bill doesn't specify any new amounts for the Office of Special Trustee. That means the agency, whose budget has rapidly exploded since the start of the Bush administration, will operate under 2006 levels.

The House is expected to pass the bill today. The 137-page measure will then be taken up by the Senate in the coming weeks.

The federal government is currently being operated under a continuing resolution. It expires February 15.

Funding Resolution:
Summary | Text