The Senate Indian Affairs Committee
is backing big increases for
Indian Country programs, including a $400 million appropriation that
was rejected on the Senate
floor earlier this month.
Sen. Byron Dorgan
(D-North Dakota), the chairman of the committee,
and Sen. John Barrasso
(R-Wyoming), the vice chairman, want
colleagues to boost Indian programs by more than $1 billion for the coming year.
They are seeking an additional $600 million for Indian health,
another $100 million for public safety and justice and at least
$90 million more for economic development programs.
"The United States owes a unique legal obligation and trust responsibility to 562 federally
recognized Indian tribes based on treaties, federal laws, and Supreme Court decisions,"
a March 13 letter to the Senate Budget Committee
recommend that the FY 2010 Budget Resolution include funding levels that will permit the
federal government to meet these solemn obligations."
Dorgan and Barrasso also want Congress to appropriate $400
million for the Emergency Fund for Indian Safety and Health.
That's the amount that Sen. John Thune
who is not a member of the committee but is a strong tribal advocate,
sought for the program through an amendment to the
Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act
The Senate rejected the request along party lines, with Democrats -- including Dorgan and other members of the committee -- voting against the amendment.
That led to an Indian Country Today story
Thune accused the majority party of playing "politics" with the bill, which President Barack Obama
signed into law last week.
According to Democrats, the fiscal year 2009 bill provides record
amounts for Indian programs. It includes
nearly $6 billion for the Bureau
of Indian Affairs
and the Indian
, an increase of 5.7 percent.
Combined with increases in the American Recovery and Reinvestment
, the BIA and the IHS will receive nearly $7
billion, a 23 percent increase, for the current year.
Obama has promised increases for both agencies but so far has only
released an outline of his fiscal year 2010 budget proposal.
In their letter, Dorgan and Barrasso say even more money is
needed to address poor health, safety and economic conditions
in Indian Country.
"The Indian Affairs Committee's oversight of conditions and issues facing tribal
communities has revealed significant challenges," Dorgan
and Barrasso wrote. "Many tribes face inadequate access to health
care, law enforcement services, economic opportunity, education, and housing, all key elements
of healthy communities. Tribal infrastructure needs are significant and too often present both a
threat to public health and safety and a barrier to tribal economic development."
Senate Indian Affairs Committee Views and Estimates
(March 13, 2009)
FY 2010 Budget:President's
FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act:H.R.1105
and Explanatory Statement
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(3/11) John Thune: Senate turns
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(3/6)Thune seeks more money for tribal
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