Sen. Murkowski challenges DOI on contract support costs

YouTube: Senator Murkowski to Secretary Jewell on Contract Support Costs

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) pushed the Obama administration on Tuesday to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter, a contract support cost case.

In June 2012, the court ruled that the Interior Department must fully fund self-determination contracts with tribes. Secretary Sally Jewell, however, told Murkowski that the fiscal year 2014 budget request won't meet that goal.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs budget includes $231 million for contract support costs. That's only 91 percent of the $253 million that is actually needed.

"So it is not fully funded," Jewell told Murkowski at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.

As part of the FY2014 budget request, the Obama administration wants Congress to revamp the funding mechanism for contract support costs. Murkowski asked whether tribes were consulted before the proposal was made public last month.

"The consultation is occurring now," David Hayes, the outgoing deputy secretary at DOI, told Murkowski.

"So, after the fact?" Murkowski pointed out.

Hayes insisted that the proposal in the budget is only intended as an "interim solution." "We very much view this budget as the beginning of a discussion. We need to solve this problem," he said.

Murkowski, however, said the Obama administration appears to be moving forward without considering the main holding of the decision -- to fully fund self-determination contracts, including support costs. The proposal applies to contract with the BIA and the Indian Health Service.

“We do need to figure out how we’re going to do right, not only the right thing because of the court decision but the right thing when it comes to these obligations that our Native people have incurred when it comes to operating our hospitals and our schools,” she said.

Interior Department FY2014 Budget Documents:
Strengthening Tribal Nations | Indian Affairs | Budget in Brief

Health and Human Services Department FY2014 Budget Documents:
Budget in Brief [Includes IHS]

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Audio from Senate Indian Affairs Committee's budget hearing (04/24)

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