Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, left, is greeted by Chief Lynn Malerba of the Mohegan Tribe and Chairman Kevin Brown of the Mohegan Tribe, at the National Congress of American Indians mid-year conference at Mohegan Sun on the Mohegan Reservation in Connecticut on June 13, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
National | Politics

Secretary Zinke set for another hearing on Interior Department budget

Secretary Ryan Zinke, the new leader of the Department of the Interior, is making his third appearance before Congress this week.

Zinke is slated to testify before the House Committee on Natural Resources on Thursday. The topic is his department's fiscal year 2018 budget request, which cuts funds to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Tribal leaders have pushed back against reductions in education, natural resource and social service programs. Zinke hasn't offered much resistance and has basically said it's up to Congress to determine how to fund the trust and treaty responsibility.

“I hear it, I got it,” Zinke told tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians last Monday when asked about the cuts. “But at the end of the day, Congress is the one that decides.”

The lawmakers who actually write Interior's funding bill haven't pleased with the request either. Members of the House Committee on Appropriations have said they will work together in a bipartisan fashion to counteract the Indian Country cuts.

"These cuts in some of these Indian programs are just not acceptable," Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), who is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, said when Zinke appeared at an appropriations hearing earlier this month. "This is the poorest part of our population."

"You don't balance the budget on the back of your poorest citizens," Cole added. "Quite frankly, in this case, these are treaty obligations."

The House Committee on Natural Resources is presenting a slightly different view. A hearing memo prepared in advance of Zinke's appearance says the BIA request includes "full funding" for self-determination contracts at the same time it acknowledges a $45.4 million cut for contract support costs.

Thursday's hearing takes place at 9:30am Eastern in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building. The witness list follows:
The Honorable Ryan Zinke
U.S. Department of the Interior
Washington, DC

Accompanied by:
Ms. Olivia Barton Ferriter
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Budget, Finance, Performance and Acquisition
U.S. Department of the Interior
Washington, DC

Ms. Denise Flanagan
Office of Budget
U.S. Department of the Interior
Washington, DC

House Committee on Natural Resources Notice:
Oversight Hearing "Examining the Department of the Interior's Spending Priorities and the President's Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposal" (June 22, 2017)

Department of the Interior Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Documents:
Budget in Brief | Indian Affairs Highlights | Department Office Highlights [includes Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians]