The Red Lake Nation held its 13th annual community wellness gathering at the Red Lake College in Red Lake, Minnesota, from January 9-11, 2019. The tribe is now facing a "cash-flow crisis" as a result of the ongoing government shutdown. Photo: Michael Meuers / Red Lake Nation

Mark Trahant: Impact of shutdown on Indian Country continues to mount

Senate to vote Thursday on Trump, Democratic plans to reopen government
Longest government shutdown in history continues to threaten Native people, tribes, nonprofits
By Mark Trahant
Indian Country Today

The Senate will vote on two competing plans to reopen the government Thursday. First the Senate will take up the president’s plan to fund the government, and, if that fails, the Senate would then vote on a three-week continuing resolution to fund about a quarter of the federal government through February 8.

“We’ve heard members of Congress on all sides demanding a resolution to this impasse and a plan to quickly restore full funding to the federal government … and we now have a plan from the president that would do exactly that, and quickly,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said on the Senate floor. “The opportunity to end all of this is staring us in the face.”

He said the president’s offer would “accomplish everything Democrats have said needs to be accomplished right now. It’s a strong proposal.”

Democrats disagree. But they are keen on getting a vote before the Senate.

“For the first time, we will get a vote on whether to open up the government without any decision, one way or the other, on border security,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said on the Senate floor Tuesday night.

C-SPAN: Senate to Vote Thursday on Competing Proposals to Re-Open Government

And so in the official language of the Senate “This will result in 2 cloture votes (60-vote thresholds) at 2:30 pm on Thursday on the President’s proposal and the Emergency Supplemental appropriations with a CR through February 8. A live quorum and subsequent vote on the motion to instruct the Sergeant at Arms to request the presence of absent senators is also possible for Thursday’s session.”

What does that mean? These are only test votes. It’s a procedural vote to see if either side can find 60 votes to end a potential filibuster. So Republicans will be looking for 7 votes from Democrats to move the president’s plan forward. And, conversely, Democrats will need 13 votes from Republicans in order to get to the next step, a consideration of the continuing resolution.

But if the Trump plan goes down -- as is likely -- there is a chance that Republicans would vote yes for a temporary spending plan because that would open up a window for President Donald J. Trump to give his State of the Union speech on January 29. The Associated Press reported that the White House will go forward with the speech in front of a joint session of Congress, despite a request from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi requesting a delay until after the government is reopened. The Washington Post said the White House is also looking at the president giving the speech before an audience at a different location.

But a short-term spending plan, funding the government until February 8, could end that particular game. And it would be a mechanism for getting a paycheck to the more than 800,000 federal employees, as well as contractors including tribal governments. This week marks the second missed paycheck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE Starting this week, our Saturday clinic will be closed as we continue to make adjustments during the...

Posted by Seattle Indian Health Board on Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Meanwhile across the country, the impact of the government shutdown on Native communities continues to mount.

The Seattle Indian Health Board said it would reduce its clinic hours beginning Saturday.

According to KUOW, the health board will cut the number of substance abuse treatment beds at its Thunderbird Treatment Center. Abigail Echo-Hawk told KUOW that many health board programs rely on federal funding, including programs for traditional Indian medicine, meals, health care, and a safe space for about 90 mostly homeless elders.

“We are in a cash-flow crisis,” Darrell Seki, chairman of the Red Lake Nation in northern Minnesota told The Star Tribune. “But we are doing everything we can not to lay off people and to keep up services.”

Across the country there are numerous reports about Indian Health Service healthcare professionals continuing to work without pay.

In Washington state, the Makah Tribe is hit because the Coast Guard is a large employer in the area where its nation is located, the Neah Bay Station. The Coast Guard’s commandant said Tuesday it was “unacceptable” that members of the armed services should be forced to work without pay.

“Thank you for continuing to stay on the watch,” Adm. Karl Schultz said in a Twitter video posted Tuesday, just days before hundreds of thousands of federal workers are expected to miss their second paychecks of the year. “We’re five-plus weeks into the anxiety and stress of this government lapse and your non-pay. You, as members of the armed forces, should not be expected to shoulder this burden.”

One bit of good news: A recent Indian Country Today story mentioned a food bank for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in Fort Hall, Idaho, and a child’s concerns that not all families had food at home. Since that story, the food bank received a $5,000 donation.

Now to get that word to Congress.

Indian Country Today is compiling #ShutdownStories from tribal communities and others affected by the longest shutdown in U.S. history.

Spreadsheets: Impact of shutdown on tribal communities | Impact on individuals, nonprofits

Mark Trahant is the editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter @TrahantReports.

This story originally appeared on Indian Country Today.

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