Udall Fights For Advance Appropriations, Strong Funding Of Critical Indian Programs

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Udall Fights For Advance Appropriations, Strong Funding Of Critical Indian Programs

Senator presses Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney on proposed cuts in the president’s FY2020 Budget Request

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and lead Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, joined Committee Chairman John Hoeven (R-N.D.) to lead an oversight hearing on the president’s FY2020 Budget Request for Indian Programs.

In his leadership roles in both the Indian Affairs and Appropriations Committees, Udall has secured important increases in funding for Indian Programs, like the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), and Indian Health Service (IHS). He has also championed budgetary certainty for Tribes and essential federal programs in Indian Country through his bill, S.229, the Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act (IPAAA)

“Whether it was Tribal child welfare programs at risk of closing down or Tribes struggling to keep ambulance services and police vehicles running, the impacts of the shutdown this past winter were far reaching,” said Udall in his opening statement. “I was proud to introduce legislation, S.229, the Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act, to provide funding certainty for the Indian Health Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs by authorizing their budgets to be funded a year in advance.  I urge my colleagues to listen to our Tribal witnesses today and take to heart the need for us to work together on a bipartisan basis to reform the Tribal budget process and provide more certainty for Indian Country.”

When pressed by Indian Affairs Committee members on the administration’s position on IPAAA and advance appropriations for the BIA and IHS, Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney stated that BIA is engaged in conversations.

“I do see the benefits in advance appropriations,” Sweeney said.  

National Congress of American Indians President Keel expressed support for the IPAAA, noting the last government shutdown exposed Indian Country’s need for the consistent provision of essential services, like snowplowing roads and police services.

“Advance appropriations would prevent that – would guarantee that there would not be a disruption of services – not for one day,” Keel  aid.

Udall also pressed Sweeney on the administration’s proposed cuts to critical Indian programs. 

“Effective advocacy for Tribal budget priorities within the administration depends on strong leadership.  Assistant Secretary Sweeney, you pledged during your confirmation hearing to be an advocate for Indian Country not only from within the halls of Interior, but also across the Executive Branch.  Unfortunately, the administration’s proposed budget does not appear to reflect such advocacy,” Udall said.