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Health, 8(a) and Hawaiian bills are headed for a vote


WASHINGTON - Three of the major Native-specific bills in the current 110th Congress will be voted on soon in the Senate and the House of Representatives, according to an Oct. 22 release from the National Congress of American Indians.

NCAI expects the Indian Health Care Improvement Act reauthorization bill (S. 1200 in the Senate), the Native Hawaiian bill (H.R. 505 in the House) and a small-business contracting bill that would not alter the Small Business Administration's 8(a) minority-preference-in-government-contracting program (H.R. 3867) to be voted on the week of Oct. 29. The outlook varies for each of them, said a lobbyist who went on to provide analysis from within the lobbying community in Washington. From an abundance of caution toward congressional sensitivities on votes that are likely to be close, the lobbyist spoke on condition of anonymity. Further analysis, provided on condition of anonymity for the same reason, came from within Washington's Indian organizational community.

Updating health care through IHCIA reauthorization, a growing priority of Indian country in the past few two-year congresses, has fallen by the wayside due to resistance from the Republican presidential administration in recent years.

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Especially with two Democratic co-sponsors, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, away from Washington on the presidential campaign trail, Democrats were still relying on some Republicans to cross the aisle on behalf of Indian health care.

Republican party leaders have offered an agreement that would permit the health care bill to come to the floor for a vote, in return for offering Republican amendments, including one that would strip the urban Indian health care title from the bill. The proposed Republican amendments have not been negotiated. Urban Indian health care advocates consider the amendment unlikely to pass if it is offered on the floor. Procedural complications have pushed a vote back to the week beginning Oct. 29 or after.

The Small Business Contracting Program Improvements Act of 2007, H.R. 3867, would do nothing to hinder the participation of tribes and Alaska Native Corporations in the SBA's 8(a) contracting program. But amendments offered to a previous contracting bill by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., have put advocates on their guard against amendments. Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., is the leading candidate to offer one. The unamended bill contains provisions that will assist non-Native minority businesses, and NCAI identifies them as another reason to support the bill.

The morning of Oct. 25, the Democratic majority in the House pulled the bill from the day's schedule. According to an estimation available on Capitol Hill at short notice, the bill may come up for consideration the week beginning Oct. 29.