Make that deal? House plan would fund government, narrow fight on border issues

Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi at a White House meeting last month. (C-SPAN photo)

Mark Trahant

Democrats spending plan includes $3.077 for Bureau of Indian Affairs, $5.77 billion for Indian Health Service

The soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wasted no time sending a message to President Donald J. Trump on New Year’s Eve: It’s fine to fight about a border wall. But that doesn’t require shutting down much of the government.

The speaker-designate is ready to make her point with legislation. On its first day in office, the House will take up spending bills Thursday, including provisions that recently passed the Republican-controlled Senate. Those spending bills would fund the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Housing and Urban Development and others now closed by the partial shutdown. Then the House would pass another bill to temporarily fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels until February 8, while continuing to talk about issues related to border security. That bill does not include the $5 billion that the president has requested for a wall.

President Trump invited lawmakers to the White House Wednesday to talk about border security. His government-by-tweet message this morning: “Border Security and the Wall “thing” and Shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let’s make a deal?”

Rep. Pelosi, D-California, responded in a tweet: that the president “has given Democrats a great opportunity to show how we will govern responsibly & quickly pass our plan to end the irresponsible #TrumpShutdown – just the first sign of things to come in our new Democratic Majority committed to working #ForThePeople.”

The first test of any deal is basically an agreement about how to fight. Pelosi and the Democrats suggest limiting the fight to the Homeland Security budget -- and letting the rest of the government return to normal operations. She would even limit the damage from that debate by funding Homeland Security for another month. (Then, at least, those working for Homeland Security would continue to get paid.)

In a news release, Pelosi and Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said, “It would be the height of irresponsibility and political cynicism for Senate Republicans to now reject the same legislation they have already supported. Once the Senate passes this legislation and puts us on a path to reopening government, the president must come to his senses and immediately sign it into law.”

The holiday seasons masked much of the impact of the government shutdown, but between Jan. 8 and Jan. 11 many agency payroll schedules will be missed and some 800,000 workers, furloughed or on the job as “excepted” employees, will not get paid. About a quarter of the federal government does not have spending authorization from Congress.

This week more of official Washington will go into official shutdown mode. The National Archives, the Smithsonian, have closed signs hanging in front of their doors.

Kevin Gover, director of the National Museum of the American Indian, posted on his Facebook page this morning: "Day 12 of the partial government shutdown. I’m glad the Smithsonian was able to keep the museums open through the holidays using funds carried over from last year. As of today, though, we are out of money and closed to the public. I’m heading in on Metro to oversee the orderly closeout of business. By 1:00 pm the NMAI will be empty, save for the security officers who are required to work with no guarantee of payment.
I’m sad that we have to cancel a number of events and programs. I know everything will work out eventually, but for now I’m concerned about the welfare of the staff. The burden falls most heavily, of course, on the lowest-paid workers, the facilities workers and security officers and cafeteria workers. So let’s hope this is resolved sooner rather than later."

The House legislation would reopen most of government, including the Smithsonian museums.

The Democrats proposal includes $3.07 billion for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education, an increase of $13 million above last year’s funding levels and $663 million above the president’s budget. It also includes funding for Contract Support Costs. It also funds the Indian Health Service at $5.77 billion, an increase of $234 million above the last year’s funding level and $348 million above the president’s budget request. The bill fully funds Contract Support Costs.

But that bill depends on the White House’s willingness to deal.

Consider this government shutdown a practice run. There are several budget issues on the horizon that are deeply contentious that will require some sort of deal between the Congress and the White House.

The debate about increasing the federal debt limit will begin as soon as March. (The Treasury Department can extend this debate by using “extraordinary measures” to leverage cash keeping the government under its borrowing authority until late summer.) Republicans generally oppose increasing the debt limit, but it’s complicated for the party in the White House because the money has already been obligated, it’s just a question of paying bills. Democrats in the past have added automatic spending bill increases in budget resolutions.

Another issue that will impact the next budget is sequestration or across-the-board, mandatory budget cuts under the ten-year Budget Control Act of 2011. To prevent that, Congress will have to come up with another deal, one that the president agrees with, in order to prevent sequestration from happening again. But the president may agree to these kinds of budget cuts because, except for the military, it’s closer to the budgets that have been proposed.

Then that’s the fights ahead. A deal is still needed to get this government running again.

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

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Broken Promises: Continuing Federal Funding Shortfall for Native Americans Briefing Before The United States Commission on Civil Rights Held in Washington, DC Briefing Report December 2018

“The Commission majority approved key findings including the following: Federal programs designed to support the social and economic wellbeing of Native Americans remain chronically underfunded and sometimes inefficiently structured, which leaves many basic needs in the Native American community unmet and contributes to the inequities observed in Native American communities. The federal government has also failed to keep accurate, consistent, and comprehensive records of federal spending on Native American programs, making monitoring of federal spending to meet its trust responsibility difficult. Tribal nations are distinctive sovereigns that have a special government-to-government relationship with the United States. Unequal treatment of tribal governments and lack of full recognition of the sovereign status of tribal governments by state and federal governments, laws, and policies diminish tribal self- determination and negatively impact criminal justice, health, education, housing and economic outcomes for Native Americans.

The Commission majority voted for key recommendations, including the following: The United States expects all nations to live up to their treaty obligations; it should live up to its own. Congress should honor the federal government’s trust obligations and pass a spending package to fully address unmet needs, targeting the most critical needs for immediate investment. This spending package should also address the funding necessary for the buildout of unmet essential utilities and core infrastructure needs in Indian Country such as electricity, water, telecommunications, and roads. Congress should ensure that these funds are available and accessible to all tribal governments on an equitable need basis.

The federal government should provide steady, equitable, and non-discretionary funding directly to tribal nations to support the public safety, health care, education, housing, and economic development of Native tribes and people. Congress should provide funding to establish an interagency working group to share expertise and develop and improve systems and methodologies that federal government agencies could replicate for the collection of accurate and disaggregated data on small and hard to count populations such as the Native American and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander racial groups.”

Deb Haaland: Congress is still breaking the law to hurt indigenous people, hundreds of years later


Yet INSTEAD, the US Democratic Party has NO PROBLEM in sending $10 BILLION US dollars to Mexico and Central American countries in "rebuilding" their nations/countries. Who "represents" whom? illegal aliens? or legitimate, enrolled, registered American Indian - dual US citizens?