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Senate Indian Affairs Committee approves four bills
Friday, May 11, 2007
Filed Under: National | Politics

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a business meeting on Thursday and advanced four bills, including the significant Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

Reciting his familiar cry of a "bona fide crisis in health care in Indian Country," Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) pushed for approval of the act, which expired in 2000 and has been held up repeatedly. Unlike years past, the bill, S.1200, cleared the committee without amendments.

"This reauthorization has been kicking around, back and forth, back and forth, for a long time," said Dorgan, the chairman of the committee.

That doesn't mean the measure wasn't controversial. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), a physician, cast the lone "no" vote because he said the bill won't resolve major problems with the delivery of health care in Indian Country.

"We will pass this bill, but we will not be addressing Indian health care concerns in a satisfactory way," said Coburn.

The measure now heads to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration. It is also moving in the House, where it passed the Natural Resources Committee and awaits action from two other panels.

In other action yesterday, the Indian Affairs Committee approved two Native Hawaiian bills. One was the S.310, a bill to extend the policy of self-determination to Native Hawaiians, and H.R.835, a bill to reauthorize a Native Hawaiian housing program.

S.310 passed without amendment but Coburn raised constitutional concerns. The Bush administration opposes the bill, saying it creates a race-based government.

Senate Republicans last year blocked passage of the measure but Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said the new Democratic majority is close to securing enough votes to approve it this year.

H.R.835 also cleared the committee without changes but Coburn was concerned about a provision regarding the loan process. Currently, prospective Native Hawaiian homebuyers must be turned down by a private lender before seeking federal help, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's interpretation of existing federal law.

The new bill strikes language in the Section 184A, the Native Hawaiian Housing Loan Guarantee Fund, that referred to "private financial markets." The House has already approved the measure, though it had to take it up twice in order to overcome Republican maneuvers.

Finally, the committee approved S.J.Res.4 without amendments. The bill extends a formal apology to all Native peoples for "official depredations and ill-conceived policies" of the United States.

The resolution is sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), a 2008 presidential hopeful. It passed the committee during the 109th Congress but never came up for floor consideration.

Bills Approved:
* S. 1200, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 2007
* S. 310, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2007
* H.R. 835, Hawaiian Homeownership Act of 2007
* S. J. Res. 4, Native American Apology

Relevant Links:
Senate Indian Affairs Committee - http://indian.senate.gov

Related Stories:
Senate Indian Affairs Committee meeting (5/10)
Bush administration opposes Native Hawaiian bill (5/4)
Senate hearing on Native Hawaiian recognition (5/3)
Indian Health Care Act introduced in Senate (5/2)
Top Democrat backs Shoshone-Paiute water bill (4/27)
Senate hearing on Shoshone-Paiute water rights (4/26)
Democrats pass Native Hawaiian bill on second try (03/29)
Health care push continues at House hearing (3/19)
DOJ's Indian white paper a political whodunit (3/14)
House hearing on Indian Health Care Improvement (3/14)
Urban Indians under attack over health care (3/12)
Fireworks at Indian health care hearing (3/9)
Senate hearing on Indian Health reauthorization (3/8)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee meets under Democratic rule (01/18)

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