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Politics
House panel boosts funds for Indian programs


Indian education, urban health clinics, law enforcement and language preservation will see boosts in funding under bills advanced by the House Appropriations Committee last week.

At a markup on Thursday, the committee approved $5.7 billion for Indian programs at the Interior Department and related agencies, including the Indian Health Service. That's $243 million above current levels and $231 million above President Bush's fiscal year 2008 budget request.

The bill "honors our obligations to Native American communities, making investments into better education and healthcare," the committee said of the overall $27.6 billion package, an increase of 4.3 percent over current levels.

Also on Thursday, lawmakers took action on funding for the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Departments. Funds were appropriated for Native labor, Impact Aid for Indian students and for the Administration for Native Americans, including $3 million for the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Act.

"You cannot disinvest in the country's future without creating the kind of future that no one wants," said Dave Obey (D-Wisconsin), the chairman of the Appropriations committee and of the subcommittee that marked up the bill.

The bills mark efforts by Democrats to increase funding for programs that they say have suffered under Republican rule. President Bush has repeatedly cut Indian education, health and other programs and has not sought increases in certain areas.

But lawmakers have embraced some of the Bush administration's priorities for 2008. That includes $35 million for methamphetamine treatment and prevention efforts.

At the same time, appropriators have continued to reject the president's proposals. The 2008 Interior bill restores the $16 million Johnson O'Malley education grants, which tribes say are critical for Indian students nationwide.

Overall, the Bureau of Indian Affairs would receive $2.3 billion. That's $39 million above current levels and $118 million above Bush's request.

The Indian Health Service would see a $3.4 billion budget in 2008, an increase of $204 million for the current year and $114 million above the Bush proposal. Lawmakers fully restored the $32 million urban Indian health program, which serves more than 100,000 Native Americans in or near major cities.

Elsewhere, the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education subcommittee approved $47.3 million for the Administration for Native Americans, an agency at HHS. That's a $3 million increase -- which will directly go to Native language preservation efforts.

The subcommittee also approved $124 million for Indian programs at the Department of Education, or $6 million above Bush's request.

Appropriations Documents:
Interior and Environment | Labor, Health and Human Services and Education | Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Tables

Relevant Links:
House Appropriations Committee - http://appropriations.house.gov

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Bush budget cuts health, education and housing (02/08)