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Opinion
John Thune: Senate turns back on Indian Country


The following is the opinion of Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota).

In the face of increasingly difficult economic times, the Senate majority is spending money at a record pace. On March 5th, I gave the Senate the opportunity to do the right thing for Indian Country by addressing a critical need for increased funding for health care and public safety programs. Unfortunately, most of my colleagues did not rise to the occasion.

I commend Senator Tim Johnson for being the only member of his party to vote for my amendment to the $410 billion Omnibus Appropriations bill that would have provided $400 million to the Emergency Fund for Indian Safety and Health. The amendment would have cut a mere one tenth of one percent from every other program in the massive spending bill to fund necessary programs to improve health care and public safety for tribes across the country.

Last year, President Bush signed into law a $50 billion foreign assistance bill that included my amendment creating the Emergency Fund for Indian Safety and Health. The fund is authorized to spend $2 billion over the next five years for critical public safety, health care, and water needs in Indian Country, but Congress must first appropriate money into the fund.

In South Dakota we have seen the kind of improvement that can be attained in the areas of public safety and health care if adequate funding is available. The $400 million I attempted to prioritize for Indian Country is a drop in the bucket compared to the overall cost of the bill, but the impact that $400 million could have had for improving the quality of life on reservations in South Dakota and in other parts of the country would have been remarkable.

I will continue to work for increased funding for public safety, health care, and water development projects in Indian Country, especially through the Emergency Fund for Indian Safety and Health. I recognize that there will be more opportunities to do the right thing for Indian Country, but I cannot stand by and say nothing when the Senate has failed to seize a golden opportunity to do a great deal of good in an area where it is most needed.

FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act:
H.R.1105 | Text and Explanatory Statement | More Details

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