Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), left, and Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), serve as chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Photo: SCIA

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs postpones activity due to snow

It's a big snow day for the nation's capital, including for the normally busy Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

The committee was planning to meet on Wednesday afternoon for a business meeting and an oversight hearing. But with the federal government closed as snow continues to accumulate in Washington, D.C., both proceedings have been postponed.

"They will be rescheduled for a later date," the committee said in the morning.

Two items were on the agenda for the business meeting. They were:
S.1250, the Restoring Accountability in the Indian Health Service Act. The bill seeks reforms at the Indian Health Service that have been sought by tribes but does not immediately address quality of care issues that have plagued facilities in places like the Great Plains. The committee held a hearing on the bill on June 13, 2017, when those quality issues were discussed.
S.2515, the PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act. The bill, which enjoys bipartisan support, attempts to "streamline" the self-governance process at the Department of the Interior, with PROGRESS standing for "Practical Reforms and Other Goals to Reinforce the Effectiveness of Self-Governance and Self-Determination." The committee did not hold a hearing on the bill but similar versions were considered in prior sessions of Congress.

Immediately following the meeting, the committee was supposed to take testimony on the Trump administration's fiscal year 2019 budget request for Indian programs. The witness list had included a familiar cast of characters -- two officials who serve in "acting" capacities at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service appeared at a similar hearing over on the House side on Tuesday.

But the Senate committee also had invited tribal leaders to talk about the budget, which calls for a reduction of $453 million from the BIA. The IHS was spared from cuts but a big chunk of the $413 million increase sought by the administration comes from a shift in the way the $150 million Special Diabetes Program for Indians is treated within the budget.

New dates for the meeting and hearing have not yet been announced.

The full witness list for the hearing was as follows:
Mr. John Tahsuda
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs
U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC

Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee, MBA, MHSA
Acting Director
Indian Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Rockville, MD

The Honorable Jefferson Keel
National Congress of American Indians, Washington, DC

The Honorable Lynn Malerba
United South and Eastern Tribes – Sovereignty Protection Fund, Nashville, TN

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notices:
Business Meeting to consider S. 1250, the Restoring Accountability in the Indian Health Service Act of 2017, and S. 2515, the PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act (March 21, 2018)
Oversight Hearing on "The President's FY2019 Budget Request for Indian Programs" (March 21, 2018)

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