American Indian Policy Institute
Leading the discourse on tribally-driven, informed policy-making.
Congress was occupied with several nominations from the Biden administration and busy negotiating major initiatives like the American Jobs Plan in the month of April. Still, Congress took action on nine bills and resolutions pertinent to Indian Country. New initiatives include a heightened emphasis on the importance of clean reliable drinking water and a resolution recognizing the significance of the Eagle Staff and acknowledging a renewed commitment to working with Tribal Nations. April also included important hearings on S.915, the Save Oak Flat Act, and on infrastructure needs in Indigenous communities with testimony from our own Executive Director, Dr. Traci Morris, PhD.
Federal agency actions were plentiful this month, with important notices including a call for nominations for an open position on the Treasury’s Tribal Advisory Committee and information about several upcoming Tribal consultations. Further, multiple agencies are seeking comment as they develop distribution formulas for money allocated to Indian Country from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.
The 117th United States Congress continues to demonstrate a renewed commitment to working on issues that are important to Indian Country. In addition to holding six different hearings on issues critical to Indian Country, Senate and House Committees took action on 32 legislative items in the past month. Further, the Senate voted to confirm Deb Halland 51 - 40 as the first ever Native American to serve as the United States Secretary of the Interior. The last month on Capitol Hill was a busy and exciting time for Indian Country and the crucial work will not be slowing down any time soon.
Of note, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law by President Biden on March 11. The Act, meant to provide additional relief to address the continued impact of COVID-19, includes a historic $32.1 investment in Indian Country which will provide Tribal governments and Federal agencies that serve Indian Country with the resources to address needs in water infrastructure, broadband infrastructure, healthcare, and other critical needs. Further, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18) introduced H.R. 1620, a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. It proposes to expand Tribal access to Federal criminal information databases and extend Tribal criminal jurisdiction over crimes including domestic violence, dating violence, obstruction of justice, sexual violence, sex trafficking, stalking, and assault of a law enforcement or corrections officer. H.R. 1620 passed the House on March 17.
Despite being occupied with a second impeachment hearing in its first weeks, the 117th United States Congress continues to introduce new legislation, including proposals with significant impacts on Indian Country. Perhaps the most impactful legislation introduced in February is S. Con. Res. 5, which enables Congress to begin the Budget Reconciliation process, allowing for passage of President Biden’s $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 relief package. This proposed package includes about $20 billion allocated to Tribal Governments.
There were also important administrative actions taken this month, including President Biden’s executive order to strengthen nation-to-nation relationships and consultation with Tribal Nations. The President’s order requires all agencies to develop a comprehensive Tribal consultation plan which recognizes and respects Tribal sovereignty within 90 days. Further, this update includes Notices for funding opportunities under the Rural Business Development Grant Program and newly scheduled meetings for the U.S. Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee and the U.S. Commission on Human Rights Arizona Advisory Committee.