Trump’s fight with Democrats over border wall funding partially closed the federal government starting on Saturday. While the shutdown hits its fifth day today, Wednesday brings the first full business day after several government departments and agencies closed up shop prior to the Christmas holiday.
Tribes are bracing for impact, although as Jonathan Nez, President-elect and current Vice President of the Navajo Nation, pointed out: essential tribal services should remain protected. “The partial shutdown will impact services through the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs to some extent,” said Nez, reported the Navajo-Hopi Observer. “We are communicating with officials within DOI, BIA, HIS (Indian Health Service), and other agencies to ensure that essential services, such IHS medical, emergency care and public safety, are not affected. It’s disappointing that an agreement wasn’t reached, but our leaders at the federal level need to remember that these basic essential services are protected through the Treaty of 1868 — therefore, these services should not be jeopardized by the partial shutdown.”
The Interior released a Shutdown Contingency Plan for essential operations and to prepare for a lapse in appropriations. The plan states that 2,295 of total 4,057 BIA employees, and 40 of 3,244 total BIE employees, are subject to furlough. “The Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs will be responsible for implementing and adjusting the plan to respond to the length of the appropriations hiatus and changes in external circumstances,” it states.
The Indian Health Service (IHS) said it will “continue to provide direct clinical health care services as well as referrals for contracted services that cannot be provided through IHS clinics.” But the HHS.gov site specifies the activities that would not include: “IHS could only perform national policy development and issuance, oversight, and other functions necessary to meet the immediate needs of the patients, medical staff, and medical facilities. IHS would be unable to provide the majority of funds to Tribes and Urban Indian Health programs.”
Congressman Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a member of the House Appropriations Committee and an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation, released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a short-term funding measure to avoid a partial government shutdown. The continuing resolution funds the remaining areas of government at current levels until February 8, 2019. It also includes additional funding for border security and disaster relief.
“Both sides agree that the government should be kept open and operational,” said Cole. “I am pleased that the funding measure passed by the House does exactly that while also providing for some other pressing needs in country. Along with vital funding for disaster relief, the legislation also fulfills the modest request from the president to begin strengthening security at our borders. While a continuing resolution is not ideal for funding the government, the legislation importantly prevents the far worse alternative of a partial government shutdown.”