President Donald Trump speaks on May 30th at the Kennedy Space Center. (NASA/Bill Ingalls, Flickr CC)
President Donald Trump has signed S.209 into law, granting Tribal Nations greater self-reliance and power to shape their self-governance contracts with the federal government. But his signature on Wednesday afternoon came with conditions. “I note, however, that the Act includes several provisions that raise constitutional concerns,” his signing statement on October 21st states. As for reports not incorporated into the legislation itself, he stated, “My Administration will give appropriate consideration to these accompanying reports but will not consider them legally binding.”
The bill, S.209, known as the PROGRESS Act, or Practical Reforms and Other Goals To Reinforce the Effectiveness of Self-Governance and Self-Determination for Indian Tribes Act of 2019, is intended to streamline the U.S. Department of Interior’s process for approving self-governance contracts and annual funding agreements for Indian programs by amending the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975.
PROGRESS seeks to align the process used by the DOI to be similar to the processes used by the Indian Health Service. And the act adds more flexibility in administering contracts for Indian Tribes that either have not qualified for self-governance or have chosen to administer only a few Bureau of Indian Affairs programs.
Trump’s signature comes a month after the bill cleared its final hurdle in Congress with strong bipartisan support. Read the statement from President Donald J. Trump on S. 209 here.
Trump Administration’s Putting America’s First Peoples First Plan
Meanwhile, two weeks ahead of the general election, the Trump Administration has released a policy plan for Indian Country, outlining commitments to improve Tribal economies, health, education and more. The three-page plan entitled “Putting America’s First Peoples First Plan,” released on Tuesday, October 20, lists core principles as respecting Tribal sovereignty, promoting public safety, improving Tribal economies and infrastructure, honoring Native heritage, and improving health and education for Native Americans.
The last-minute move during campaign season marks the first time since Trump took office that his Administration has released a policy for Indian Country, and the announcement comes two weeks after Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign released its updated 15-page policy plan for Tribal Nations. The former-Vice President first debuted his Indian Country platform in March.