House Passes S. 47 with Tribal Provisions and Sends VAWA to the President

In a historic vote the House of Representatives passed S.47, the Senate reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The vote on February 28th sends the legislation, which includes the tribal provisions supported by Indian country, to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law. The House passed the bill 286-138.

The bill passed the Senate earlier in February.

S. 47 is strong, bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Michael Crapo (R-ID). It improves VAWA programs and strengthen protections for all victims of violence. The bill includes historically important tribal provisions that will enable tribes to address domestic violence in Indian country by authorizing tribal governments to prosecute non-Indian defendants involved in intimate relationships with Native women and who assault these victims on tribal land. Current federal laws do not authorize tribal law enforcement or tribal courts to pursue any form of prosecution or justice against these perpetrators.

Sequestration in Effect as of March 1; Current Temporary FY13 CR Expires on March 27

Sequestration in Effect as of March 1; Current Temporary FY13 CR Expires on March 27

Sequestration kicked in this past Friday, March 1, 2013, and requires immediate across-the-board cuts in the amount of approximately $85 million split evenly between domestic and non-domestic spending for the remaining months of FY13. The cuts to domestic programs, which includes Indian programs, will be somewhere from 5% to 9% over future years with at least 5% in cuts or more in Indian programs for the rest of FY13 (7 months remaining). The Senate on Feb. 28th tried to pass legislation that would have delayed sequestration but it did not have 60 votes to proceed to the floor and, thus, failed.

The current FY13 Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on March 27; but, at this point, it appears that Congress will pass a clean CR for the remainder of FY13 (through Sept. 30, 2013) pursuant to sequestration requirements (cuts will be factored in). Even though there was talk that perhaps Congress would try to address sequestration in the CR by delaying sequestration, it does not appear likely at this point that this will occur because the President signaled on Feb. 28th that he would not risk a government shut down over an impasse on addressing sequestration with House Republican leadership. Further, it is being reported that real life impacts of the sequester will not be felt by most Americans by the time the CR expires on March 27, leaving those seeking to avert sequestration in weaker position to delay or stop sequestration prior to March 27. In other words, without or until there is a backlash from the public, sequestration will remain in place in the near future.

It is being reported that the President and the Congress will look to the FY14 budget process to reach a deal on spending and sequestration. The President typically sends his budget request to the Congress in the beginning of February; however, the President is late in sending his proposed FY14 budget to the Hill and is looking to send it up within the next month or two. The Senate is putting together a budget that it hopes to release soon even though it has not put a budget together in several years. The House, which under the Constitution originates spending bills, is beginning to schedule hearings on the FY14 budget without waiting for the President’s FY14 budget request.

Many tribes are pounding the pavement to remind Members of Congress of the United States’ trust and treaty responsibilities to provide funding/services to tribes and their members in exchange for the millions and millions of acres ceded by tribes to the United States. It would be helpful to have specific examples or details of the impacts that sequestration will have on you. Unfortunately, specific Indian programs are not protected from sequestration — unlike programs under the Veterans Administration, social security benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps, and Pell grants, which are explicitly protected from sequestration under the law.

Under the current law, sequestration will be in effect until FY21 to cut $1.2 trillion.