Congress and President Reach Two Year Budget Deal

Congress and President Reach Two Year Budget Deal

This week, House Democratic leadership, Senate Republican leadership, and the President reached a deal to lift the overall spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 for the next two years and to increase the nation’s debt limit for two years. Despite some opposition from both conservative Republicans and progressive Democrats, it is expected that the House will pass the legislation today, and the Senate will pass it next week with the President signing the bill shortly thereafter. Most importantly, the bill provides certainty of overall spending for the next two years and should significantly help to avoid the threat of a shutdown of the federal government during that time.

Specifically, the bill sets the FY20 spending cap for non-defense discretionary programs at $621.5B, an increase of $24.5B over the FY19 cap and an increase of $78.5B over what the BCA cap would have imposed without this legislation. The FY21 spending cap is set at $626.5B. Overall, the two-year deal results in $54B in increases over the FY19 levels.

Although this budget deal sets the overall spending level, both the House and Senate will still need to come to an agreement on the specific spending levels for each agency and program through the appropriations bills.

Senate Passes Inflation Reduction Act (Reconciliation Package)

Yesterday, the Senate passed a sweeping economic package of Senate Democrats through the budget reconciliation process to combat climate change, address health care costs, and raise taxes on large corporations. The Inflation Reduction Act (Act) cleared the Senate by a vote of 51-50 along party lines with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.

The package, which at times seemed to be completely dead, is the culmination of months of negotiations over President Biden’s domestic policy agenda with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).

Over the next decade, the Act is projected to raise more than $700 billion in government revenue, with much of that coming from a 15% minimum tax on large corporations and funds generated by an investment in tax collection efforts at the Internal Revenue Service to catch tax cheats. Other revenue-raising provisions include a 1% tax on stock buybacks and allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. The Act caps out-of-pocket costs for seniors’ Medicare prescription drugs at $2,000 a year and allows Medicare to negotiate the prices on ten medications.

Specific provisions in the Act to benefit Tribal Nations include:

  • $272.5 million to Native communities for climate resilience and adaptation, including $12.5 million to mitigate drought impacts for Tribes and $10 million for Tribal fish hatcheries;
  • $150 million for Tribal home electrification;
  • $75 million for loans to Tribes for energy development; and
  • $20 billion in loan guarantees for Tribal energy development.

The House will return on Friday, August 12th, to clear the measure and send it to President Biden for his signature.

EPA Announces Appointment of Casey Sixkiller as Region 10 Administrator

EPA Announces Appointment of Casey Sixkiller as Region 10 Administrator

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan announced that President Biden will appoint Casey Sixkiller to become EPA’s Regional Administrator for Region 10. Sixkiller will lead the implementation of the Biden-Harris environmental agenda in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and 271 Tribal Nations.

“Casey’s leadership dealing with critical environmental issues at the federal and local levels as well as his direct experience in the communities that have suffered far too long makes him an excellent choice to lead Region 10,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “I look forward to working with Casey to fulfill EPA’s mission.”

“I’m excited to contribute to the Biden-Harris Administration’s championship of environmental justice and science-based leadership at the EPA,” said Sixkiller. “I’m looking forward to working with Tribal nations and communities across Region 10 to leverage historic investments made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to meet the challenge of the climate crisis, improve air quality, increase access to clean water, address legacy pollution, and protect the natural beauty and ecoystems of our region for future generations to enjoy.”

Casey Sixkiller brings two decades of experience working at the federal, Tribal, and local levels to EPA Region 10. Throughout his career, Casey crafted practical solutions to complex policy problems, defended Tribal sovereignty and treaty rights, secured millions in federal funding to meet local needs, and led large, complex organizations. Sixkiller served as Deputy Mayor of the City of Seattle – the first Indigenous person in the City’s 171-year history – and Chief Operating Officer of King County, overseeing the daily operations of the largest city and the largest county in Washington state. Sixkiller began his career in public service in Washington, D.C., first working for then-U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and later U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). An enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Casey helped launch the Cherokee Nation’s Washington Office in 2001, serving as the Nation’s lead advocate before Congress and federal agencies. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Sixkiller is a graduate of Seattle Public Schools and Dartmouth College, but his proudest accomplishment is being the father of Anna, Sam, and Will.

U.S. Department of the Interior Releases Historic Report on Federal Indian Boarding Schools

U.S. Department of the Interior Releases Historic Report on Federal Indian Boarding Schools

Today, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) released the Federal Boarding School Initiative Report, which outlines its findings on the number of federal boarding school facilities that operated from 1819 onward, and the number of burial sites at these facilities.

A key highlight from the report was DOI Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland’s call for the reorientation of federal policy to support language and cultural revitalization in tribal communities to counteract nearly two centuries worth of policies aimed at the destruction of both.

The full report can be found HERE

BIA Issues Draft Revisions to Part 151 (Land Into Trust) and Part 293 (IGRA Compact) Regulations

BIA Issues Draft Revisions to Part 151 (Land Into Trust) and Part 293 (IGRA Compact) Regulations

The BIA released draft revisions to Part 151 and Part 293 (aka the IGRA compacting regulations) “for purposes of Tribal consultation only.” The draft revisions to the 151 land into trust process include a broad definition of “under federal jurisdiction” (“UFJ”), which has plagued the land into trust process since the Supreme Court’s 2009 Carcieri v. Salazar decision. Interior states that the draft proposed revisions to the land into trust process will make the process “more efficient, less cumbersome, and less expensive.”

The draft revisions to the Part 293 IGRA compacting regulations seek to “provide clear guidance regarding the Secretary’s review and evaluation process for Tribal-State class III gaming compacts.” The draft revisions seek to establish a more uniform class III gaming compact review and approval process. The draft revisions confirm that the Secretary is not obligated to disapprove a compact that violates IGRA. It does work to clarify the Secretary’s authority to issue guidance to compacts that are “deemed-approved” — not acted on — after the 45-day review period. The revisions also establish new regulations for the “Scope of Tribal-State Gaming Compacts”, which include descriptions of permissible and non-permissible compact provisions related to jurisdiction, taxation, and revenue sharing, among other provisions.

Important to note that “[t]he draft revisions do not constitute formal notice of proposed rulemaking. Once Tribal consultation has concluded, and the Department has considered all Tribal comments, the Department plans to release a formal notice of proposed rulemaking.”

Link to all documents:

HNR Passes RAWA to Provide Direct Funding for Tribal Wildlife Conservation Programs

House Natural Resources Committee Passes RAWA to Provide Direct Funding for Tribal Wildlife Conservation Programs

Yesterday, the House Natural Resources Committee (HNR) voted to advance H.R. 2773, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), by a 29-15 vote.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) is the bill’s lead sponsor. The bill currently has 151 bipartisan co-sponsors. The RAWA would update federal wildlife conservation programs, first established in the 1950s, and set aside $97 million annually in direct funding for Tribal Government wildlife conservation programs. The current programs only provide funding to state governments, forcing tribes to seek pass-through funding.

While the bill received some bipartisan support in the Committee vote, HNR Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-AR) and other Republicans on the Committee voiced opposition to the bill because of concerns it would add to the federal deficit. After the vote, Rep. Dingell stated that she would work with GOP lawmakers to secure a funding mechanism for the program.

Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) has introduced the Senate companion bill to H.R. 2773. The Heinrich bill, S. 2372 (also titled RAWA), has 32 bipartisan co-sponsors (16 R, 16 D). The Senate bill includes a partial offset to fund the program by collecting fees and fines imposed by the Fish & Wildlife Service for natural resource or environmental-related violations.

The Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works held a hearing on S. 2372 on December 8, 2022.

Biden Signs FY22 NDAA

Biden Signs FY22 NDAA

Yesterday, President Biden signed the nearly $770 billion FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law.

Lawmakers increased spending in almost every part of the military, including new funding to counter China’s military expansion, initiatives to bolster the defense of Ukraine, and billions in cash for the procurement of advanced aircraft, ships, and high-tech hardware. The Act also contains a 2.7% pay increase for most service members.

The bill faced many hurdles in the Senate, primarily focused on various foreign policy provisions. The House ended up crafting a compromise bill that quickly passed both chambers.

Despite signing the bill into law, the President noted his various concerns with provisions of the NDAA in a statement here:

Congress Working to Avoid a Shutdown/Pass Another CR

Congress Working to Avoid a Shutdown/Pass Another CR

Today, House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership announced they have reached an agreement to fund the federal government with another Continuing Resolution (“CR”) through February 18, 2022. The current CR expires tomorrow.

The House is voting on the CR today.

Senate timing is uncertain due to opposition from a few Republican Senators, including Senator Mike Lee (R-UT); however, Senate Minority Leader McConnell indicated earlier today that he believes there will be no lapse in funding, signaling he believes there will be enough Republican Senators who will join Senate Democrats to vote for the CR.

House Passes Build Back Better Act

House Passes Build Back Better Act

This morning, the House voted 220-213 to pass the $1.85T Build Back Better Act, the “human infrastructure” social spending bill and a cornerstone of President Biden’s agenda.

The 2,468-page bill is essentially a mash-up of the Democratic Party’s main domestic priorities. Although it has been shrunken down from its original $3.5T size, the measure still has substantial implications. Key provisions include:

  • Universal and free preschool for all 3 and 4-year-olds;
  • Makes the largest investment in combatting climate change in U.S. history, mainly through tax credits for solar panels, electric vehicles, and other clean energy products;
  • Offers four weeks of paid family and medical to all workers;
  • Expands Medicare to cover hearing benefits for seniors;
  • Allows the government to negotiate some prescription drug prices for the first time, although it will only apply to a certain class of expensive drugs;
  • Extends the expanded Child Tax Credit (which offers monthly payments to parents of nearly 90% of American children) for one year;
  • Strengthens Obamacare by reducing health care premiums for some middle-class Americans and by expanding Medicaid in states that have yet to do so; and
  • Makes additional investments in child care, elder care, public housing, and higher education.

The bill will now head to the Senate for final passage. The bill should have the votes on the Senate side after prolonged negotiations with Senators Sinema (D-AZ) and Manchin (D-WV) trimmed down the bill and eliminated some of the provisions they would not support.

Senate Confirms Charles “Chuck” Sams as Director of the National Park Service

Senate Confirms Charles “Chuck” Sams as Director of the National Park Service

Last night, the Senate confirmed Charles ‘Chuck’ Sams III by voice vote as the next director of the National Park Service, filling a position that had been left vacant since January of 2017. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved Sams earlier this month, also by voice vote, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) pushed yesterday to secure confirmation before the upcoming Thanksgiving recess.

Sams has worked in state and tribal governments and the non-profit natural resource and conservation management fields for over 25 years. Previous roles include Deputy Executive Director for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), President/Chief Executive Officer of Indian Country Conservancy, and National Director of the Tribal & Native Lands Program for the Trust for Public Land. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and an enrolled member, Cayuse and Walla Walla, of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

“Chuck is a role model in the stewardship of American land and waters, wildlife and history,” Wyden said. “Thanks to the Senate’s unanimous decision to confirm his nomination, Congress and parkgoers will have someone steady and experienced to rely on in the years ahead.”

Senate Advances Biden Priorities on Infrastructure and Social Safety Net

Senate Advances Biden Priorities on Infrastructure and Social Safety Net

Yesterday, the United States Senate passed President Biden’s $550 billion “Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act” by a wide bipartisan margin of 69 – 30. The bill includes more than $11 billion for infrastructure investments in Indian country, including:

  • $3.5 billion for Tribal health sanitation facilities construction;
  • $3 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Tribal Transportation Program;
  • $2.5 billion to address congressionally approved Indian water settlements;
  • Provides an additional $2 billion for the Commerce Department’s NTIA Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program;
  • $260 million for the BIA’s Road Maintenance Program$100 million set aside for Tribal bridge
  • projects through the new Bridge Investment Program;
  • $150 million for the Tribal High Priority Projects Program within the Tribal Transportation Program;
  • $250 million for the Indian Reservation Safe Drinking Water Program;
  • $216 million for Tribal Climate Resilience, including $130 million for the relocation to higher ground of Tribal communities at risk,
  • $86 million for Tribal climate resilience and adaption projects;
  • Tribal governments are eligible for a number of other programs, including a portion of $500 million to implement the Tribal Forest Protection Act and related activities to prevent wildfires on Indian forestlands and rangelands;
  • The bill also establishes an Assistant Secretary for Tribal Government Affairs within the Department of Transportation (Presidential appointment, but not Senate confirmed).

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will now head to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Immediately after passing the Infrastructure bill, the Senate began debate on the $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which will serve as the framework for Democrat’s priorities to expand social safety net programs. At 4:00 am this morning, after 14 hours of votes on amendments, the Senate passed the non-binding Budget Resolution along party lines 50-49. While the budget resolution does not get signed into law, it is the first step towards bypassing the 60-vote threshold in the Senate to begin the “Reconciliation” process.

The Reconciliation package is expected to garner only Democratic support. House and Senate leaders will draft the legislation in consultation with the White House in the coming weeks.