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.

Senate confirms Newland to serve as Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs

Senate confirms Newland to serve as Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs

On Saturday, the Senate confirmed Mr. Bryan Todd Newland, of Michigan, to serve as Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior. Newland is the Department of the Interior’s Highest-Ranking Senate-confirmed Official in Indian Affairs. Prior to his confirmation, Newland served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs.

Newland is a citizen of the Bay Mills Indian Community (Ojibwe), where he recently completed his tenure as Tribal President. Prior to that, Bryan served as Chief Judge of the Bay Mills Tribal Court. From 2009 to 2012, he served as a Counselor and Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of the Interior – Indian Affairs. He is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Michigan State University College of Law.

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, issued the following statement upon Senate confirmation of Mr. Newland:

“Mr. Newland has invaluable experience as a Tribal Leader, personal and in-depth knowledge of the issues facing Tribes, expertise in complex areas of Federal Indian law, an understanding of Interior’s unique role in fulfilling and enforcing the federal trust responsibility to Native peoples, and a diplomatic and respectful approach to honoring Tribal sovereignty,” said Chairman Schatz. “It is clear from the record that Mr. Newland has the qualifications to succeed in this role, and to serve this country with honor as one of the chief federal advocates for American Indians, Native Hawaiians, and Alaska Natives.”