There’s another great piece from The Huffington Post about how the Trump Administration with the help of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. KY) and House Freedom Caucus Leader, Rep. Mark Meadows (R. NC-11), tried to screw Native American Tribes out of getting any sort of emergency relief funding from the $2 trillion stimulus package in response to the coronavrius pandemic. Luckily, thanks to Senate Democrats on the Indian Committee were able to secure $10 billion in emergency relief for tribes. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D. NY) and Indian Committee vice chairman, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D. NM), had to push their GOP colleagues to do the right thing:
IÃ¢ÂÂm leading a bipartisan call to VP Pence to work with Native communities in the coronavirus response.
The bill we passed today to fund the fight against COVID-19 contains $40 million for Tribes, but our work together to fight this global health emergency canÃ¢ÂÂt stop there. pic.twitter.com/SVg1xEIHRAÃ¢ÂÂ Tom Udall (@SenatorTomUdall) March 5, 2020
Note that the only two GOP Senators to sign that letter are U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R. AK) and Dan Sullivan (R. AK), who happen to come from a state with a high Native American population. But Murkowski and Sullivan weren’t always fans of stimulus packages:
The bill includes a “paycheck protection” program to help small businesses and their employees. Business owners can apply for government-backed bank loans intended to help them keep up with payroll, health-insurance premiums and mortgages.
“Then, after an eight week period, if that’s what they used a loan for, that loan will be forgiven,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan. “So the whole idea here is to keep a connection between the employers and their employees, even if they’re not coming into work right now.”
The cost of the bill – $2.2 trillion – is high. It’s more than 60% of all the tax revenues the government collected in 2019. It’s nearly triple the cost of the stimulus bill President Obama pushed through in 2009 to combat the Great Recession. Both Murkowski and Sullivan criticized Obama’s bill, saying it was too expensive, and added too much to the national debt. But they support this bill.
Murkowski said the government has to shut down much of the economy to save lives, so, she said, it has a corresponding obligation to lessen the economic impact.
“And it is considerable. It is breathtaking,” she said. “And it is something that decades from now, we will still be talking about the COVID-19 hit to our nation’s economy.”
She and Sullivan said the magnitude of the crisis now justifies the deficit spending. Sullivan said the money will jumpstart the economy, if the pandemic ends soon.
“But we don’t know how long it’s going to last,” he said. “And we thought that going big, bipartisan and bold right now is the best way to help our citizens get through this.”
Whatever. But what is disturbing is that two GOP Senators from states with high Native American populations had to be pushed by Democrats to do the right thing as The Huffington Post points out:
Were any Senate Republicans actively trying to secure direct relief for tribes? Sens. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) wrote a letter to McConnell on March 20, urging him to include money for tribes in the relief package. But beyond that, at least according to these three Democratic aides, the two senators didn’t take any action until Democrats pressed them to help in the final 24 hours.“Tribes were an afterthought,” said one of the aides. “The White House and Republicans would have been satisfied with zero.”McSally spokeswoman Amy Lawrence said that the idea that Democrats had to nudge the senator to act last minute “is laughable.”The Arizona senator “put the full court press” onto Senate leaders and the White House to ensure that tribal provisions were in the bill, Lawrence said, and as negotiations were underway, staff sent more than 130 emails to Senate offices and the administration pushing the issue.Democrats claiming that McSally didn’t do much to get tribal money in the bill is a “partisan talking point,” Lawrence said, designed to mask the fact that House Democrats didn’t address tribal issues in the first two coronavirus relief bills, passed earlier in March. (To be clear, the Republican bill that McConnell unveiled at the start of White House-Senate negotiations had no tribal relief in it.)A request for comment from Daines’ office was not initially returned. Hours after this story was published, Daines spokesperson Katie Schoettler sent a series of emails saying the story was based on “fake news” and asked if HuffPost is “a gossip column now.” She could not point to any specific thing that was factually inaccurate in the story, however.She also provided this statement: “Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats left the Tribes out of two packages and if it weren’t for Daines, then they would have [left] them out of the third package.”Asked how it was that Daines was the reason that tribes got money in the $2 trillion stimulus bill, Schoettler would not say.Ten billion dollars is not nearly the level of money tribes said they need to weather the coronavirus, but it is a historic level of funding. Udall praised the “compromise” bill Democrats were able to get. Of the $2 billion in supplemental appropriations funding for tribes, more than $1 billion is for the Indian Health Service, $453 million is for Bureau of Indian Affairs programs like public safety and purchasing protective equipment for emergency personnel, and $69 million is for the Bureau of Indian Education.The Indian Health Service is charged with providing health services to federally recognized tribes. It is also notoriously underfunded, and Native populations are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, given their high rates of diabetes, heart disease and other underlying health conditions.
“Tribes are on the front lines of this public health crisis, and they have been very clear that they need health, economic, and community COVID-19 recovery resources,” Udall said in a statement. “Congress must do more to respond to the unique COVID-19 related public health and economic crises in Indian Country and to uphold our trust and treaty responsibilities to all American Indians and Alaska Natives.”
There is absolutely no reason for Republicans like McSally and Daines to forget about Native Americans during this pandemic nor should they have been pushed by Democrats do the right thing. Their judgement is abysmal and they need to be punished. Click below to donate and get involved with Mark Kelly (D. AZ) and Steve Bullock’s (D. MT) U.S. Senate campaigns: