Chair McCollum Statement at Tribal Programs Public Witness Hearing
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chair of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's first tribal programs public witness hearing:
Good morning, and welcome to the first day of the public witness hearings on tribal programs under the jurisdiction of the Interior and Environment Appropriations subcommittee. I always look forward to this time of the year as it provides an opportunity to see and hear from many friends and mentors as they testify about the needs of Indian Country.
So I welcome the distinguished elected and non-elected tribal leaders who play an important role in advancing Native issues. This year, in the hopes of having a more in-depth focus of issues facing Indian Country, we have organized witnesses according to the following topics:
- Health Care
- Land, Trust, and Natural Resource Management- Including Climate Change
- Public Safety and Justice
- Education and
- Tribal Government and Human Services
This is the first time that the Subcommittee will be holding the hearings organized by topics, so we want to hear your thoughts about this new organization once the hearings have concluded. This way, we’ll know if changes are needed for next year’s hearings. We will begin by hearing from witnesses on the health care needs and challenges facing Native Americans.
The federal government entered into treaties guaranteeing health care to Native Americans. My visits to tribal communities across the nation have shown me just how much we are failing at meeting our treaty responsibilities. We must not take our trust and treaty responsibilities lightly. We need to figure out how we can best fulfill our duty given the limited funds with which we have to work.
The recent month long Trump shutdown made this issue even more urgent as health care facilities were forced to scale back services, thus impacting those who need health care the most. The Trump shutdown illustrated the importance of providing funds to Indian Country a year in advance. That is why I am pleased to be leading a bipartisan bill in the House to authorize advance appropriations for the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As we figure out how to fully meet the needs of Native America, the least we can do is provide some certainty to lessen the impacts if another shutdown occurs.
I am eager to learn more about your priorities, and I look forward to our discussions on these issues because your testimony is going to inform us as we begin to develop the 2020 appropriations bill.
Before I turn to Mr. Joyce, I would like to cover the hearing logistics.
I will call each panel of witnesses to the table, one panel at a time. Each witness will have 5 minutes to present testimony, and we will be using a timer to track the time. When the lights turn yellow, the witness will have 1 minute remaining to conclude his or her remarks. When the light blinks red, I will lightly tap the gavel and ask the witness to conclude their remarks so the next witness can begin. Each witness’s full written statement will be introduced into the record, so do please do not feel pressured to cover everything here. After we hear the testimony of each witness on the panel, members will be have an opportunity to ask questions.
I would like to remind those in the hearing room that Committee Rules prohibit the use of cameras and audio equipment during the hearing by individuals without a House issued press credential. After this morning’s hearing concludes, we will adjourn, and reconvene at 1:00 p.m. for the afternoon hearing.
And with that, I am happy to yield to my friend, Mr. Joyce, for remarks.