Senator Murray: Living Up to Our Nation’s Commitments to Tribes Includes Delivering on Key Federal Investments—Not Slashing Them

***WATCH: Senator Murray discusses importance of our investments in Tribal communities***


Washington, D.C. – Today, at a Senate Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing on the president’s fiscal year 2024 budget request for Indian Country, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, discussed the need for the federal government to better live up to its commitments to our Tribes, which includes providing key federal funding for Tribal communities across Washington state and the country—not slashing vital support for Tribes, as House Republicans have voted to.


Senator Murray’s full remarks, as delivered, are below:


“Thank you, Chair Merkley and Ranking Member Murkowski.


“We have a really important responsibility to get our funding bills passed in a timely, bipartisan way.


“And the clock is ticking if we want to keep things on track, and truly return to regular order for the first time in years.


“I know members on both sides of the aisle are serious about making that happen.


“Because if we are going to keep our nation strong and safe, we cannot let the investments that keep our nation competitive and keep our communities secure—including our Tribal communities—fall into chaos or uncertainty due to political games.


“These programs are too important to shortchange, and this moment is too critical to let partisan infighting hold our communities and our country back.


“So it is important we are holding this hearing today to make sure our nation meets its obligations to our Tribes—honoring their sovereignty and providing the federal investments that we have promised.

“Because how we are seen in the world isn’t just a matter of how much we spend on weapons—it is how we live up to our word.


“If we expect other nations to trust us to live up to our global commitments, we have to keep our promises right here at home too.


“Now, when it comes to our nation’s commitments to Tribes, we have a long way to go.


“Further, the reality is—that for many of our nation’s toughest challenges: the opioid crisis, the climate crisis, the maternal mortality crisis, and more. Our Tribes are getting hit the hardest.


“And yet, House Republicans just voted to slash vital support for our Tribes.


“Their Default on America Act would gut funding for Tribal law enforcement, education, and health care programs.


“It would cut nearly a billion dollars from the Indian Health Service—forcing more than 1,000 doctors, nurses, and staff off the job, and cutting care for 2.5 million people. 


“It would rip away essential services in Tribal communities and seriously weaken BIA’s ability to live up to its mission.


“Now, I am constantly meeting with Tribal leaders in every part of my home state of Washington: the Lummi, the Muckleshoot, the Puyallup, the Yakama, the Jamestown S’Klallam, the Quinault—there’s so many.


“I can tell you—they certainly aren’t asking us to break our promises or cut off key resources.


“Our Tribal leaders want us to invest in climate resilience—they want to make sure their communities are prepared for and protected from: rising sea levels and raging wildfires—which are becoming much too common.


“They want to be able to work together to manage the forests and lands they rely on and help recover the salmon populations that are foundational to Tribal cultures and economies.


“They want to provide the support people need to overcome depression, opioid use disorder, and other mental health challenges.


“They want to provide the health care people need to have a safe pregnancy, and not die in childbirth.


“They want to end the epidemic of missing and murdered Native women, and secure justice for survivors and their families.


“They want their rights protected and their sovereignty respected.


“And I do want to recognize Chair Merkley’s leadership on Tribal Sovereignty Payments, and reiterate my support for his efforts.


“Now, I don’t think any of this is too much to ask for, and here’s what I hope all of my colleagues will recognize: many of us will talk about listening to and prioritizing Tribal voices here in Congress.


“Well here is our opportunity to demonstrate that commitment with more than just words. If you support Tribes, then support them with the funding that they deserve.


“Because I know our nation is stronger when our Tribes are stronger and that keeping people safe—keeping our communities safe—has to include our Tribal communities. So this subcommittee is extremely important, and I want to work with both of you [Chair Merkley and Ranking Member Murkowski] to make sure we do that well.”