Recent Press Releases

Senate Poised to Pass Thune's $2 Billion Indian Country Amendment

--Amendment Authorizes $1 billion to Fight Crime and Improve Health Care in Indian Country--

July 15, 2008

Washington, D.C. —  The U.S. Senate tomorrow is scheduled to pass Senator John Thune's amendment to S. 2731, a $50 billion foreign assistance bill. The Thune amendment redirects $1 billion in funding for law enforcement and improved health care in Indian Country as well as $1 billion for water projects on reservations across the nation. Under the agreement brokered by Senator Thune and others, the amendment is expected to be accepted by voice vote.

"Improving public safety in Indian Country will require the cooperation of tribal, state, and federal leaders," said Thune. "My amendment calls for a substantial increase in funding that would address detention facility shortages, shortfalls in the tribal court and prosecution systems, and provide additional law enforcement personnel for tribal governments. I applaud the Senate for recognizing the importance of improving law enforcement, public safety, and health care on our nation's reservations. This is a critical step toward creating a safe environment that allows economic and educational opportunities to flourish."

While the foreign aid bill seeks to address critical needs overseas, Senator Thune believes that we also have critical needs here in the United States that have been ignored in the past. Senator Thune's amendment authorizes $1 billion in public safety and health care funding to be divided as follows:

    $750 million for Public Safety
  • $370 million for detention facility construction, rehabilitation, and placement through the Department of Justice;

  • $310 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Public Safety and Justice Account, which funds tribal police and tribal courts;

  • $30 million for investigations and prosecution of crimes in Indian Country by the FBI and U.S. Attorneys;

  • $30 million for the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Program for Indian and Alaska Native Programs; and,

  • $10 million for cross-deputization or other cooperative agreements between state, local, and tribal governments.

$250 million for Health Care - Divided as the Director of Indian Health Services determines between contract health service, construction and rehabilitation of Indian health facilities, and domestic and community sanitation facilities serving Indian tribes.

Sadly, many tribes across the country still do not have access to safe drinking water and adequate sewage systems. To address this problem, the amendment also includes provisions that Senator Thune and Senator Kyle (R-AZ) championed, which authorize an additional $1 billion for water projects already approved by Congress.

As part of the agreement Thune helped broker, the managers of the bill have pledged to ensure that the $2 billion in tribal funding will be incorporated in the final bill worked out between the Senate and the House of Representatives. Earlier this year, the House passed a companion to S. 2731 but that measure did not include any set-asides to address vital tribal needs across the country.

In March, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved Senator Thune's legislation to provide an additional $200 million over the next five years to improve tribal law enforcement and allow for more prosecution of violent crime in Indian Country. The Senate also passed Senator Thune's budget amendment to provide an additional $99 million in funding for the COPS Meth Hot Spots Program.

Also earlier this year, the Senate passed the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which included Senator Thune's amendment to require a Government Accountability Office study of the tribal justice systems of North and South Dakota. Senator Thune has also been soliciting comments from constituents on a draft Indian Crime bill that he is circulating with Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and others.