Recent Press Releases

Senate Passes Bill Which Includes Thune's $2 Billion Indian Country Amendment

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

July 16, 2008

Washington, D.C. —  The U.S. Senate today passed S. 2731, a $50 billion foreign assistance bill, which includes Senator John Thune's amendment directing $2 billion to address tribal issues. 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. The bill was passed by a vote of 80 to 16.

"While the primary focus of this legislation is focused on disease prevention overseas, I am pleased that we were able to direct attention to the most pressing needs of Native Americans here in the United States," said Thune. "This legislation will address detention facility shortages, as well as shortfalls in the tribal court and prosecution system. It will also provide additional law enforcement personnel for tribal governments.

"I believe that the first step to creating jobs and economic opportunity on our reservations is improved public safety. This bill is a major step toward achieving that goal."

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 Kyl (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 authorizations 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.

Before the legislation can be sent to the President for his consideration, the House of Representatives will either need to act on the Senate-passed bill or a conference committee would be formed to work out any disagreements.

For a video clip of Senator Thune speaking on his amendment on the floor of the Senate, click here.