Federal Shutdown and the Tribes


[imgcontainer left] [img:Image%3A+Rogers+Earmark.jpeg] Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky represents the most rural congressional district in the country and has always been good at finding federal funding for his part of Kentucky. (Here he is with a new sign for a road running through his Appalachian district.) Now Rogers is chair of the House Appropriations Committee that is busy cutting the federal budget.

Is there a Plan B?

That is the question tribes, Indian organizations and government agencies should be asking — and answering because it looks more and more likely there will be a federal government shutdown early next month.

Why is this a concern now? Congress did not pass a budget for this fiscal year. Instead, the government is operating on a temporary spending law called a Continuing Resolution, an authorization that expires March 4.  That measure essentially allows the government to spend money based on the prior year’s budget.

But Republicans want deep budget cuts. So last week the House passed a Continuing Resolution that would last the rest of the year, but cuts some $60 billion from this year’s spending.

“It is my intent – and that of my Committee – that this CR legislation will be the first of many appropriations bills this year that will significantly reduce federal spending,” Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said in a news release. “It is important that we complete the legislative process on this bill before March 4th — when the current funding measure expires – to avoid a government-wide shutdown and so that we can begin our regular budgetary work for this year.”

March 4 represents a huge game of chicken. Yes, there may be a few accounting tricks ahead that would keep the government operating beyond March 4. But this game is far from a sport because the only certain loser would be Americans across the country who rely on the federal government. 

Will that faith come through again? That all depends on how long and difficult the government shutdown is this time around. How long will it last? (Once, say, Social Security checks are missed then the political pressure to fix the problem will grow intense.) And do tribes have the resources to provide stop-gap funding if the federal government comes up short? Back to the question I raised earlier: Is there a Plan B?

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s recent book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.