November 16, 2007
Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of
released the following statement today in honor of National American Indian Heritage Month.
Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery.
Recognizing National American Indian Heritage Month
MR. REID. Mr. President, on October 31st, President Bush proclaimed November 2007 as National American Indian Heritage Month.
American Indians influence and enrich our culture. I am proud of the contributions that
’s tribes have made and continue to make in my home state. The 26 tribes, bands, and colony support their tribal and surrounding communities with their diverse tribal enterprises. Working on a government-to-government basis, they join federal and state agencies to protect many of
’s natural resources and the environment – our wildlife habitats in mountains and valleys and our lakes and waterways for fish and fowl. The tribes in my state, like tribes throughout the country, provide education and health services to their children, elders and members. I am proud of the leadership and opportunities many tribal leaders are providing for their people and that improve the lives of their neighbors.
Mr. President, I want to remind my colleagues of an anniversary this year. Fifteen years ago, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 1992 became law. My friend and colleague, Sen. Inouye, as Chairman of the then-named Select Committee on Indian Affairs, lead the effort to reauthorize the principal law governing Indian health services and programs. I joined Sen. Akaka; Sen. Cochran, Sen. Conrad, Sen. Dominici, Sen. Kennedy, Sen. McCain, and Sen. Stevens and others to sponsor that bill, which became law. Incredible to think today, but S. 2481 was passed by a voice vote on the Senate floor!
Mr. President, the 1992 law was due to be reauthorized in 1999. Because of Senator Dorgan’s passion for this issue and his regular statements on the Senate floor, we all know that the bill has been reauthorized annually since then, but more needs to be done.
The bill before us, S. 1200, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 2007, reflects the leadership and work of members on both sides of the aisle. Leaders on the Indian Affairs, Finance and HELP Committees have worked to refine the bill with many federal departments and agencies, national tribal organizations, and individual tribal leaders. It is a bipartisan, consensus bill that has been negotiated since the 105th Congress.
S. 1200 clarifies current law and authorizes critical services for Indian Country –strengthening recruitment, retention and training programs for health care professionals; encouraging health care practitioners to consult with other professionals using telemedicine and other technologic tools; expanding programs for behavioral health, to address problems of youth suicide and violence against women and children; improving individual access to other federal health programs serving the most vulnerable people in our population – Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program; and helping tribes better coordinate with federal programs to maximize the health services available to their members.
I am pleased that many of my colleagues who supported the 1992 legislation and who I just mentioned, are sponsoring this bill – with 29 co-sponsors, including Sen. Craig Thomas, our former colleague and Ranking Member of the Indian Affairs Committee.
I applaud the hard work of my colleagues, particularly Senator Dorgan and Senator Baucus. And as I have said before, I am committed to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor for the full Senate’s consideration and I ask that the Republican Leader work with me to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor in a timely and efficient manner.
Mr. President, as we acknowledge November as National American Indian Heritage Month, I cannot think of a better, or more timely, way to honor our indigenous people than by reauthorizing the Indian health bill. We must honor our federal obligations to these people – just as many Native Americans have served and continue to serve this country, every day on battlefields, in government offices, in classrooms, in the wilderness and on waterways.