Murkowski to I.H.S.: Alaska’s Patience Has Worn Out

Senator Lisa Murkowski today sternly informed the Acting Director of the Indian Health Service and Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the U.S. Department of Justice that neither she nor Alaskans will accept underfunding of critical public safety clinics in rural Alaska any longer, that Alaska is past being “polite” and will now demand the same treatment and resources that Native Americans receive in the Lower 48.

Murkowski also repeated her commitment to repeal the amendment to the Violence Against Women Act that she and Senator Mark Begich originally co-sponsored in 2012 to limit the expansion of tribal authority to issue protective orders over non-members of a tribe. Importantly, the State of Alaska is currently honoring tribal protective orders and sending Alaska State troopers to enforce them.

Funding for Village Built Clinics – “We are going to demand you help us.”

Senator Murkowski challenged I.H.S. Acting Director Dr. Yvette Roubideaux on the topic of funding for village clinics– the backbone of the rural health system, saying:

“We’re concerned that we’re not getting any support from the administration on ensuring that our village health clinics are adequately funded. We have to have these instruments in place…You have got to help us with these village built clinics. You have got to help us. Yes?”

When I.H.S. Director Roubideaux began to explain her agency’s commitment, Murkowski quickly interrupted her, saying:

“We haven’t seen that through the budgets put forth by this administration. We have seen zero help there. We need you to help us, and I’m going to be very, very direct with that. Because we are going to demand that you help us. We have been very polite, and we have waited a long time, and in the meantime we are losing what we have built.”

(Murkowski: We have been polite, but we will demand more from the government. – Click to watch.)

Murkowski also indicated to Dr. Roubideaux that she plans to be far more proactive and aggressive on commitments moving forward, since she is poised to become the Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Committee – which has jurisdiction of the I.H.S. budget and priorities.

VAWA Provision Repeal

During her opening remarks, Murkowski spoke of the pride and resiliency of Alaska Natives and Native Americans who stoically face harsher realities than most Americans, before turning to the information that had been shared by Senator Begich: his intent to alter the Safe Families, Safe Villages bill they co-sponsored in 2013, to only include a repeal of the VAWA Provision.  Murkowski has supported a repeal of this provision originally co-sponsored by both Senators in the 2012 version of the VAWA bill that never become law.

In today’s hearing, she said of Senator Begich’s plan to repeal Section 910 of VAWA:

“Talking about the Village Safe Families Act we’ve been working on, [Senator Mark Begich] has mentioned there has been resistance on the Republican side. That is correct. There are those waiting to hear comments from the Department of Justice [that would implement that law in its entirety]. We’re still waiting.

I’ve committed to him and to Alaska that one of the things we can do is to repeal section 910 of VAWA, an absolutely Alaska-specific item and an effort to go a long way to make sure there is equity for those most vulnerable.  I’m happy to look at his revamped version of our bill.”

(Murkowski backs repeal of VAWA Amendment – Click to view.)

In an effort to pursue all opportunities to repeal Section 910, Senator Murkowski has also introduced stand-alone legislation to do so.