Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Postpones First Scheduled Meeting of 2013

By Rob Capriccioso, source: Indian Country Today Media Network

The much scrutinized fiscal decision-making of the U.S. Congress today kept the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) from meeting for its first business session of the year.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., had planned to chair her first business meeting on February 14 of the tribally focused committee she was appointed by Senate leadership to oversee in January.

But the Senate Rules Committee, the committee in charge of handling committee budgets, has not sent Cantwell an operating budget, so her plans were upended, and she was forced to postpone the meeting to a yet unscheduled date in the future.

“The purpose of today’s organizing meeting was for the members of the committee to approve the committee budget,” said Emily Deimel, a spokeswoman for Cantwell. “However, the Senate has yet to provide any of the committees with an operating budget, so we had to postpone today’s meeting until we know what our overall budget will look like.”

In response to a question on when operating budgets are usually handed out, Deimel said, “We should have received them already and at this point do not have a firm timeline.”

SCIA should be able to proceed soon with other types of meetings, including legislative and oversight ones, even with the budget in limbo, Deimel added—a good thing for Indian country, since some Senate staffers have been told that there might not be any finalized committee budgets until Congress decides what it is going to do before the March 1 sequestration deadline. If no deal is worked out between the House and Senate before then, dramatic spending cuts across the board would automatically hit all federal government sectors, including many programs that provide financial support to tribes and Indians.