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GSA transition delay 'poses serious risk' to Native Americans, Udall says

GSA transition delay 'poses serious risk' to Native Americans, Udall says
© Bonnie Cash

The delay in providing President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenDobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they 'forgot who was the true leader' Should deficits matter any more? Biden's Cabinet gradually confirmed by Senate MORE’s transition team with government funding “poses serious risk to Native American families across the country,” according to Sen. Tom UdallTom UdallSenate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes We can achieve our democratic ideals now by passing the For the People Act MORE (D-N.M.), the latest in a string of lawmakers to push the General Services Administration (GSA) to certify Biden as the winner of the election.

As President TrumpDonald TrumpBlinken holds first calls as Biden's secretary of State Senators discussing Trump censure resolution Dobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they 'forgot who was the true leader' MORE refuses to concede weeks after the election was called, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy has thus far refused to give Biden the nod, a move that not only delays funding but limits the president-elect’s ability to coordinate with current government officials.

Udall fears that could have a significant impact on Native Americans, for whom the federal government often plays a critical role in providing a number of services, particularly within reservations.

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“The executive branch provides essential services to Native communities that are unique within the federal government, flowing through a cadre of federal programs to meet these responsibilities. The operation of Native health care systems, public safety programs, child welfare services, food security programs, and many other critical functions depend on the stable operation of numerous federal agencies,” Udall, the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, wrote in a letter obtained by The Hill. 

Those duties are paramount during COVID-19, he argues, as the federal government responsible for providing personal protective equipment and, eventually, the vaccine to many Native health centers.

“I write to urge you to remember your oath of office, put aside political pressure, and release transition resources immediately,” he said.

GSA did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Udall, who has worked on Native American issues for much of his roughly 30 years in Congress, is on Biden’s shortlist to serve as the next Interior secretary. The role includes overseeing the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

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Fellow New Mexican lawmaker Rep. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandBiden seeks to bolster consultation with Indian Country OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Internal watchdog to probe Trump officials who cast doubt on climate science | Kerry on climate talks: 'I regret that my country has been absent' | Biden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate Biden expands on Obama ethics pledge MORE (D), a member of the Laguna Pueblo people who was one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, is also being considered for the role and is currently being vetted by the transition team.

Haaland’s consideration has been gathering momentum, with more than 50 of her House colleagues penning a letter urging the team to “make history by giving Native Americans a seat at the Cabinet table for the first time.”

Udall’s letter joins those from other lawmakers who have also been warning of the risks in various policy areas if the Biden team is not afforded transition support.

“Failing to do so risks the health and safety of millions of Americans as the nation grapples with a pandemic that continues to grow more severe every week,” Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenators vet Mayorkas to take lead at DHS Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks | Democrats eye action on range of climate bills | Biden pushing to cancel Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he takes office: reports MORE (D-Del.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, wrote in a letter to GSA.