Energy & Environment

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

The delay in providing President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team with government funding “poses serious risk to Native American families across the country,” according to Sen. Tom Udall (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 Trump 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.

“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.

Fellow New Mexican lawmaker Rep. Deb Haaland (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 Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, wrote in a letter to GSA.

Tags Coronavirus COVID Deb Haaland Donald Trump Joe Biden Native Americans Tom Carper Tom Udall

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