July is the second month in a row that two federal agencies have failed to provide input on five bills that address missing and murdered indigenous people, effectively stalling the bills.
Advocates say peoples’ lives hang in the balance.
The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Interior were supposed to submit guidance in June on a series of bills that include Savanna’s Act, which would increase coordination between tribal, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs moved forward with planned meetings at that time.
“I’m still prepared to go forward with today’s hearing, as we have witnesses who have traveled far to be here. That said, I’m prepared to give the administration a hard deadline of July 8th to provide in writing a definitive conclusion about each bill today,” says Committee Chair, Republican John Hoeven of North Dakota.
Neither department made that second deadline.
“I do think they’ve had enough time to make the comments on these bills and that we cannot continue to delay on this,” says Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco, who lobbies in Washington D.C. on behalf of Native American interests.
She says it’s a disappointment that could have consequences for real people’s lives.
“Without their comments and input on how we can continue to address this issue in the best way possible, we’re just significantly delaying ending and addressing this issue,” says Onco.
She says the bills can’t move forward until the Senate committee hears from the agencies, neither of which responded to requests for comment by deadline.
The Associated Press reports the Justice Department provided updates to the committee and the Interior Department submitted its guidance sometime after the extended July 8th deadline.
Regardless, Onco says there are other ways that the bills can proceed, including being enveloped in VAWA--the Violence Against Women Act, which passed the House in April.