October 05, 2020

Udall: Republican Supreme Court Rush Threatens Native Health Care

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, issued the following statement on the Senate Republican rush to confirm a Supreme Court justice in the midst of a presidential election, weeks before the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in which the Trump administration’s Department of Justice will urge the Court to terminate the Affordable Care Act: 

“The Republican rush to force through a far-right Supreme Court nominee – in the midst of a presidential election and just weeks before the Supreme Court will begin deciding on the fate of the Affordable Care Act – represents a clear and present threat to health care access in Native communities across Indian Country. Under the Affordable Care Act, we have made great strides toward better meeting our trust and treaty-based responsibilities to provide health care for Native Americans – but that progress is in grave jeopardy with this nominee.

“As sovereign nations, Tribes have inherent powers of self-government and unique rights, recognized in the U.S. Constitution and rooted in treaties and federal laws that date back to the founding of our country. Supreme Court decisions on these rights have the potential to shape federal Indian law for generations. And yet, Senate Republicans are attempting to rush a lifetime appointment to our nation’s highest court just weeks before the conclusion of a presidential election—a complete reversal of their position from four years ago.

“As vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and as the senator representing 23 Pueblos and Tribes of New Mexico in Congress, I believe that Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation would have dangerous implications for Indian Country, including the future of the Affordable Care Act. Judge Barrett has criticized the Supreme Court’s previous ruling that upheld the ACA’s constitutionality— a ruling that preserved health care access for over 2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. Judge Barret’s confirmation threatens to eviscerate the ACA, gut preexisting condition protections for millions of Americans, and throw the Indian Health Service into chaos. 

“Tribal leaders and Native communities have made it abundantly clear that the ACA—while not perfect—literally saves lives. The ACA permanently reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act and expanded access to health care for Native Americans through marketplace exchanges, Medicaid expansion, and increased revenue for the Indian Health Service. Confirming a nominee that will dismantle the ACA is unconscionable, and will exact a cruel toll on Native communities who are already fighting the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Instead of pushing a partisan nomination process through the Senate during a critical moment in our country’s history, Senate Republicans should respect the federal government’s duty—and trust obligation—to engage in meaningful Tribal consultation on the impact this vital nominee will have on Indian Country’s future. They must stop putting partisan politics ahead of our core democratic principles and let the American people decide who nominates the next Supreme Court justice.”