Vice Chairman Udall to GSA Administrator Murphy: Delay in Presidential Transition Endangers Tribal Health and Safety

Trump political appointee has refused to begin presidential transition, potentially disrupting critical federal health services for Tribes and Native communities across the country during COVID-19 pandemic
Nov 23, 2020

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For Immediate Release

November 23, 2020

Contact: Ned Adriance

202.228.6870 | news@tomudall.senate.gov | @SenatorTomUdall 

 

Vice Chairman Udall to GSA Administrator Murphy: Delay in Presidential Transition Endangers Tribal Health and Safety

 

Trump political appointee has refused to begin presidential transition, potentially disrupting critical federal health services for Tribes and Native communities across the country during COVID-19 pandemic

 

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, directly called on Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) Emily Murphy to follow the law and begin the official presidential transition process, citing the threat to uninterrupted delivery of essential federally-administered health programs to Tribes and Native communities across the United States, especially during a pandemic.

 

Udall underscored that any disruptions to these essential services would violate the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribes and that Administrator Murphy needs to start this process to uphold her oath of office to faithfully discharge her duties and uphold the Constitution.

 

The GSA has historically begun the presidential transition process just one day after an apparent winner is known in the presidential election. National security and public health experts are sounding the alarm that Administrator Murphy’s delay will cost lives, due to the interruption to the federal pandemic response and vaccine distribution. Any delay will especially harm the health and safety of Tribes and Native communities grappling with the disproportionate toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I am increasingly concerned that your unexplained refusal to grant the Biden-Harris Transition Team access to critical services and facilities specified in the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 poses serious risk to Native American families across the country, and compromises the ability of the federal government to meet its trust and treaty responsibilities,” Udall wrote in his letter to GSA Administrator Murphy. “I write to urge you to remember your oath of office, put aside political pressure, and release transition resources immediately.

 

“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 continued. “As such, preventing the Transition Team from obtaining the information and resources it needs to ensure the smooth changeover in the management of these programs will have severe consequences on the health, wellbeing, and daily lives of countless Native families.

 

Udall further highlighted the potential of the delayed transition to undermine Tribes’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Tribes, urban Indian health programs, and the Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems depend on federal partners to provide personal protective equipment, clinical supplies, and medical personnel, as well as to coordinate access to the national COVID-19 vaccine supply once approved. Disruption of these federal supply chains will impede efforts to combat the recent surge in coronavirus infections in many Native communities. Accordingly, failure to begin transition activities threatens to amplify the disparate impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency in Indian Country.”

 

The full text of the letter can be found here and below.

 

Dear Administrator Murphy,

 

You are charged under law with providing Congressionally-appropriated taxpayer funds to the apparent winner of presidential elections to ensure effective continuity of government in order to protect the health and welfare of Americans and our shared national security.  As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I am increasingly concerned that your unexplained refusal to grant the Biden-Harris Transition Team access to critical services and facilities specified in the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 poses serious risk to Native American families across the country, and compromises the ability of the federal government to meet its trust and treaty responsibilities.  I write to urge you to remember your oath of office, put aside political pressure, and release transition resources immediately.

 

As a senior official in the federal government, you must bear in mind that the United States has specific trust and treaty obligations to American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Indian Tribes.   Concomitant with these obligations, 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.  As such, preventing the Transition Team from obtaining the information and resources it needs to ensure the smooth changeover in the management of these programs will have severe consequences on the health, wellbeing, and daily lives of countless Native families.

 

Furthermore, Tribes, urban Indian health programs, and the Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems depend on federal partners to provide personal protective equipment, clinical supplies, and medical personnel, as well as to coordinate access to the national COVID-19 vaccine supply once approved.   Disruption of these federal supply chains will impede efforts to combat the recent surge in coronavirus infections in many Native communities.   Accordingly, failure to begin transition activities threatens to amplify the disparate impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency in Indian Country.

 

After the Senate confirmed you to your position as Government Services Administration Administrator, you swore an oath to faithfully discharge the duties of your office and defend the Constitution, and it is past time to uphold that oath and our nation’s trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations and Native communities.  For these reasons, I call upon you to immediately grant the Biden-Harris Transition Team full access to the resources required under federal law and fulfill your responsibilities – both under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 and the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations – as the head of the Government Services Administration. 

 

Sincerely,

 

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