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Earlier today, I wrote about Senator Tim Johnson (D. SD) delivering for South Dakota Native Americans and how vital the Native American vote is for Democrats to win in red rural states like North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.  Sticking with that theme, I have some good news from Alaska:

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich is expected to serve on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee during the upcoming Congress.

The Democratic Steering Committee on Wednesday released the anticipated committee assignments for Democratic senators. The list is subject to approval by the Democratic caucus and approval of an organizing resolution by the Senate. - Anchorage Daily News, 12/12/12

Begich made the announcement today about his new committee assignment on his Facebook page:
Begich will be serving on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee along with his colleague Senator Lisa Murkowski (R. AK):
Begich's office, in a news release, says the assignment will allow him to gain "an even more significant role in advocating for Alaska's first peoples."

Begich also is expected to serve on the Commerce, Armed Services, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees.

Begich being on the Indian Affairs Committee is a very good thing for Alaska's Native American tribes.  Begich has been fighting hard to make sure Alaskan tribes aren't getting ripped off by the Indian Health Service :

Alaska's junior senator fired off a letter to President Obama this week that essentially accuses the Indian Health Service of trying to rip off Alaska Natives and American Indians.

Sen. Mark Begich asks for the president's help in "seeing to it" that the agency pays the hundreds of millions of dollars it owes tribal health organizations for unreimbursed administrative costs dating back more than a decade.

"In Alaska alone, three contractors suffered over $218 million in contract support shortfalls reaching as far back as 1997," Begich writes.

He adds that similar amounts are due tribes across the nation. "It is shocking that the agency would now delay justice, call for new audits, or seek 15 years later to renegotiate the amounts that were due at the time." - Alaska Dispatch, 11/30/12

The three Alaskan based tribes due the $218 million are the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and Southcentral Foundation, based in Anchorage, and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. of Bethel in Southwest Alaska.  The Indian Health Service office in Alaska is reviewing the Supreme Court decision in the Ramah Navajo case.  According to Lloyd Miller, an Anchorage attorney who has argued the case on behalf of tribes, the Indian Health Service owes more than 300 tribes and tribal organizations $800 million for the last six years alone.

Congratulations Senator Begich on your new position.  With Begich on the Indian Affairs Committee, Alaska's Native Americans have a good ally in Washington D.C..  Now Republicans from Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell to Tea Party lunatic Joe Miller are all gearing up to take out Begich.  Plus Karl Rove is already filling the airwaves with ads in Alaska pressuring Begich and other Democrats in red states who are up for re-election in 2014 urging them to support a "balanced plan" with big spending cuts.  But Begich has proposed a bold plan to strengthen Social Security:

Increases Benefits for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities. Currently, Social Security benefits are adjusted by the Consumer Price Index for workers. However, costs and spending patterns for seniors do not mirror those of the workforce. That is why Sen. Begich’s bill calls for adjusting cost-of-living increases with a Consumer Price Index specifically for the elderly which was created to more accurately measure the costs of goods and services seniors actually buy.

Lifts the Cap on High-Income Contributions. Current law sets a cap based on income at $113,700 for paying into Social Security. If an individual’s wages hit that total for the year, they no longer pay into the program. Sen. Begich’s bill lifts the cap and asks higher income earners to pay Social Security on all their earnings in order to increase the program’s revenue stream and extend the overall solvency of the program.

Extends Social Security for approximately 75 years through modest revenue increases gradually implemented over the course of seven years. - Alaska Native News, 11/14/12

Begich has made the case that Social Security doesn't contribute to the deficit on the Senate floor:

Social Security has not contributed, is not part of and never will contribute to the deficit.  So those who like to meddle in it and try to combine it into this deficit talk are just playing games with our seniors and disabled in this country." - U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D. AK), 12/7/12

We need to keep Begich in the Senate to keep fighting for Native Americans, a crucial part of our base, and to continue to fight to strengthen the safety net.  Donate to is 2014 campaign:

Originally posted to pdc on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 07:28 PM PST.

Also republished by Native American Netroots.

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