Another big issue for Udall lately has been mineral payments:The tour consisted of stops to the W.W. Hastings’ new emergency room and urgent care department that has been successful in shortening the wait times for Native patients; model homes that are part of the New Home Construction initiative. The new home initiative builds affordable housing for Cherokee citizens who earn more than copy5,000 a year in income and are a first-time homeowner. The conclusion of the tour was focused on the tribe’s dedication to education with visits to the Sequoyah High School, Cherokee Immersion Charter School and the Cherokee Nation Early Childhood Unit and Child Development Center.
Udall who has served on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee for 14 years, and currently serves on four other committees, in referring to his work in Native communities on the committee said, “I have a real perspective on tribes and how well they are serving their members, and I am very impressed today with the provision of health care, education and housing that’s being done by the Cherokee Nation,” Udall said. “I toured all three of those areas and spoke with Chief Baker, and I am just very impressed at how the tribe is providing those services to its members.”
“The Cherokee Nation was honored to host Sen. Tom Udall in Tahlequah and show him the successes of our housing, education and health care programs,” Chief Baker said. “As a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Sen. Udall has earned a well-deserved reputation as a principled leader who has the integrity to do what is right for sovereign tribal governments. Without a doubt, Sen. Udall is one of the biggest champions for Indian Country in Congress." - Indian Country Today Media Network, 5/10/13
Senator Udall introduced a bill that would override the Interior Department’s plans to withhold payments to states for mineral rights:
Sen. Tom Udall questioned Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell about the impact of sequestration on federal mineral payments to states at a meeting of the Interior & Environment Subcommittee..
New Mexico lost $26 million in payments from the Department of the Interior.
The Associated Press covered the hearing.
“This revenue is vital to New Mexico, where it funds our public education system,” Udall told Jewell. “New Mexico state leaders are very upset by the Department of Interior’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue determination that these state revenues are subject to sequestration.”
In addition to the mineral payments issue, Udall spoke about funding for forest fire prevention and, particularly, hazardous fuels reductions — thinning forests.
Udall also spoke about updating the 1872 Mining Control Act. Udall has been a proponent of legislation to update that law. - New Mexico Telegram, 5/8/13
Udall's also been all over the U.S. Department of Agriculture insurance program to get them to pay New Mexico farmers thousands of dollars for grazing losses due to the drought problem in New Mexico:Under the department’s plan, about $110 million in payments would be halted because of sequestration.
Udall asked department officials if the policy could be rescinded Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment.
“This revenue is vital to New Mexico...” Udall said during the hearing. “In New Mexico alone, we expect to lose $25 million in state and mineral revenues in fiscal year ’12 to sequestration. I’m working with senators from other mineral revenue-generating states to formulate legislation that would address this issue, but I hope that we can — that you can help resolve this administratively.”
He was told no.
“Unfortunately, consistent for revenue, and payments, like secure rule schools and payment of mineral taxes and mineral revenue payments, the sequester does impact those,” Rhea Suh, Interior’s assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, told Udall. “And we have looked at it at least twice.” - Albuquerque Business Journal, 5/9/13
And as a member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, Senator Udall didn't take the GOP members boycott to block Gina McCarthy's confirmation as the new head of the EPA:New Mexico Cattle Growers Association Executive Director Caren Cowan said farmers signed up with the USDA’s Farm Service Agency Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) haven’t been paid in more than a month, even though the funding has been approved. Cowan says phones have been ringing nonstop with concerned farmers who are now expecting payouts.
NAP provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory or prevented planting occur due to natural disasters. The insurance program service fee ranges between $250 and $1,875, depending on the number of crops grown and counties where they have farming interests.
“As part of the sequester, all USDA programs ceased on March 1, including the NAP program,” said Cowan, which froze payments to farmers.
But Cowan said USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gave Congress a 30-day notice permit to make sure those funds were distributed again on March 19.
When April 19 rolled around, Cowan said farmers were in a panic when they discovered the payments weren’t made, even though they had been approved. Cowan says many are missing out on the thousands of dollars per ranch they count on receiving through the program.
“They’ve taken the money for the payments and now they need to pay up,” Cowan said.
Marissa Padilla, with U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said the senator has been in contact with the USDA to get the issue resolved. Padilla said payments should reach “producers in the coming week or so.” - Albuquerque Journal, 5/8/13
Udall has been one of the key Senators, along with Jeff Merkley (D. OR) and Tom Harkin (D. IA), in pushing for filibuster reform. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D. NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. KY) made an agreement on filibuster reform and you can see how that's going. No doubt Udall is working with Merkley to help make filibuster reform a reality.For the second time in as many days, Republicans in the Senate blocked committee action to confirm a nominee to President Obama’s second-term Cabinet, this time by boycotting a Thursday vote on his pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
All eight Republican members of the Committee on Environment and Public Works did not appear for a vote that would likely have moved nominee Gina McCarthy’s selection to the full Senate. The senators said she had refused to answer their questions about transparency in the agency.
The Obama administration expressed outrage, describing the boycott as part of a pattern of Republican obstruction to undermine the president’s ability to fill key Cabinet positions.
In the weeks-long hearing on her nomination, McCarthy took more than 1,100 questions, more than 1,075 of which came from Republicans. A single conservative, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), asked 600 of them, according to the majority office of the committee.
By contrast, the EPA’s former administrator under Obama, Lisa P. Jackson, took 157 questions, 118 from Republicans. President George W. Bush’s nominees to lead the agency, Stephen L. Johnson and Michael O. Leavitt, took 230 and 305 questions, respectively, according to a Democratic official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the nomination was still pending.
Republicans on the committee caught Democrats unaware, notifying them of the boycott half an hour before the hearing.
Under Senate rules, a committee can vote on a nominee if 10 members constituting a majority confirm that they will be present and vote in the affirmative, a committee spokesman said. Democrats hold a 10-to-8 majority on the panel. A vote will be rescheduled soon with all 10 Democrats present, the spokesman said.
Democrats on the committee criticized the Republicans’ tactics.
“We know they don’t want answers to questions,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.). “They just haven’t showed up.” - Washington Post, 5/9/13
That's all the Udall-related news for today. If you would like to donate to Senator Udall's 2014 re-election campaign, you can do so here: