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Torres and Cole Introduce Bill Exempting Indian Health Service from Hiring Freeze

February 9, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – This week, Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-CA) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) introduced H.R. 981, the Indian Health Service (IHS) Hiring Freeze Exemption Act, a bill that would exempt the Indian Health Service (IHS) from President Trump’s federal employee hiring freeze.


“Donald Trump’s hiring freeze comes at a particularly difficult time for the Indian Health Service, the primary care provider for over 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives,” said Torres.  “With a nearly 33% vacancy rate for physicians in IHS hospitals, the IHS and the communities that depend on its services simply cannot afford to have IHS put off hiring doctors and critical personnel.  This bill is consistent with the President’s statements that he would grant exemptions for positions that are necessary to meet public health needs, so I urge him to support this bipartisan legislation.”


The IHS Hiring Freeze Exemption Act simply directs the administration to exempt the IHS from the federal employee hiring freeze in a similar manner to military personnel. With over 1,550 vacancies for medical professionals across the IHS system, failure to provide this exemption would limit IHS’s ability to meet the needs of  individuals in some of the most remote and rural communities around the nation.  The National Indian Health Board, the National Congress of American Indians, the Direct Service Tribes Advisory Committee, and the Self-Governance Communication & Education Tribal Consortium have all supported a similar exemption.


“Native American issues have always been bipartisan in Congress,” said Cole. “As the Republican co-chair of the Native American Caucus, I look forward to working with the new administration and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we continue to make progress on critical health care issues in Indian country. I want to thank Congresswoman Torres for her efforts to see that the U.S. government continues to fulfill its trust obligation to Native American nations.”


Congresswoman Norma Torres currently serves as Ranking Member on the Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee on the House Committee on Natural Resources, the subcommittee which oversees all matters regarding Native Americans.  The IHS Hiring Freeze Exemption Act is cosponsored by Reps. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) and Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-NC).  The text of the bill can be found HERE.