Nez vetoes Navajo Council’s resolution over $6 million CARES Act funding
Updated as of Tuesday, June 2, 2020 8:30 AM
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On May 30, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez line-item vetoed Navajo Nation Council Resolution No. CMY-44-20, known as the Navajo Nation CARES Fund Act.
The act established legal framework for appropriating more than $6 million received from the federal government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The president’s line-item veto has unnecessarily delayed the release of Coronavirus Relief Funds to programs, chapters, non-profits and other entities,” said Navajo Nation Speaker Seth Damon. “The Navajo Nation Council will continue to work quickly to get these resources to the grassroots efforts, front-line workers, health care facilities and to our families living in our most remote areas with the most immediate needs.”
On May 15, the Navajo Nation Council approved the Navajo Nation CARES Fund Act.
The Navajo Nation Council recognizes and supports the presidential power to exercise regular veto authority. Under the separation of powers and the checks and balances between the three branches of the Navajo Nation government, the council is given power to override that veto.
However, the Speaker’s Office stated that the use of the line-item veto instead of a regular veto by Nez was an illegitimate expansion of the line-item veto authority voted into law by the Navajo people through a 2009 referendum.
The Navajo Nation CARES Fund Act only established the legal framework for future expenditure plans and did not make any actual appropriations or include any budget line items.
In his veto message, the president criticized the council for requiring that the Navajo Nation comply with the federal CARES Act and U.S. Treasury Rules and Guidance governing the expenditure of the Coronavirus Relief Funds received by the Nation. The Coronavirus Relief Fund under Title V of the federal CARES Act imposes the same restrictions on the expenditure of the federal funds by all other state, local and tribal governments as it does on the Navajo Nation’s expenditure of the federal funds.
According to the Speeaker’s Office, the president did not recognize that the penalty for violating Title V of federal CARES Act and U.S. Treasury Rules and Guidance is repayment of the expended funds.
“The Navajo Nation President is advocating for use of federal CARES Act funding that is not within its allowable uses and will subject the Nation to having to repay those funds to the federal government using Navajo Nation General Funds,” Damon said.
The Navajo Nation Council is currently considering numerous options over how to address Nez’s veto.
“The Navajo Nation Council is moving forward with the best interests of the Navajo People in mind,” Damon said. “We have acted in good faith and confidence to get all necessary policy and resources together to make this process the best it can possibly be. Enough time has been wasted, and the Navajo people cannot afford to wait any longer for the resources necessary to fight this pandemic.”
Information provided by the Office of the Navajo Nation Speaker