Grijalva Urges House Rules Leaders to Protect Fix for Native American Tribes in Interior Appropriations Bill, Reject GOP Challenge

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva today sent a letter to House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) urging them to reject an effort by Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) to remove language in the pending Interior Department appropriations bill that protects Native American lands taken into trust by the federal government. Bishop recently told Sessions and Slaughter that because he is working on a bill addressing the issue – no public version of which has been released – the Interior bill should remain silent on trust lands, which have been a central concern for Native American Tribes since a 2009 Supreme Court ruling.

Grijalva’s full letter is available at http://bit.ly/29wOA34.

The language at issue, referred to as Section 128 of the Interior funding bill (H.R. 5538), is the latest attempt to resolve the uncertainties created by the Carcieri ruling, which has left millions of acres of Tribal land in limbo and limited Tribes’ ability to develop land for community benefit. The ruling holds that the federal government could not take land into trust from Tribes that were first recognized after 1934.

Bishop has been chairman of the Committee for 18 months. As Grijalva notes in the letter, “To argue that Section 128 should be removed from H.R. 5538 on a technicality because the authorizing Chairman is, at this late date in the Congress, now drafting secret legislation to fix this problem is simply not good enough.”

The letter points out that Congress has made multiple bipartisan efforts to pass a so-called Carcieri fix – efforts that Chairman Bishop has continually stymied. The letter reads in part:

On January 20, 2015, [Appropriations] Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Ranking Member [Bettie] McCollum [D-Minn.] and Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Chairman [Tom] Cole [R-Okla.] introduced bipartisan legislation to address this problem (H.R. 407); Chairman Bishop has refused to allow a hearing on the bill. On multiple occasions, Democrats on the Natural Resources Committee have sought to offer amendments to deal with the Carcieri problem. The Majority, led by Chairman Bishop, has opposed all such efforts.

Grijalva cosponsors Rep. Cole’s H.R. 249, which overturns the Carcieri ruling and allows the federal government to take land into trust for any Tribe regardless of its official recognition date.

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