FROM THE ARCHIVE

Rahall floor statement on trust fund

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THURSDAY, JULY 18, 2002

The following is the prepared House floor statement of Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) on his amendment to remove Indian trust fund provisions from the Department of Interior's fiscal year 2003 spending bill. July 17, 2002.

I want to begin by commending Interior Subcommittee Chairman Joe Skeen and Ranking Member Norm Dicks for ably tackling some very difficult funding issues in the Interior Appropriations bill.

With that said, however, this rule waives all points of order against H.R. 5093, including on matters which constitute an authorization in an appropriations bill.

In this regard, I am particularly concerned with one provision in particular that is so unfair, so callous, so fundamentally un-American that it should not be protected from a point of order.

This provision is nothing more and nothing less than a gag order on thousands of American Indians who are seeking a proper accounting from the federal government of royalties owed to them.

It is a most repressive provision.

Simply stated, it prohibits the government from accounting for amounts owed to more than 300,000 Indians prior to 1985.

It is unfortunate, but true, that through both Democrat and Republican Administrations the Interior Department has acted like the Enron of federal agencies when it comes to managing Indian trust assets.

Over the years, countless investigative reports by the Congress, GAO, the Inspector General and others have been issued on the failure of the Interior Department to properly account for and manage the Indian trust funds.

This matter is in litigation, and the contention is that the Interior Department has squandered more than $10 billion in royalties owed to these individuals.

Compared to this scandal, the Teapot Dome scandal was chump change.

But rather than allowing the litigation to go forward, rather than allowing for a full and proper accounting of these trust fund accounts, H.R. 5093 places an arbitrary cutoff date of 1985.

That would be like telling Americans, who have placed money in a savings account all of their adult lives, that we will have the bank tell you how much is in your account regardless of what your own records show.

If your records show you have saved $100,000, but the bank says $50,000, that figure stands and you have no recourse.

That is what this provision in H.R. 5093 says to these American citizens.

They are our First Americans. They have died in our wars. They have invested and contributed to our society. And today, they are being treated with the most callous disregard - no better than the heads of Enron and Worldcom treated their investors.

Relevant Links:
Rep. Nick Rahall - http://www.house.gov/rahall