Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing on Thursday to address the Cobell settlement. "> Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing on Thursday to address the Cobell settlement. ">
Cobell urges Senate to move quickly on settlement
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The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing on Thursday to address the Cobell settlement.

The settlement provides $1.4 billion to Indian trust fund beneficiaries and authorizes $3 billion for a land consolidation program. The deal requires Congressional approval -- action must be taken by the end of this month or else the plaintiffs and the federal government will have to agree to an extension.

If Congress acts soon, money can be in the hands of Indian beneficiaries by fall 2010, said Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. She said most people will get $1,000 but many will receive more money, based on the type of activity that occurred on their land.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the chairman of the committee, said he supports the settlement. He said resolution will allow the federal government to focus on education, health, law enforcement and other needs in Indian Country.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the vice chairman, asked about attorney's fees. Tom Perrelli of the Department of Justice said Cobell's legal team could receive as much as $100 million for their 13 years of work but noted that the actual amount will be determined in court.

Barrasso also had questions about land consolidation. David Hayes, the deputy secretary at Interior, said the program will focus on parcels with 20 or more owners, an effort that will result in addressing the most cumbersome parts of the Indian trust.

But he acknowledged that it will take between $6 billion and $8 billion to "truly resolve" fractionation of the Indian estate. He also said the land consolidation program won't focus on parcels with mineral assets because he said they are harder to assess.

Get the Story:
Indian trust fund OK may miss deadline (AP 12/18)
Attorneys Fees in Cobell Case Capped at $100 million (The Blog of Legal Times 12/17)

SCIA Hearing:
OVERSIGHT HEARING on the Cobell v. Salazar Settlement Agreement (December 17, 2009)

Relevant Documents:
Agreement | Press Release | Q&A | Audio

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