Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), seated on left, and Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), serve as chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Seen standing are Mike Andrews, the Republican staff director and counsel for the committee, and Jennifer Romero, the Democratic staff director and counsel. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs moves quickly on bipartisan bills

Despite being under new leadership, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is hitting the ground running.

The committee is meeting on Wednesday to advance a slew of bills that address economic development, employment, Native languages, water rights and other issues. The session fulfills a pledge by Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), the new chairman, to move quickly on legislation with bipartisan support.

"Right away, we're going to start asking about bills that have been brought up in the past, that we think we can move," Hoeven said at a February 1 business meeting, which was the committee's first of the 115th Congress.

The nine items on the agenda this week passed the committee during the last session and some even cleared the Senate although they didn't become law. Most of the bills are non-controversial and most have been introduced by lawmakers from both parties.

The exception is S.63, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. While Indian Country widely supports the measure, which treats tribes in the same manner as states and local governments when it comes to federal labor law, it has no Democratic co-sponsors at this point.

The committee advanced a similar version in the 114th Congress but it never got to the Senate floor amid opposition from labor unions, which typically are allied with Democratic interests.

The business meeting takes place at 2:30pm in Room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building. It will be immediately followed by an oversight hearing on emergency management in Indian Country.

The full list of bills being considered on Wednesday follows:
S.39, a bill to extend the Federal recognition of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana, and for other purposes;
S.63, a bill to clarify the rights of Indians and Indian tribes on Indian lands under the National Labor Relations Act;
S.91, a bill to amend the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992 to facilitate the ability of Indian tribes to integrate the employment, training, and related services from diverse Federal sources, and for other purposes;
S.140, a bill to amend the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act of 2010 to clarify the use of amounts in the WMAT Settlement Fund;
S.245, a bill to amend the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self Determination Act of 2005, and for other purposes;
S.249, a bill to provide that the pueblo of Santa Clara may lease for 99 years certain restricted land, and for other purposes;
S.254, a bill to amend the Native American Programs Act of 1974 to provide flexibility and reauthorization to ensure the survival and continuing vitality of Native American languages;
S.269, a bill to provide for the conveyance of certain property to the Tanana Tribal Council located in Tanana, Alaska, and to the Bristol Bay Areal Health Corporation located in Dillingham, Alaska, and for other purposes; and
S.302, The John Smith Act, or the Tribal Infrastructure and Roads Enhancement and Safety Act (TIRES Act).

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notices:
Business Meeting to consider S. 39, S. 63, S. 91, S. 140, S. 245, S. 249, S. 254, S. 269, & S. 302 (February 8, 2016)
Oversight Hearing on "Emergency Management in Indian Country: Improving FEMA's Federal-Tribal Relationship with Indian Tribes." (February 8, 2016)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Leaders of key Senate panel divided on Dakota Access Pipeline (01/30)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs comes under new leadership (01/06)