McCaleb breezes through confirmation hearing
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JUNE 14, 2001

An eager Senate Indian Affairs Committee heartily welcomed Department of Interior nominee Neal McCaleb on Wednesday, promising to speed his confirmation through the Senate and get him to the Bureau of Indian Affairs as soon as possible.

"Indian Country has high hopes for you," said Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).

But while Inouye and Vice-Chairman Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) wanted to have the full Senate confirm McCaleb as early as yesterday afternoon, the committee wasn't able to act so quickly. Not enough members were present at the conclusion of the hour-and-a-half hearing to call a vote on the issue.

McCaleb, however, was not disappointed. "It would have been remarkable to have been voted on today," McCaleb said afterward.

"There are still some questions that I haven't received," he added.

The answers he did provide, though, were welcomed by a number of committee members. Introduced in praising tones by an all-Oklahoman delegation including Senator James Inhofe (R), Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, and Osage Nation Chairman Charles Tillman, McCaleb promised to make economic development, education, and law enforcement his top priorities at the BIA.

"I am very aware and mindful of the gravity of the circumstances and the responsibilities facing the Bureau of Indian Affairs," he said.

And in an area in which he is familiar as head of Oklahoma's Department of Transportation, McCaleb pushed for a "significant increase" in federal funding to provide for more roads in Indian Country. Without adequate infrastructure, he said, economic success will be hard to come by, especially in rural parts of the nation.

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) also pushed McCaleb to resolve the mismanagement of trust fund accounts held for an estimated 300,000 American Indians. "Its a national scandal," said McCain, that has "deprived Native Americans of billions of dollars that belongs to them."

McCaleb noted the issue in his testimony and pledged to reform the government's accounting system in order to restore trust and credibility with account holders. But he requested that the BIA be given "patience" in resolving a problem that stretches back more than one hundred years.

"I look forward to developing a partnership with the Mr. [Tom] Slonaker, the Special Trustee, in moving expeditiously as possible on this," he said after the hearing. "We're not there yet, but the BIA is making progress."

Campbell said he would informally poll committee members on McCaleb's approval. A full Senate vote is expected within a few days, making the appointment one of the fastest ever for the Assistant Secretary post.

The job won't come without some sacrifices, though, warned Senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.). "You will go through many heartaches before you find success," he told McCaleb.

After the hearing, McCaleb was scheduled to meet with other Senators who are not members of the Indian Affairs Committee.

Today on Indianz.Com:
McCaleb endorses BIA on recognition (6/14)

Statements from the Hearing:
McCaleb | Anoatubby | Campbell (R-Colo.) | Johnson (D-N.D.)

Relevant Links:
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs -
Neal McCaleb, Oklahoma Department of Transportation -
The Chickasaw Nation -

Indianz.Com Profile:
Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs: Neal McCaleb (4/18)
Biographical Sketch (4/18)

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