Grijalva: GOP Singling Out Native American Tribes, Won’t Allow Inclusion of Tribal Legislative Language in Interior Spending Bill

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva at last year’s NCAI Mid-Year Conference

Published July 13, 2016

WASHINGTON –  Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva today highlighted Republican leaders’ decision to single out Native American communities in the Interior Department funding bill set for debate this week. The rule governing the bill’s debate and legislative parameters permits the inclusion of non-appropriations authorization language – which is normally forbidden by House rules – with the sole exception of language addressing a dispute over land taken into trust by the federal government to benefit Native American Tribes.

The rule governing the bill in part “[w]aives points of order against provisions in the bill for failure to comply with clause 2 of rule XXI, except on page 71, line 19, through page 71, line 25.” In plain terms, Republicans decided to allow non-appropriations legislative language to be included in the bill except for a measure, widely supported by Native American groups, that allows federal officials to take land into trust for Tribes that were first officially recognized after 1934.

That measure, formally known as Section 128 of  the Interior funding bill, establishes a limited version of a so-called Carcieri fix, a reference to the Supreme Court case that has prevented Tribes recognized after 1934 from having land taken into trust. Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) has gone to extraordinary lengths to have the measure ruled out of order, and successfully raised a point of order to have the language stricken from the bill during debate earlier today.

“The rules don’t apply until it comes to the Tribes,” Grijalva said. “Then, all of a sudden, we need to be careful not to make policy on an appropriations bill. Never mind that we make policy on appropriations bills all the time. Apparently we have to draw the line somewhere, and Republicans have decided again that Native Americans get the short straw.”

Grijalva sent a letter to House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) on July 8 urging them to reject Bishop’s effort. 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. Grijalva’s full letter is available at

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.

Bishop has been chairman of the Committee for 18 months. As Grijalva notes in his 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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