indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Indian Law Online Master Degree - University of Tulsa College of Law
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Mark Trahant: Demise of filibuster is good for Indian Country

Filed Under: Opinion | Politics
More on: democrats, mark trahant, republicans, senate
     


Source: U.S. Judicial Conference

The United States Senate is a curious institution. It's not democratic. It's not representative. And it's the ultimate millionaire's sandbox.

So in the U.S. constitutional scheme: The 38 million people living in California get two votes out of 100, the same as the 576,000 folks who are residents of Wyoming.

One person's vote is worth more if they live in a tiny state, but at least it's a vote. Because some four million American Indians and Alaska Natives -- citizens of tribal governments -- aren’t counted as a unique constituency. By land mass, Indian Country's 50-plus million acres are bigger than almost half the states. Even breaking that number up into population counts, Cherokee’s 819,000 people or Navajo's 350,000, is in the same ballpark as one of those small states.

But that’s the deal. And the Constitution is sacred script (roll the organ-heavy musical theme now). So get over it, right?

But the thing is the U.S. Senate, this undemocratic institution, is made worse by the filibuster. Especially now that the filibuster has become a routine, invoked on every nominee or every bill. Instead of fifty votes, a supermajority of 60 votes, was required to get anything done. That changed last week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, used another rule (one requiring just 50 votes) to overrule the filibuster on judicial and executive nominees. Only now that that procedure has been invoked, it’s only a matter of time before the filibuster is gone forever. (The filibuster is only a tradition, not a constitutional procedure. It’s only been used for about a century. And in the past decade it’s use has increased significantly.)

Let’s be clear: The super-majority has not been good for Indian Country. One of the reasons it took so long to pass the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was that 60-vote hurdle. Or reach a final settlement on the Cobell lawsuit. Or we’ve been reading all about the complications with the Affordable Care Act. One of the key appointments, Donald Berwick, was never confirmed as the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, and took the job with a limited timeframe as a recess appointment.

A filibuster-free Senate could also make it easier for American Indians and Alaska Natives to get appointed as federal judges.

This is one of those areas where the under-representation is beyond acceptable.

A current judicial nominee, former Arizona U.S. Attorney Diane Humetewa, a Hopi, should have an easy confirmation, and this new rule means one less hurdle. If confirmed, she will be the only Native American as an Article III judge (representing the judicial branch of government). It’s a lifetime gig.

But over the past couple of decades the entire Senate confirmation process, not just the filibuster has been an obstacle. The National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund have been working on an education project to “ensure that American Indians and Alaska Natives receive fair consideration for federal vacancies.” Right now there are 93 openings for judges.

When Arvo Mikkanen, who is Cheyenne and Kiowa, was appointed as a federal judge in Oklahoma in 2010, the state’s two senators, Tom Coburn and James Inhofe, went out of their way to keep him off the bench.

Mikkanen, writing in The Atlantic, asked Coburn, “what exactly do you think you know about me that disqualifies me for a spot on the bench? The implication of your quote last week -- “I know plenty. I have no comment” -- implies that you believe you have some non-public information that would cast a negative pall upon my nomination. So what is it? As a dedicated public servant, someone who has worked in the federal government longer than you have, I believe I am entitled to that answer; and then to be free of the dark insinuation your comment suggests.”

Not a word from Coburn. Nothing from Inhofe. And no hearing either. The nomination was eventually returned from the Senate to the White House without action. No filibuster. Not even a vote.

But the threat of a filibuster as well as the traditional deference to the state’s senators was enough to keep Mikkanen off the bench.

This is absurd. And it’s why the filibuster’s death should be celebrated.

Mark Trahant is the 20th Atwood Chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is a journalist, speaker and Twitter poet and is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Join the discussion about austerity. Comment on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/IndianCountryAusterity

More from Mark Trahant: Mark Trahant: State demonstrates contempt for Alaska Natives (11/19)


Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Bike ride raises money for Pine Ridge families (8/4)
Lakota Country Times: Ball fields dedicated to Pine Ridge youth (8/4)
Native Sun News Editorial: Native community rises in Rapid City (8/4)
Vi Waln: Clear your minds before coming to sacred ceremonies (8/4)
Adrienne Keene: Cultural appropriation reinforces past wrongs (8/4)
NPS suppresses probe into destruction at burial mound in Iowa (8/4)
Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation to expand land holdings (8/4)
Review: 'Never Alone' game brings Alaska Native culture to life (8/4)
Eastern Cherokee budget depends heavily on gaming revenues (8/4)
Kalispel Tribe sees golf course purchase as way to boost casino (8/4)
Judge won't allow suit over death of young member of Ute Tribe (8/3)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe finally starts work on movie theater (8/3)
Morongo Band awards $40K in scholarships to Native students (8/3)
Native Sun News: Indian lawmakers achieve goals in Montana (8/3)
Lakota Country Times: Skate competition grows at Pine Ridge (8/3)
Mark Trahant: Appoint tribal delegates to serve in US Congress (8/3)
Delphine Red Shirt: Restore Black Hills peak to its rightful name (8/3)
Dana Lone Elk: Lakota grandmothers hold our society together (8/3)
Steve Russell: The Great White Lion Hunter kills only for thrills (8/3)
Terese Marie Mailhot: Native people endure delays for justice (8/3)
Sarah Deer: Ending the cold war over land-into-trust in Alaska (8/3)
Steven Newcomb: High court still relying on Christian doctrine (8/3)
Navajo Nation couple weighs court challenge to marriage law (8/3)
Isleta Pueblo celebrates milestone in tribal education system (8/3)
Chemehuevi Tribe accuses law enforcement of racial profiling (8/3)
Alaska Natives deal with toxic legacy in poisoned food supply (8/3)
Mille Lacs Band halts walleye harvest amid declining numbers (8/3)
Choctaw Nation police officer helps arrest suspects in murder (8/3)
Florida court dissolves injunction in Indian online lender case (8/3)
Arizona cites immunity in Tohono O'odham Nation casino case (8/3)
Fond du Lac Band wants to resolve long-running gaming fight (8/3)
Snoqualmie Tribe hires new chief operating officer for casino (8/3)
Editorial: Seminole Tribe is a good gaming partner for Florida (8/3)
Editorial: Something's gotta give in New England casino race (8/3)
Muscogee Nation activist dangled from bridge to stop oil ship (7/31)
Native Sun News: Rapid City mayor denies claim of retaliation (7/31)
Ernestine Chasing Hawk: Rapid City mayor's year of retaliation (7/31)
Brandon Ecoffey: Rapid City continues with tradition of racism (7/31)
Clara Caufield: Northern Cheyenne Tribe leaves people in dark (7/31)
Lakota Country Times: Group seeks to boost Pine Ridge tourism (7/31)
Federal murder charges laid for shooting on Crow Reservation (7/31)
Alex White Plume asks court for permission to plant hemp crop (7/31)
Isleta Pueblo welcomes Secretary Sally Jewell for school event (7/31)
Tribes caught off-guard with mandate from Affordable Care Act (7/31)
Commerce Blog: Secretary Pritzker meets with tribes and youth (7/31)
Tribes in Pacific Northwest 'very worried' about future of salmon (7/31)
Alaska to recognize tribal domestic violence protection orders (7/31)
Moapa Band enters $4.3M settlement for power plant pollution (7/31)
Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Indian Affairs holds first meeting (7/31)
Donald Trump not shy with invoking race when it comes to tribes (7/31)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe sees big future with Class II casino (7/31)
Catawba Nation still waiting for answer on casino land-into-trust (7/31)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.