indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
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...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Tribes discuss water concerns at conference (8/1)
Puyallup fashion designer survives 2nd week on Project Runway (8/1)
Report shows dip in Indian Country detention center population (8/1)
House committee passes bill to protect Gun Lake Tribe's casino (8/1)
George Rivera: Pojoaque Pueblo contributes to state with casino (8/1)
Ted Nugent: Media to blame for tribes canceling casino concerts (8/1)
Chippewa Cree Tribe takes Original American Foundation money (8/1)
Cayuga Nation welcomes 2nd Circuit decision in foreclosure suit (8/1)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee supports bills for Nevada tribes (8/1)
Support grows for trail to recognize forced march of Ponca Tribe (8/1)
Leadership flap in Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes appears settled (8/1)
Canada posts reports of salaries earned by First Nations leaders (8/1)
Montana to open satellite voting office on Blackfeet Reservation (8/1)
BIA officer involved in fatal shooting on Wind River Reservation (8/1)
Editorial: BIA fails to explain need for federal recognition reform (8/1)
Rep. Young apologizes for grabbing arm of Congressional staffer (8/1)
Chumash Tribe dispels drought concerns amid casino expansion (8/1)
Lawmakers ask DOJ to back bill to reverse online gaming opinion (8/1)
Native Sun News: Lawmakers seek distribution of Cobell checks (7/31)
2nd Circuit protects Cayuga Nation from foreclosure proceeding (7/31)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee passes seven bills at meeting (7/31)
David Wilkins: Finding some common ground on disenrollments (7/31)
Erik Stegman: Racist mascots continue to hurt our Native youth (7/31)
Tribes participate in 400-mile journey from Colorado to Arizona (7/31)
Sen. Tester questions void in leadership at IHS regional offices (7/31)
Matika Wilbur continues photo trip throughout Indian Country (7/31)
Proposed bill targets 'halfbreed' and 'breed' names in Montana (7/31)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe records high levels of bacteria in river (7/31)
KUOW: Tightening the screws on tribal payday loan operations (7/31)
Notah Begay to be inducted into Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame (7/31)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe fires police chief following investigation (7/31)
Opinion: Native Americans shackled in poverty by federal policy (7/31)
Fact Checker: Three Pinocchios for Washington team's new site (7/31)
Column: Revisiting Johnny Cash's classic Indian rights recording (7/31)
Column: Sen. McCain breaks promise on Tohono O'odham casino (7/31)
Survey shows support for smoke-free tribal casinos in Wisconsin (7/31)
Prairie Island Tribe arrests woman for possessing meth at casino (7/31)
Chumash Tribe hosts public meeting on $160M casino expansion (7/31)
Crews stop spread of fires that came near Barona Band's casino (7/31)
Native Sun News: Website tracks missing and murdered women (7/30)
Native Sun News: AmeriCorps expands efforts in Indian Country (7/30)
House Natural Resources Committee markup on four tribal bills (7/30)
Mark Begich: A permanent fix for tribal contract support costs (7/30)
Paul Moorehead: Let's get back to promoting self-government (7/30)
Tanya Lee: Violence against Native women a national disgrace (7/30)
Rep. Markwayne Mullin named one of 50 Most Beautiful on Hill (7/30)
Tribes criticize veto provisions in BIA federal recognition rule (7/30)
Great Plains tribes hold conference to safeguard water rights (7/30)
Yurok Tribe wraps up marijuana raids with nearly 13K plants (7/30)
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.