Sequoyah Simermeyer is sworn in by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs at his confirmation hearing to serve as Chair of the National Indian Gaming Commission in Washington, D.C., on July 24, 2019. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

RECAP: National Indian Gaming Commission nominee outlines vision in Trump era

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The National Indian Gaming Commission is about to enter a new era, one under President Donald Trump's leadership.

The independent federal agency oversees the $32 billion, and growing, tribal gaming industry. And for the first time in a decade, it's about to be led by a Republican-picked chairman.

Trump's choice to lead the agency is E. Sequoyah Simermeyer, a citizen of the Coharie Tribe, an Indian nation recognized by the state of North Carolina. He's served as an Associate Commissioner at the NIGC since November 2015 and is slated to gain a big promotion after going before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs for his confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

"The tribal gaming industry represents an American success story," Simermeyer said at the sparsely-attended proceeding on Capitol Hill.

Should be confirmed by the full U.S. Senate, Simermeyer said he would work collaboratively with tribes and other stakeholders to protect the integrity of the Indian gaming industry. He also vowed to focus on matters requiring decisions at the NIGC to ensure there are no backlogs and to work closely with the staff, calling them "great front line folks."

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs: E. Sequoyah Simermeyer Nomination Hearing

Simermeyer sidestepped two major questions during the hearing, which was interrupted by a series of votes on the Senate floor. He refused to say whether he agreed with a recent federal appeals court decision that prevents tribes in several Western states from asking the federal government, as their trustee, to authorize gaming on their homelands.

Simermeyer told Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), whose state is one of those affected by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, that the NIGC does not play a role in issuing Class III gaming procedures in situations where states refuse to come to the table. He instead pointed to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a different federal agency.

Simermeyer also refused to explain why he declined -- not just once but twice -- to join final NIGC decisions in favor of the Ponca Tribe, whose leadership was finally able to open a casino last fall in Iowa after more than a decade of work. He cited ongoing litigation from the states of Iowa and Nebraska as the reason for his reticence.

Despite the lack of answers, Udall said he would recommend the committee move swiftly on the nomination. The next step in the process would be a business meeting to advance Simermeyer to the Senate floor.

Catch up on the hearing with a social media recap.

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