Aide to Sen. Akaka confident on support for a land-into-trust fix

A fix to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar has enough votes to pass the Senate, an aide to Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) said on Wednesday.

Akaka, the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, has made passage of the fix a priority. But it has yet to come up for a vote on the floor despite strong support in Indian Country.

That could change during after the November election, when Congress goes into a lame duck session. Loretta Tuell, the staff majority director for the committee, was confident of a 60-vote margin that might be needed to ensure the fix overcomes any procedural issues in the Senate.

"This is our land -- we have a right to have our homelands," Tuell said at the National Congress of American Indians 69th annual conference in Sacramento, California. "Land is critical for us to move forward."

Tuell said Akaka supports a "clean" bill, meaning all federally recognized tribes will be able to follow the land-into-trust process. Some competing measures on Capitol Hill have cut Alaska tribes out of the fix.

"We're not going to compromise against ourselves," Tuell, a member of the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho, told tribal leaders.

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