Kevin Washburn warns of 'tea party' influence on Indian issues

Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn speaks at the National Congress of American Indians annual convention in San Diego, California, on October 20, 2015. Photo by Indianz.Com

The outgoing head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs has been sparring with Republicans on Capitol Hill for much of the past year, a situation he's blaming on the "tea party wing" of Congress.

The House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs has held a series of highly charged hearings on land-into-trust and federal recognition since the start of the 114th Congress. Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn has been firing back to assert the role of the BIA in the federal-tribal relationship.

“We’ve seen the tea party wing of Congress starting to try to take away executive power to take action in favor of tribes, such as lands-into-trust and tribal acknowledgement,” Washburn, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, told The Albuquerque Journal. “They’ve identified a constitutional position that it should be only Congress and not the executive branch that does good things for tribes. And frankly, if we left it up to Congress we might not get good things for tribes.”

But Washburn won't be in the hot seat much longer. His last day at the BIA is January 1, 2016, and he will be returning to teach at the University of New Mexico School of Law, where he previously served as dean.

Larry Roberts, the principal deputy assistant secretary, will lead the BIA for the rest of the Obama administration, which ends in January 2017.

Get the Story:
BIA Secretary Washburn to resign, to teach at UNM Law School (The Albuquerque Journal 12/11)
Head of US Bureau of Indian Affairs announces resignation (AP 12/10)
Kevin Washburn Leaving BIA in January (Indian Country Today 12/10)

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