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House panel with jurisdiction over Indian issues gains a new leader

Filed Under: National | Politics
More on: 114th, 115th, democrats, don young, doug lamalfa, hnrc, house, norma torres, republicans, rob bishop

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-California) is the new chairman of the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs. Photo: Rep. Doug LaMalfa

The House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs is getting a reboot after going through a rough patch in the last session of Congress.

The panel was known as somewhat of a bipartisan refuge for tribes until Republicans added Insular areas to its jurisdiction over the objections of Democrats back in January 2015. That was seen as a major change because those territories do not share the same legal or political status as tribal governments.

Then came a series of controversial hearings in which tribes and the Obama administration wondered whether Congress was trying to turn the clock back on self-determination. A couple of controversial bills didn't help matters either.

But instead of directly addressing the concerns, Republican leaders effectively muzzled the subcommittee for the remainder of the 114th Congress. In all of 2016, it only met five times to consider tribal issues. Only seven bills were considered the entire year and only three of those became law.

The 115th Congress, though, marks a chance for a fresh start. Republicans have selected Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-California) as the new chairman of the subcommittee.

"From empowering states, tribes and local communities to enhancing land, water, energy and resource management, and in partnership with new executive leadership, I am proud to make these announcements and eager to tackle the important work before the committee," Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who serves as chair of the larger House Committee on Natural Resources, said in a press release.

LaMalfa succeeds Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who served as chair since 2010. As recently as January, Young had expressed interest in retaining his leadership role, according to sources on Capitol Hill, and he remains a member of the subcommittee.

As for Democrats, they previously announced Rep. Norma Torres (D-California) as the ranking member of the panel. She is serving her second term in Congress and has emerged as a critic of the Trump administration's handling of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Despite the changes, the subcommittee has yet to announce its first meeting or hearing. In contrast, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs already met once and has an oversight hearing on the agenda.

The full House Committee on Natural Resources, on the other hand, isn't meeting for the first time until next week, more than a month after lawmakers returned to work.

The House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs has nine Republican members:
Doug LaMalfa, Chairman
Don Young
Jeff Denham
Paul Cook
Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen
Darin LaHood
Jack Bergman
Jenniffer González-Colón, Vice Chairman
Rob Bishop, ex-officio

The seven Democratic members are:
Norma Torres, Ranking Member
Madeleine Z. Bordallo
Gregorio Sablan
Ruben Gallego
Darren Soto
Colleen Hanabusa
Raul Grijalva, ex-officio

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