Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) are seen at a committee hearing on July 12, 2017. Photo: SCIA
National | Politics | Federal Recognition

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs cancels business meeting and hearing





Partisan bickering has once again derailed the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

The committee, which typically acts in a bipartisan fashion, had to cancel a business meeting and oversight hearing after Democrats invoked a rule that prevented activities from occurring past noon on Wednesday. Both events are due to be rescheduled.

"Unfortunately, the two-hour rule was invoked this morning, barring committees from meeting and conducting official business," a Republican staffer said after the cancellation was announced.

Two items were on the agenda for the meeting: S.1285, the Oregon Tribal Economic Development Act, and H.R.984, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act. In the case of H.R.984, the bill already passed the House so the delay represents a slight setback for six tribes in Virginia whose ancestors welcomed the first European settlers at Jamestown more than 400 years ago.

The oversight hearing was focused on human trafficking, a subject of intense interest in Indian Country. Three recent government reports, including one which shows American Indian and Alaska Native women suffer from the second-highest homicide rate in the nation, are helping to draw more attention to the issue.

"We want to give this subject the full attention and consideration of an official committee hearing, so we’ve canceled until Senate rules permit us to do so," the GOP staffer said.

Democrats invoked the so-called two hour rule in April to protest the sudden firing of the nation's top law enforcement official. This time they are upset about the Senate's consideration of a controversial health care reform bill that was developed without much input beyond top Republican leaders.

Republicans have utilized the "two hour" rule in the past, too, when they were in the minority in the chamber.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notices:
(CANCELED) Business Meeting to Consider S. 1285 & H.R. 984 (July 26, 2017)
(CANCELED) Oversight Hearing on “The GAO Reports on Human Trafficking of American Indian and Alaska Natives in the United States.” (July 26, 2017)

Related Stories:
Report confirms Native women suffer from high rate of homicide in nation (July 24, 2017)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee schedules hearing on human trafficking (July 17, 2017)
More data needed to address human trafficking in Indian Country (April 19, 2017)
Attorney General vows help for public safety in Indian Country (April 18, 2017)
Zinke cites 'heart-breaking' crime rates against Native women (April 18, 2017)