The Carcieri fix has been set aside pending further negotiations.
S. 676, an amendment to the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, is the “clean Carcieri fix” Indian country has been awaiting for almost four years. The bill reaffirms the Interior Secretary’s authority to take land into trust for Indian tribes and individuals, repairing a devastating U.S. Supreme Court ruling in February 2009, which denied that authority.
The misguided high court ruling has created chaos in Indian country, including hindering tribes from nation building and providing programs for their citizens, litigation over proposed and existing trust lands, safety issues, a backlog of land into trust applications, questions over the tax status of Indian lands, and difficulty for tribal governments to borrow money. Tribal leaders hope the clean Carcieri fix will be passed during the current lame duck session.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expected to move the bill forward on the Senate floor on Monday, November 26, but that didn’t happen. “As I indicated this morning, we are trying to work our way through a number of issues,” Reid said, according to the Congressional Record for November 26. “We thought we were going to be able to move toward the Carcieri matter this evening, but we are still negotiating this matter, so we are going to have to do that at some subsequent time.”
Deciphered into ordinary language, that means there are not enough votes to pass the bill on the Senate floor yet. According to Washington sources, Sen. Daniel Kahikina Akaka,” the author of the Carcieri fix bill, was able to secure around 35 votes among the Democratic senators for the Carcieri legislation. Sources also report that the Republicans have promised to deliver around 18 votes for the bill. With 35 Democrats and 18 Republicans voting for the fix, only around seven or eight votes would be needed to overcome the 60-vote filibuster.
But having only 35 Democrats committed to passing the Carcieri fix begs the question: With 51 Democrats in the Senate, many of whom were reelected because of support from Indian country, who are the 16 or so Democrats still uncommitted to passing the legislation that would assure the Interior Secretary’s authority to take land into trust for Indian nations?
A full story will follow.