Tribes Hopeful About Senate Chairman of Indian Affairs

Progress being made by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and it’s chairman, Senator John Barrasso (l.), has given hope to tribes that this session will prove a fruitful one for tribal sovereignty and rights.

Senator John Barrasso has raised the hopes of some tribes that he will address some of the issues that are important to them as chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

Last week United South and Eastern Tribes President Brian Patterson wrote to Indian Country Today that tribes are looking for the chairman to “to seize opportunities for cooperative movement of important legislation and to be a leading voice in the Senate to affirm, promote, and protect the inherent sovereign authority and rights of Tribal Nations.”

Barrasso has chaired the committee since the beginning of the year. A Republican, he takes over after several years of Democratic party rule in the Senate. Recently he issued a statement: “The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has made real progress on bills that will help improve the lives of the people across Indian country. We’ll continue to move forward with our positive agenda that is focused on jobs, energy and natural resource development, health care, education and tribal self-governance. I’m grateful for all of our Committee members’ dedication, hard work, and continued commitment throughout the 114th Congress.”

During his chairmanship the committee has forwarded seven bills to the full Senate. Six of them had been approved by the previous committee, which had been headed by Democrat Jon Tester.

Recently the Senate approved the appointment of Jonodev Chaudhuri to chair the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Chaudhuri reacted to the news by stating, “I am humbled by President Obama’s confidence in me and am honored by the Senate’s confirmation. I am eager to continue the agency’s work towards an efficient, well-functioning, and effective regulatory structure that protects the industry and promotes its integrity and health.”

He had been acting chairman since 2013.

According to Patterson, “In the first 100 days as chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, we have seen Chairman Barrasso bring a ‘can-do’ attitude to the Committee. Quite a few bills have been moved out of the Committee and the Chairman has demonstrated a focus on getting to results, which is something highly appreciated by Indian country.”

Several of these bills have been bills that tribes have supported for several years and worked to see passed.

Former Chairman Tester told Indian Country Today, “The Indian Affairs Committee has always worked in a bipartisan fashion and it’s time the rest of the Senate follows the Committee’s lead.”

Through a spokesman Barrasso said he is “hopeful to see some real progress in this Congress, starting today with the confirmation of Jonodev Chaudhuri as the chairman of the NIGC.”