Senate Passes the Tribal Amendments to the Stafford Act and the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act


On Monday evening, the Senate passed H.R. 152, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, which includes the tribal amendments to the Stafford Act by a vote of 62-36. Previously, the House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 241 to 180. Now, the bill will go to the President to be signed into law.

The tribal amendments to the Stafford Act authorize tribal governments to make direct requests to the President (without having to go through the State) to declare an emergency or a disaster. The amendment corrects the Stafford Act to properly recognize the government-to-government relationship between the federal government and tribal governments for emergency management. After the President signs the bill into law, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will begin implementation of the tribal provision by consulting with tribes on the procedures to be adopted.

H.R. 152 provides over $50B in disaster relief assistance largely in response to Hurricane Sandy. However, there is $16B in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding that is available for grantees for recovery assistance from any declared major disaster from 2011, 2012 and 2013. While it is expected that much of this will still be directed towards response to Hurricane Sandy, it is likely that there will be significant funding to respond to other disasters throughout the country. The Department of Housing and Urban Development will develop the criteria and process by which grantees may apply for funding over the next 6 weeks.

Members announced for the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs

Members announced for the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs

Chairman Doc Hastings and Ranking Member Edward Markey of the House Natural Resources Committee recently announced their members for the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs (IANA). The IANA Subcommittee will be comprised of twelve members consisting of 7 Republicans and 5 Democrats in the 113th Congress.

Chairman Don Young (AK) will again lead the Subcommittee and be joined by Republican Representatives Dan Benishek (MI), Paul Gosar (AZ), Markwayne Mullin (OK), Steve Daines (MT), Kevin Cramer (ND), Doug LaMalfa (CA) and Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (WA) as ex-officio. Freshman Rep. Markwayne Mullin is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (HI) will serve as the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee. Hanabusa stated, “[This position] will give me a chance to continue advocating on behalf our nation’s indigenous peoples.” The previous Ranking Members were Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM) and former Rep. Dan Boren (OK) during the 112th Congress. Hanabusa will be joined by Democratic Representatives Tony Cardenas (CA), Raul Ruiz (CA), Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (AS), Raúl Grijalva (AZ), and Natural Resources Ranking Member Edward Markey (MA) as ex-officio.

The Subcommittee’s jurisdiction includes oversight and legislative responsibilities for American Indian and Alaska Native issues within the jurisdiction of the full committee.

To learn more about the Natural Resources Committee’s Oversight Plan for the 113th Congress, which includes the Subcommittee’s priorities, please visit:

For more information about the IANA Subcommittee, please visit:

For more information about the House Natural Resources Committee, please visit:

Secretary Salazar Stepping Down from Interior Post

Secretary Salazar Stepping Down from Interior Post

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that he would be leaving the Department of the Interior after serving 4 years as Secretary. Secretary Salazar will resign his position by the end of March to return to his home in Colorado.

Under Secretary Salazar’s leadership, the Department has made significant progress to ensure that the federal government honors its treaty and trust responsibilities to Indian tribes. He has pro-actively assisted tribes in their efforts to take land into trust so that they can rebuild their communities and protect their homelands. He spearheaded the settlement of the longstanding Cobell lawsuit, guided Interior’s efforts to settle more than 40 similar claims between the United States and Indian tribes, and oversaw a water settlement benefiting pueblos in New Mexico that will build and improve reservation water systems and deliver safe water to them.

Under Secretary Salazar’s helm, the Department issued improved leasing regulations to promote homeownership and economic development as well as energy development on tribal lands, which are goals similar to the HEARTH Act of 2012. Furthermore, Secretary Salazar has forged strong interagency partnerships to help tribes build stronger tribal communities so that they can thrive politically and economically. Interior is working with Departments of Justice and the Health and Human Services to implement the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and has boosted federal support to combat crime in Indian country. He also helped develop an MOU among five federal agencies to improve federal efforts to protect sacred areas of Indian tribes and collaborated with the Department of Education to prepare the next generation of Indian students to face the challenges of their time by strengthening their educational opportunities.

Finally, Secretary Salazar has played a critical role in the tremendous success of previous White House Tribal Leader Conferences where he joined President Obama, other Cabinet Secretaries, and other senior Administration officials to meet with tribal leaders to discuss Indian Country’s priorities.
Secretary Salazar will leave behind an impressive record that demonstrates Interior’s commitment to forging a stronger relationship with tribal governments. He will be missed by Indian country.

Chairman Hastings Announces House Natural Resources Subcommittee Chairs

Chairman Hastings Announces House Natural Resources Subcommittee Chairs

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) recently announced House Natural Resources Subcommittee Chairs for the 113th Congress. Rep. Don Young (R-AK) was again selected to Chair the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs in the new Congress. Young previously led the Subcommittee that was re-established in the 112th Congress. The Subcommittee’s jurisdiction includes oversight and legislative responsibilities for American Indian and Alaska Native issues, similar to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. The Democratic Ranking Member for the Subcommittee has not yet been announced.

Hastings also announced the renaming of the previous Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands as the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. This newly named Subcommittee will oversee matters related to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and all public lands, including the National Park Service System, U.S. Forests, Bureau of Land Management lands, and national monuments. The Natural Resources Committee has primary jurisdiction over NEPA in the House of Representatives.

Chairman Hastings stated, “The creation of this new Subcommittee builds on the reforms started at the beginning of this Congress when we established the Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee – another issue that was previously handled at the Full Committee.” He added, “Moving jurisdiction of NEPA to a specific Subcommittee will allow us to better review and address how this law is being implemented and the impacts its bureaucratic red-tape has on jobs, our economy and access to public lands and resources.”

House Natural Resources Subcommittee Chairmen for the 113th Congress:

Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs
Chairman: Rep. Don Young (R-AK)

Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
Chairman: Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO)

Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs
Chairman: Rep. John Fleming (R-LA)

Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation
Chairman: Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT)

Subcommittee on Water and Power
Chairman: Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA)

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Members for the 113th Congress

The 113th Congress convened January 3rd, 2013. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee has a new Chairwoman, Maria Cantwell (D-WA), along with a handful of new members. The full list of members for the 113th Congress is listed below. More information on the committee can be found at

Democrats – Majority
· Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), Chair
· Senator Tim Johnson (SD)
· Senator Jon Tester (MT)
· Senator Tom Udall (NM)
· Senator Al Franken (MN)
· Senator Mark Begich (AK)
· Senator Heidi Heitkamp (ND)
· Senator Brian Schatz (HI)

Republicans – Minority
· Senator John Barrasso (WY), Vice Chair
· Senator John McCain (AZ)
· Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK)
· Senator John Hoeven (ND)
· Senator Mike Crapo (ID)
· Senator Deb Fischer (NE)

112th Congress Fails to Pass the Tribal Amendments to the Stafford Act

112th Congress Fails to Pass the Tribal Amendments to the Stafford Act

Although there was considerable legislative activity involving the tribal amendments to the Stafford Act at the end of the Session, ultimately Congress failed to pass legislation that included the tribal amendments authorizing tribal governments to make direct requests to the President for emergency or disaster assistance.

In September, the House passed H.R. 2903, the FEMA Reauthorization Act, which included the tribal amendments. However, the Senate never considered this bill nor did the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Most recently, the Senate included the tribal amendments in the Disaster Assistance Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 1), better known as the Sandy Supplemental. With less than a week left in the Session, the Sandy Supplemental Bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support 89-8.

In the House, Republicans had considerable concerns with the Senate Supplemental bill, and decided to introduce two new supplemental bills for consideration. These bills did not contain most, if not all, of the authorizing provisions in the Senate bill including the tribal amendments. However, in the last hours of the 112th Congress, Rep. Denham (R-CA) and Rep. Rahall (D-WV) were able to introduce a new bill (H.R. 6728) with these authorizing provisions including the tribal amendments and have it placed on the schedule to be considered. Unfortunately, the House decided to not vote on the Supplemental Bills and adjourned before considering H.R. 6728.

Now, the tribal amendments to the Stafford Act will have to be reconsidered in the 113th Congress. At this point, it is not clear how they will be reconsidered, but the Supplemental Appropriations Bill remains a possible legislative vehicle.

Senator Cantwell to lead Indian Affairs Committee in the 113th Congress

Senator Cantwell to lead Indian Affairs Committee in the 113th Congress

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) was recently selected by Democratic Leadership to serve as the new Chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs during the 113th Congress. Senator Cantwell will be the first woman to lead the Committee and will be one of seven female Committee Chairs in the next Congress. She will assume the Committee reigns from outgoing Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) who retired at the end of the 112th Congress. Akaka was the first Native Hawaiian to serve as Chair of the Committee.

Senator Cantwell has been a member of the Committee since 2001 and is widely recognized for her work on behalf of tribes in Washington State and around the country. “The 29 federally recognized tribes in our state contribute greatly to the state’s cultural diversity, heritage and economy,” Cantwell said. She added, “The tribes in our country are important to our states and our country. I look forward to the opportunities that being the Chair of this Committee provides.”

The Committee will have eight Democratic members in the 113th Congress, which will include two new members. Senators Tim Johnson (SD), Jon Tester (MT), Tom Udall (NM), and Al Franken (MN) will be joined by Senators Mark Begich (AK) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND).

Note: The Committee will include a replacement member for the late Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), who was expected to serve on the Committee prior to his recent and unexpected passing.

For more information about the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, please visit:

For more information about Democratic committee assignments, please visit:

House fails to Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) bill

House fails to Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) bill

Efforts to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) failed in the House of Representatives. The bill failed to reach congressional reauthorization for the first time since it was originally signed in 1994. The law was enacted by Congress in 1994 and is a landmark measure that seeks to prevent and end violence against women and girls throughout the United States.

The Senate and House passed competing bills, but failed to come to an agreement on differences. The Senate bill included broader protections for Native women, the LGBT community, and immigrant victims of domestic violence. On April 25, 2012, the Senate measure, S. 1925, passed by a wide bipartisan vote of 68-31, with 15 Republicans voting in favor of the bill. The Senate bill included strong tribal provisions that would have restored tribal court criminal authority over crimes of domestic violence (DV) committed by non-Indians – authority that was struck by the Supreme Court in the 1978 Oliphant case. The Oliphant case opened a gap in jurisdiction over non-Indian crimes. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found that many non-Indian misdemeanor DV crimes go unprosecuted, the offender becomes emboldened, and the violence escalates. DOJ has been a strong advocate of restoring tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians as proposed in S. 1925.

VAWA programs will continue to receive funding through March like other discretionary programs because of a Continuing Resolution signed by President Obama this past September, but it is yet to be determined how funds will be allocated to programs with the new budget deal.

Congress Avoids the Fiscal Cliff

Congress Avoids the Fiscal Cliff

At 11:00 PM on New Years Day, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act, to avoid the fiscal cliff by a vote of 257 – 167. The deal emerged in the Senate late on New Years Eve. The Senate passed H.R. 8 at 2:00 AM Eastern Time on New Years Day, by a vote of 89 – 8. The President is expected to sign the measure.

Importantly for Indian country, the deal postpones the sequester for two months, to March 1, 2013, temporarily avoiding 8% cuts to tribal programs. The 113th Congress, which will be sworn in on January 3rd, must immediately begin work to agree upon more than $1 trillion to reduce the federal deficit through a package of defense and discretionary spending cuts, entitlement reforms, and additional revenue measures. That debate will also run up against the need to extend the debt ceiling.

The deal reached today includes more than 90 provisions that range from tax extensions, to emergency unemployment compensation, health care extensions, a Farm Bill extension, and as noted above, postponement of the sequester. For Tribes, the bill includes one-year extensions of the Indian employment tax credit, accelerated depreciation credit, Indian coal production credit, and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians.