December 14th, 2017 – House Financial Services Committee: NAHASDA Reauthorization Markup Recap

House Financial Services Committee: NAHASDA Reauthorization Markup Recap

On Wednesday, December 13th, the House Financial Services Committee (“Committee”) voted on Rep. Pearce’s substitute amendment to H.R. 3864, the NAHASDA Reauthorization, that deleted the Native Hawaiian housing provisions from the bill. The initial bill as introduced had 12 bipartisan co-sponsors.

The Committee rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) to restore the Native Hawaiian provisions to the bill. Her amendment failed on a party line vote of 24-32 (all Democrats voting in favor, and all Republicans voting against)(4 members did not vote).

The Committee then advanced the Pearce substitute amendment by a vote of 37-22. Reps. Delaney (D-MD), Heck (D-WA), and Sinema (D-AZ) joined the 34 Republicans on the Committee voting in favor of Pearce’s substitute amendment.

The Committee will file the bill report on H.R. 3864 as amended and it will then be eligible for a vote on the floor by the entire House. The two-day markup lasted more than 8 hours.

Below is a brief recap of the debate on the bill and the Moore amendment.

Rep Moore spoke passionately about the need for her amendment to restore the Native Hawaiian housing provisions. She stated that she appreciated the work of Rep. Pearce and the bipartisan effort that was put into the initial bill as introduced, noting that it properly acknowledges all Native peoples. She argued that the Native Hawaiian housing program was initially enacted to help better implement the Hawaiian Homelands Commission Act of 1920 to help the indigenous peoples of Hawaii, and cited Morton v. Mancari noting that federal programs that benefit Native peoples are not racially based. She finally reasoned that the Supreme Court’s Rice v. Cayetano decision did not undo the Hawaiian Homelands Commission Act, but instead was related to voting rights and the 15th Amendment.

Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) spoke to the substitute bill. He acknowledged that the Native Hawaiians housing provisions are contentious, but he said that NAHASDA is about treaty rights and the U.S. trust obligations to Native Americans. He said that Indian Country needs an additional 68,000 housing units are needed to replace inadequate units and build new units to eliminate overcrowding. “The substitute amendment erodes the bipartisan effort and makes final passage more difficult.” Heck concluded by saying that he hopes restore a bipartisan effort as the bill moves to the floor.

Ranking Member Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) spoke in opposition to H.R. 3864 as amended. However, a good portion of her remarks targeted President Trump’s actions towards Indian Country. “I am deeply disappointed in President Trump who has shown utter disrespect for Native Americans, ignoring protests by Indian tribes and approving the Keystone Pipeline potentially subjecting them to hazardous, he used a racial slur disparaging Native Americans at an event intended to honor veterans, he slashed the size of two National Monuments which include sacred Native sites to appease uranium mining companies, and his FY18 budget request would have significantly reduced funding for Native housing.”

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM), the bill’s sponsor, stated that he cannot support the Moore amendment, arguing that removing the Native Hawaiian housing provisions from the bill is necessary to keep the legislation moving forward.

Rep. Sean Duffy spoke in opposition to the Moore amendment, stating that if approved it would tank the NAHASDA Reauthorization, reasoning that Native Hawaiians are not Indian tribes recognized by the BIA. He recognized the importance of NAHASDA to Indian Country, noting that former Democrat Committee Chair Barney Frank (D-MA) separated the Native Hawaiian housing provisions from a previous reauthorization. (Note: Duffy failed to acknowledge that the House of Representatives voted on a similar NAHASDA Reauthorization that included Native Hawaiian housing provisions by a vote of 297-98 in the 114th Congress-with 128 Republicans voting yes on the bill).

Rep. Davidson (R-OH) also voiced concerns with the Moore amendment. “I’m concerned that the Moore amendment undermines the spirit of the Supreme Court’s Rice v. Cayetano decision. It could be the first step towards creating an extra-Constitutional race based government program.”

Finally, Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), who urged Pearce to strip the Native Hawaiian provisions, spoke against the Moore amendment, stating “the amendment is contentious, and should it be accepted, this bill will not make it to the House floor.” He too cited the Supreme Court’s Rice v. Cayetano decision as rationale for his opposition to the Native Hawaiian housing provisions, claiming that the provisions represent an unconstitutional set-aside.

December 8th, 2017 – Congress Passes Continuing Resolution to Fund Federal Government Through December 22nd

Congress Passes Continuing Resolution to Fund Federal Government Through December 22nd

On the afternoon of December 7th, the House passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through December 22nd by a vote of 235-193, and the Senate quickly followed by passing the CR 81-14. Congress will now have another two weeks to try to come to an agreement to fund the government through FY 2018, as well as decide on a number of policy issues that Republicans and Democrats would like to see included in a final bill.

Although Republicans control the House and Senate, they will need at least 8 Democratic Senators to support a final bill giving Democrats some leverage on spending levels and on policy issues. Outstanding issues include overall spending levels for both defense and non-defense discretionary programs (which includes BIA and IHS), funding for a border wall, defunding Planned Parenthood, resolution of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issue, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which could also include funding for the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, and healthcare legislation to address the individual insurance marketplace. Complicating the differences between Republicans and Democrats on all of these issues are also the competing priorities of different factions of Republicans.

It remains unclear if Congress will be able to resolve all or any of these issues by December 22nd, setting up another possible government shutdown or more likely another CR into January, 2018.