House Passes Farm Bill Reauthorization, Sending Legislation to the President’s Desk

House Passes Farm Bill Reauthorization, Sending Legislation to the President’s Desk

This evening, the House easily passed the Farm Bill reauthorization by a vote of 369-47, sending the bill to President Trump to sign into law. House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) told reporters that he has “all the confidence in the world he’ll [the President] sign it.”

The overwhelming bipartisan vote ends a divisive eight-month long fight over the reauthorization, largely based on disagreements over modifications to the SNAP program. “After a rocky start, I’m just proud to turn a partisan bill into a bipartisan bill,” said House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson (D-MN). “That’s the way Congress is supposed to work.”

Senate Advances Farm Bill Reauthorization

Senate Advances Farm Bill Reauthorization

This evening, Senators voted 87-13 to pass the Farm Bill reauthorization legislation with the final conference report. The bill will now head to the House, where it is expected to pass.

The following Senators voted against the bill:

Cotton (R-AR)
Flake (R-AZ)
Grassley (R-IA)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Rubio (R-FL)
Paul (R-KY)
Lee (R-UT)
Enzi (R-WY)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Toomey (R-PA)
Kennedy (R-LA)
Johnson (R-WI)
Murkowski (R-AK)

Final Conference Report Released for 2018 Farm Bill Reauthorization

Final Conference Report Released for 2018 Farm Bill Reauthorization

This evening, House leadership released the final conference report (H. Rept. 115-1072) accompanying H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The report is the result of months of negotiations between the House and Senate members of the farm bill conference committee to reach consensus on the important legislation.

The final legislation contains numerous wins for Indian country, including authorizing 638 contracting for forestry on adjacent Forest Service and BLM lands, a huge increase in funding for broadband programs administered by Rural Development, tribal promise zones, industrial hemp legalization, and the creation of a USDA tribal advisory committee.

The next step is for the House and Senate to pass the bill with the conference report. Congressional leadership is hoping for both chambers to pass the legislation by the end of the week.

Congress Passes Two-Week Continuing Resolution, Funding the Government Through December 21st

Congress Passes Two-Week Continuing Resolution, Funding the Government Through December 21st

On Friday, President Trump signed a two-week spending measure (H.J. Res 143) that averts a government shutdown. The stopgap measure gives the President and Congress two weeks to come to an agreement over the President’s demand for $5 billion to fund border wall construction.

Trump is scheduled to host House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for a meeting on the border wall dispute early next week. While the President has demanded $5 billion in funding for this fiscal year, Democrats say they will not provide the needed votes for anything beyond the $1.6 billion approved earlier this year by the Senate. The $1.6 billion would fund fencing projects rather than the concrete wall preferred by the president.

Bill Repealing Prohibition on Distilleries in Indian Country Moves to the President’s Desk

Bill Repealing Prohibition on Distilleries in Indian Country Moves to the President’s Desk

H.R. 5317 (“To repeal section 2141 of the Revised Statutes to remove the prohibition on certain alcohol manufacturing on Indian lands”) repeals a portion of the 1834 Indian Trade and Intercourse Act, which prohibits the production, sale, and trade of alcohol on Indian lands, among other things. The bill passed the House by voice vote on September 12th and passed the Senate on November 29th by unanimous consent. It now goes to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

H.R. 5317 was introduced by Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler (R-WA) with bipartisan co-sponsors Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Denny Heck (D-WA), and Don Young (R-AK). Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) sponsored the Senate companion bill, S. 3060, with bipartisan co-sponsors Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The 1834 Indian Trade and Intercourse Act requires the federal government to impose restrictions on the sale, exchange, or barter of spirituous liquors to Indians in Indian country. The Act provides that if any person constructs, or continues, a distillery for the manufacturing of ardent spirits in Indian country, the penalty shall be $1,000, and the Superintendent of Indian Affairs shall destroy the distillery. Most of the 1834 law remained in effect until 1953, when Congress passed An Act to Eliminate Certain Discriminatory Legislation against Indians in the United States. Under the 1953 law, the production and distribution of liquor is permitted in Indian Country, subject to the laws of the applicable State and Tribal ordinances.

Because some of the 1834 law remains in effect, it is uncertain whether the Federal Government would take enforcement action in Indian Country. This uncertainty has stymied investment in tribal businesses and prevented tribes from lawfully constructing and operating distilleries on their reservations. The repeal effort was led by the Chehalis Tribe of Washington, which is planning to build a tribally owned and operated craft brewery on its lands.

“There’s no place for laws that discriminate against our Native American communities and limit their economic opportunities,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell. “Getting this outdated law off the books is a crucial step to support entrepreneurship, economic development, and tribal self-determination throughout Indian Country,” she said.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on “Missing and Murdered: Confronting the Silent Crisis in Indian Country”

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on “Missing and Murdered: Confronting the Silent Crisis in Indian Country”

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has scheduled an oversight hearing on “Missing and Murdered: Confronting the Silent Crisis in Indian Country.” The hearing will take place on Wednesday, December 12 at 2:30 EST in room 628 Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Witnesses for live testimony are by invitation only and a list will be posted on the Committee’s website once confirmed. A webcast of the hearing will be available on the scheduled date on the Committee website. For more information about the hearing or the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, please visit http://www.indian.senate.gov