July 21, 2010
Madam Speaker, included in this legislation are a great many important anti-crime, anti-violence provisions that will assist and support Indian tribes across this country. There is considerable bipartisan support for what this bill aims to do, and yet it is being brought before the House using a process and procedure that elicits opposition.
Let me be clear: the objections that I will express today are focused squarely on the manner in which House leaders have chosen to have this bill debated.
Violence and crime against Indians is a serious problem deserving the attention of Congress. Such an important issue such as this should not be relegated to the suspension calendar where innocuous bills are often given just cursory consideration. The process being used to consider this legislation is normally reserved to bills such as naming post offices and congratulating sports teams on winning championships. Addressing crime against Indians deserves to be considered in a much more serious, thorough process.
Furthermore, the manner in which this bill was passed in the Senate and is being considered in this House is unfair to not only all 435 Members of the House, but also to every Indian constituent they represent. A procedure is being used to consider this bill that denies every House Member the ability to offer a suggestion to improve it – even those Members whose Indian constituents may seek such improvements.
The bill before us today is HR 725. H.R. 725 started out as the “Indian Arts and Crafts Amendments Act of 2010.” It was an innocuous, 10-page bill with almost no cost, whose purpose was to address counterfeit arts and crafts wrongly marketed as Indian-made products. There was almost no disagreement over the merits and policies of this bill when it first passed the House.
The Senate took HR 725 and attached the tribal law-and-order provisions. Again, these are policies that merit action by Congress and on which I believe there is a great amount of agreement. Yet, the process and manner in which this is being done is generating opposition.
When a widely-supported arts-and-crafts bill that is just a few pages in length and which cost nothing is changed by the Senate to run over 100 pages long with authorized spending of over a billion dollars – that is simply not acceptable.
As I said, I oppose this controversial process and procedure being used on a bill of this magnitude. I opposed such procedures in the past, and I have opposed the use of such processes as the Ranking Member of this Committee, including on the omnibus lands bill last year.
I regret that I must stand here today, and oppose passing this bill using this process. Indian country deserves more attention and better treatment than to have this legislation appear on the suspension calendar which is most often used to name post offices. A bill on an issue as important as this should be heard with respect by Committees and afforded a fair and open debate on the House Floor, not just given a grand total of 40 minutes of the House’s attention. And Members of this House deserve a fair opportunity to improve legislation, not to be totally blocked from offering any suggestions, including any sought by their Indian constituents.
Again, when a process is used to transform a several page, no-cost bill on Indian arts and crafts into a 100 page, billion dollar bill on violence and crime, then it should not be considered in this manner. It deserves the true attention of all Members of this House. For these reasons, I urge my colleagues to oppose the bill under this unfair process.