Ranking Member Grijalva: Today’s Vote on Tribal Recognition Bill Was “A Republican Shakedown Disguised as Legislation”

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said that today’s Committee vote on H.R. 3744, Chairman Rob Bishop’s (R-Utah) “Tribal Recognition Act,” shows that Republicans are willing to abuse congressional authority to politicize Native American rights. Bishop’s bill, which passed with unanimous Republican support despite widespread opposition in Indian Country, would make Congress the sole arbiter of Native American communities’ recognized status, wiping out decades of executive procedures that base tribal status on cultural, linguistic and historical criteria.

Bishop frequently claims, as he did again at today’s hearing, that the executive branch has no legal authority to recognize tribes. This widely debunked premise has guided years of Republican attacks on the federal recognition process and attempts to replace it with a purely political procedure.

Bishop has been leading the charge for his bill for years in the face of condemnation by Native American organizations. In the 114th Congress, Bishop introduced a similar bill and described it as “punishment” for the Obama administration’s administrative reforms to the federal tribal recognition process, as one Native American news outlet reported at the time. The National Congress of American Indians wrote that the bill would “undermine a fair and orderly process required for the government to function effectively.”

“Indian Country needs more federal support to raise health care, education, infrastructure and economic standards. Instead we get Republican shakedowns disguised as legislation,” Grijalva said today. “Tribes have been through this so many times with Republicans in charge that déjà vu doesn’t cover it any more. Indian Country is not a petri dish for Republicans to test their pet theories of government or impose their debunked notions of how our Constitution works. If the administrative process leads to conflicts of interest in some cases, as Republicans claim, the solution is to make that process more robust. The idea that the solution is to increase the role of Congress to address ethical concerns is ridiculous.”

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