WASHINGTON – The $3.4 billion Cobell settlement has now passed the House two times, while the Senate has yet to act.
The deal, agreed to by the Obama administration and the Indian plaintiffs in the case, made it through the House late July 1 as part of a war supplemental appropriations bill in Section 5003 of H.R. 4899. It is aimed at rectifying years of alleged royalty mismanagement of Indian interests by the federal government.
“The vote was substantial,” said Dennis Gingold, lead lawyer for the Indian plaintiffs. “The Senate will have difficulty ignoring the impact of that vote.”
Thus far, the Senate has had a difficult time passing Cobell as part of a tax extenders bill, which has stalled due to cost and partisan issues. The House had little problem approving the settlement attached to its version of the extenders bill, which sailed through before Memorial Day.
Given the Senate’s failure to move on that bill, some House lawmakers thought it wise to attach Cobell to a new “must-pass” piece of legislation, like the war bill.
Lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell praised the decision.
“The House of Representatives once again has confirmed its commitment to offer a measure of justice to an estimated 500,000 Native Americans.”
Senate action, by no means certain, will be required for the bill to become law. The Senate is on recess until July 12, which means the plaintiffs’ sixth imposed deadline in the case will have been missed. It is expected to be extended again.
It’s unclear whether the majority of senators will be quick to approve the House version of the bill, given that the Senate has already passed its version of the legislation sans several amendments, including Cobell.
GOP senators have said they want a clean version of the war legislation, which they believe shouldn’t include domestic spending.
Cobell commented on the Senate’s state, saying, “We know there is strong support for the Cobell settlement language in the Senate, and we hope the Senate will break its current gridlock and quickly approve this measure.”