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Washington in brief


Senate Democrats voted on Nov. 16 to make Harry Reid of Nevada the Senate
Minority Leader, replacing Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

Daschle lost his seat to Republican challenger John Thune in the Nov. 2
elections, and the party at large lost four seats, increasing the
Republican majority in the chamber to 55 seals against 44 for Democrats,
with one liberal-leaning Independent.

Daschle stood for unabashed opposition to Republican and presidential
policy initiatives and court appointments. In Reid, Democrats signaled a
shift away from hard-line opposition. Reid is known in the Senate as a
persuader and a parliamentary tactician.

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For tribes, his record is mixed. He played a vital role in engineering the
legislated distribution of Western Shoshone settlement funds in the second
session of the current 108th Congress. But he is best known for his stand
against the proposed national nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain in
Nevada. He is an original author of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of
1988, but opposed the 2004 IGRA amendments in Senate bill 1529.


In the middle of a short lame duck congressional session to end the year,
the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs passed a bill to improve detention
facilities in Indian country.

The bill will move on to the full Senate for consideration. Its purpose is
to implement recommendations of the Interior Department's Inspector General
in a scathing report issued this year. Among the bill's provisions are for
a BIA assessment of detention facilities in Indian country, for preliminary
inquiries in all serious incidents to determine if full investigation is
warranted, for the implementation of incident report protocols, and for the
establishment of a separate detention services branch within Interior's
Division of Law Enforcement Services.

Each of the bill's provisions responds to a critical need cited in the OIG