Republicans Vow to Push For Carcieri Fix


With their party now in charge of both  chambers of Congress, Republican lawmakers on Wednesday told tribal gaming leaders a legislative fix to a controversial 2009  Supreme Court decision may be achievable as early as this year.

While governor of Rhode  Island, Republican Donald Carcieri prevailed in a  February  2009  ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which prevents the Interior Department from taking  land into trust  for tribes  that came  under  federal jurisdiction after 1934.

Tribes have been frustrated in their persistent efforts  to persuade Congress to reverse or fix the Supreme Court decision, which has spurred lawsuits to block the Interior Department’s acquisition of land for Indian casinos and other  purposes.

“In the case  of land in trust, I think we’ll get a fix and I think we’ll get a fix in the first year of this Congress, and I’m quite confident   the President will sign it,” Republican Darrell Issa of California told officials attending the winter  legislative summit  of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA).

Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma who has led efforts  in the House  of Representatives to overturn the Supreme Court decision, said the first priority is to move a Carcieri fix bill through the House  to the Senate.

“The best thing we can do is tee it up where  they [the Senate] have to deal with it, and that creates a certain amount of pressure,” Cole told GamblingCompliance after he spoke at the NIGA Summit.

Cole, a member of the Chickasaw  Nation  and one of only two registered Native Americans in Congress, authored a Carcieri fix bill in
2010, which narrowly passed the House  by a vote of 212-206.
The bill died in the Senate primarily because of opposition from Democratic  Senator Dianne  Feinstein of California, who remains a staunch critic of off-reservation Indian gaming.

But with Democrats no longer in control of the Senate, the prospect of passing a Carcieri bill in the upper  chamber should  improve, according to Cole.

“I just don’t want  to get ahead of myself here or raise expectations, but I think … there  is strong bipartisan support [for a Carcieri fix],” Cole said.

“I never  had any doubt, if we got it up for a vote in [the House  Natural  Resources] committee … anytime in the last two years  that we would have been able  to pass  it,” Cole said.

The change this year in the House  is a new chairman of the committee with primary responsibility for Native American issues. Republican Rob Bishop of Utah succeeds fellow Republican Doc Hastings of Washington, who retired.

Although he has not committed to pass  a Carcieri fix bill, Bishop is “educating himself on the issue,” Cole said.
A Carcieri fix bill likely would be first considered by the House  Natural  Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs. The chairman of that subcommittee, 81-year-old  Republican Don Young of Alaska, told tribal officials last March the House  would pass
a Carcieri fix bill before the end of 2014.
But Young never  even scheduled a hearing on the bill.

During the NIGA Summit on Wednesday, Republican Congressman Jeff Denham of California said Congress has taken too long to act on the Carcieri decision, and “we’ve got to get it fixed.”

“We can’t allow one house  or the other  to stop  the effort,” Denham said. “We need to push it through the House  and then  get the
Senate to just step  up and pass  it as well.”