What: All Issues : Aid to Less Advantaged People, at Home & Abroad : Native Americans : (H.R. 31) Legislation extending federal recognition to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina - - a motion to add language requiring the Secretary of the Interior to verify that members of the Lumbee Tribe are descendants of coastal North Carolina tribes (2009 house Roll Call 296)
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(H.R. 31) Legislation extending federal recognition to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina - - a motion to add language requiring the Secretary of the Interior to verify that members of the Lumbee Tribe are descendants of coastal North Carolina tribes
house Roll Call 296     Jun 03, 2009
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

This vote was on a motion to add language to legislation extending federal recognition to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. That language would have required the Secretary of the Interior to verify that members of the Lumbee Tribe are descendants of coastal North Carolina tribes. Most local records and tribal documents of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina were destroyed either during the Civil War or as a result of Virginia's 1924 Racial Integrity Act. The legislation was designed to extend federal recognition to the tribe, although it did not meet all the usual standards for gaining recognition.

Rep. Hastings (R-WA) made the motion to add the language. He first noted that the preamble to H.R. 31 reads, in part, that, “the Lumbee Indians . . . are descendants of coastal North Carolina Indian tribes . . . .” Hastings argued that, given this preamble, it was “reasonable” to ask the Interior Secretary to make the verification “because there have been some concerns about the tribe's enrollment.” Hastings then referenced Bureau of Indian Affairs regulations that “list a wide variety of evidence” based on which the Secretary can make the verification.

Hastings pointed out that “the tribe claims 54,000 members, and the Congressional Budget Office says the cost (of recognizing it) would be $786 million over 5 years. This is an increase from just 2 years ago when they were told that there were 40,000 tribal members. Moreover, it appears the tribe is keeping its rolls closed until Congress passes this bill.” He added that his proposed language “merely provides a means of verifying the base rolls, something the Bureau of Indian Affairs should (have done) if the Lumbees had gone through the regulatory process.” Hastings added that “a wrong decision on this verification . . . could have an adverse impact on all tribes.”

Rep. Rahall (D-WV), who was leading the support for the bill, opposed the addition of the proposed language. He said:“It is long established policy in this country for Indian tribes to determine their own membership . . . This motion . . . would single out the Lumbee Tribe as the only tribe in America that would be subject to this new requirement. It's discriminatory.” Rahall also said he wanted to clarify that:“This is not something new that we're doing today, granting federal recognition to an Indian tribe. There are 561 federally recognized Indian tribes according to the General Accountability Office. Of those, 530 were recognized by the Congress of the United States . . . And none were recognized under the criteria that's being offered in this motion . . . .”

Rep. McIntyre (D-NC), who also opposed the additional language, referred to it as a “subterfuge.” He claimed:“It's another attempt to push the Lumbees . . . back to the bureaucracy. And (that’s) the last thing . . . our Lumbee American citizens deserve . . . .” McIntyre argued that “no other tribe that has received federal recognition through an act of the United States Congress has had to go back through a verification process that is now proposed in this motion . . . that would single them out to further treat them unfairly . . . .”

The motion failed by a vote of 197-224. One hundred and sixty Republicans and thirty-seven Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and twelve Democrats and twelve Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the proposed language was not added, and the House moved to a vote on passage of the bill extending federal recognition to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina

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