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. H.R. 31 was designed to extend federal recognition to the tribe, although it did not meet all the usual standards for gaining recognition. This vote was on passage of the legislation.
Rep. Rahall (D-WV), who was leading the support for the bill, began by saying that the legislation “is more than a century overdue.” He noted that “the Lumbees have a functioning government worthy of Federal acknowledgment. Yet the Lumbee people still do not have the government-to-government relationship they deserve . . . (although) studies undertaken by the (Interior) Department have consistently concluded that the Lumbees are a distinct, self-governing Indian community.”
Rahall acknowledged that “some may argue that the Lumbees should not be allowed to bypass administrative process established by the Bureau of Indian Affairs . . . I can assure you extending Federal recognition to a tribe at this time is not something new, nor does it bypass administrative process.”
Rep. Hastings (R-WA), who led the opposition to S.31, first said that the bill “sets a bad precedent” because recognition of the Lumbee tribe would violate “a fundamental principle of Indian law . . . that a recognized tribe should be a tribe that can trace continuous existence from the earliest days of our Republic to the present. In fact, this is enshrined in one of the seven mandatory criteria that the Bureau of Indian Affairs uses to evaluate petitions from groups seeking recognition.” He argued that, although the Bureau of Indian Affairs has standards, “(W)e in Congress do not seem to have a clear standard for determining . . . why the Lumbees warrant recognition while other groups do not. Unless the House develops a clear, rational, fixed policy on recognition, then our act of recognizing a tribe would deem to be arbitrary. This could undermine the standing of recognized tribes everywhere.”
Hastings also expressed concern over the five year cost of $786 million the bill would require. He claimed this “could force the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service to alter formulas for the provisions of service to all other tribes, possibly reducing their allocation.”
The legislation passed by a vote of 240-179. Two hundred and twelve Democrats and twenty-eight Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and forty-four Republicans and thirty-five Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House approved and sent to the Senate the bill extending federal recognition to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.