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Senate Approves the Cobell Settlement!

November 23, 2010

Finally! Last Friday the Senate passed the settlement reached in Cobell v. Salazar.  Our Native American Legislative Update going out tomorrow (here’s a sneak peek!) has this summary:

“On Friday, November 19, the Senate passed by “unanimous consent” the settlement reached in the class action suit, Elouise Cobell v. Salazar.  The settlement, reached last December, provides $1.4 billion to be shared among the plaintiffs represented in the class, plus $2 billion for the Department of the Interior to buy up and consolidate small “fractionated” interests in land and resources.  The Senate approved attorney fees and expenses for 14 years of litigation as provided in the December 2009 agreement or in modifications to the agreement made subsequently by the parties to the suit.”

To read more about the background of the case and FCNL’s work on Cobell, click here.

FCNL has been urging Congress to approve the settlement for much longer than I have been here, but in the past three months, I’ve gotten a fair glimpse of the ups and downs that go into lobbying to pass a bill.  In September, Congress had a chance to pass Cobell as an amendment in the Defense Reauthorization bill, but it failed to pass the cloture vote.  Brand new to FCNL, this was disappointing and hard to look at as anything besides a failure!  Doubling our efforts in October, however, our Legislative Action Message (sign up here) on October 12th resulted in 2,236 people writing to their representatives urging them to pass the Cobell settlement.  This is definitely a success.  And after the “Claims Resettlement Act of 2010” passed quietly last Friday night, Cobell included with several other claims settlements for Native American peoples, the strange workings of Congress are becoming a little clearer to me.

The bill (H.R.  4783) still needs to pass in the House, but we’re optimistic here because it has approved the Cobell settlement in two previous bills.  Write your representative here.

To learn more about the Native American Program at FCNL, sign up for the monthly Native American Legislative Update, request a free trial subscription of the Indian Report (3x a year), and check out the latest edition of FCNL’s Washington Newsletter on our website.

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