Elouise Cobell, Browning resident and lead plaintiff in Cobell v. Salazar, issued a statement late Friday granting the U.S. Senate an 18-day extension to approve a $3.4 billion settlement. Cobell cited the U.S. House of Representative's recent passage of the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act—to which the settlement is attached—as a mark of confidence in the Senate's ability to do the same. The settlement is to be paid out to individual American Indians across the country who were impacted by the Department of the Interior's mismanagement of Individual Indian Money accounts over the course of several decades.
"In light of the flood of calls received by plaintiffs’ counsel from class members asking that we ensure finalization of this settlement," Cobell said in her statement, "the parties have agreed to extend the May deadline for enacting legislation authorizing the settlement to June 15, 2010."
This is the fifth deadline the plaintiffs have offered members of Congress, and the Senate's Memorial Day recess lasts until June 7, giving them only days to act. Attorneys with the case have stated that failure by Congress to pass the settlement could result in renewed litigation with the federal government.