The U.S. Senate last night rejected the inclusion of the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement in a $60 billion appropriations bill for the War in Afghanistan, continuing months of congressional squabbling over the historic legal agreement. This is the second time the Senate has failed to take action for Indian Country, the first occurring in June when the jobs bill the settlement had been tacked to was caught in a filibuster. The House of Representatives passed the settlement as part of both bills.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has blasted Republicans like Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., repeatedly this summer for stalling the December 2009 settlement. Elouise Cobell, the chief plaintiff in the 14-year legal battle, has accused Republicans of attempting to kill the settlement completely by proposing serious changes to the amount of money awarded to Indian Country for the Department of the Interior's mismanagement of trust accounts. But Reid's criticisms seem somewhat out of place in light of last night's Senate vote, which at 46-51 suggests several Democrats opposing passage of the settlement as well.
The settlement also met with skepticism from several organizations in Indian Country this summer, who support the changes recommended by Barrasso and others. Pres. Barack Obama and the plaintiffs in the Cobell case have declared Aug. 6 their latest deadline for approval of the settlement.