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Senators pledge bipartisanship on Indian affairs

First meeting of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in the 114th Congress

First meeting of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in the 114th Congress

By Matt Laslo

U.S. Senators struck a bipartisan tone in the first organizational meeting of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.  The committee gaveled in for the first time in the 114th Congress in late January, where new chairman is a ranking Republican.

Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso says he wants to work across the aisle.  Barrasso went on to say he is committed to following in the footsteps of his predecessors. Three of them still serve on the committee – Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana). Tester is now vice-chair of the committee. “They were a part of a long line of great chairmen who were committed to improving the lives of Indian people,” said Barrasso.

Barrasso says there are many items on his to-do list. “As chairman my top priorities are jobs, energy and natural resource development, healthcare, education and juvenile justice and tribal self-governance,” he told the committee.

Cantwell told Barrasso her side of the aisle is prepared to work with him. “You’ve worked with each of us in a great collaborative fashion and we all appreciate that, so we wish you well in taking the gavel, and we look forward to working with you on each of the issues you just mentioned,” said Cantwell.

Barrasso urged the committee to act swiftly to grant tribes more control over the natural resources on their lands.