Congress Introduces Carcieri-fix and 99-Year Leasing Bills

Mar 29, 2023 | Insights

By Maurisa Bell, Contributing Attorney

The 118th Congress has gotten off to a busy start. In addition to hearings on funding for the Federal government, identifying tribal priorities, and bills on energy issues, in late February, Members of Congress introduced two bills that would address long-standing issues in federal Indian law and policy. The bill would “fix” the issue by making the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) applicable to all federally recognized tribes, regardless of when a tribe obtained federal recognition. 

Members in both the House and Senate introduced legislation that would provide a “fix” to an issue created by the US Supreme Court in its 2009 Carcieri v. Salazar decision. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal government lacked authority to place land in trust for tribes recognized by the Federal government after June 18, 1934. This ruling overturned 75 years of precedent and resulted in the unequal treatment of federally recognized tribes.

Representatives Tom Cole of Oklahoma and Betty McCollum of Minnesota reintroduced their bill in the House as H.R.1208. Meanwhile, Senators Jerry Moran of Kansas and Jon Tester of Montana reintroduced their bill in the Senate as S.563. 

The bills would amend the IRA to affirm the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to place land into trust for all federally recognized tribes. The Senate version has been referred to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and the House version has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. The Senate bill can be viewed here, and the House bill can be viewed here

In addition, the House Subcommittee on Indian and Insular Affairs Chair Rep. Harriet Hageman of Wyoming introduced a bill, H.R.1246, that would amend the Indian Long Term Leasing Act, codified at 25 USC § 415. The bill would authorize all federally recognized tribes to enter into 99-year leases for tribal lands. Currently, unless a tribe has obtained an exception, leases are limited to 25 years with the ability to renew.  

The leasing bill has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. Representative Hageman serves as the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Indian and Insular Affairs, which is within the Natural Resources Committee. The bill can be viewed here.