Referring Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma Trust Claims to Court of Federal Claims

Floor Speech

By:  Zoe Lofgren
Date: Dec. 19, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in support of House Resolution 668, a congressional reference bill concerning the trust-related claims of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma.

Now, congressional reference bills are rare in Congress. The House hasn't considered such a bill since 2002 in the 107th Congress, but the fact that this procedure is a rare one doesn't mean that it isn't a useful one.

Unlike most other legislation, reference bills require passage in only one Chamber to take effect. If passed by either the House or Senate, the bill would simply refer a claim against the U.S. Government to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims for consideration.

The court, however, as the chairman has indicated, would not be authorized to render a final ruling on the claim. Rather, it would only be authorized to consider evidence and to submit a report to Congress with its findings and recommendations. Congress could then decide, based on the court's report, whether or not to enact a private claims bill or appropriate funds to the claimant in the interest of justice.

In this case, H. Res. 668 would refer the bill, H.R. 5862, a bill relating to members of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, to the Court of Federal Claims. And as amended, the bill would authorize the court to determine whether the tribe and its members have trust-related legal or equitable claims against the U.S., other than legal claims that are currently pending before the court.

We have consulted with the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior on this matter, and both agencies agree that the Quapaw Tribe has legitimate claims against the United States concerning certain tribal lands that were held in trust by the Federal Government. The only real dispute is the value of the claim.

This makes this congressional reference bill an appropriate measure to help bring this matter to a final resolution. By referring the case to the Federal claims court, they can consider all the evidence, submit a report on what the court believes to be the appropriate value of the tribal claim, and then, based on that court's findings and conclusions, Congress can play its appropriate role to consider whether or not it is in the interest of justice to pass a private claims bill or otherwise appropriate funds to satisfy the claim.

This procedure will help the Congress do the right thing, and that's why we're sent here, to do the right thing.

So I ask my colleagues to support this important legislation. I commend Congressman Cole for his diligent pursuit of this matter of justice.

I reserve the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT