Senate committee approves BIA nomination |

Senate committee approves BIA nomination

WASHINGTON ” The Senate Indian Affairs Committee has approved Carl J. Artman to be head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, trying for a second time to fill a post that has been vacant for two years.

Artman’s nomination was held up on the Senate floor last year after the committee approved it in September. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said a Republican had blocked the nominee but he did not know who it was.

“We need to find out who blocked (the nomination) last year and deal with that and move on,” Dorgan said Thursday. “I am hopeful we can move this next week.”

Senators can place anonymous holds on bills and legislation, forcing supporters to find 60 votes or more for passage.

Dorgan said it is “unbelievable” that the BIA post has been vacant for so long.

“It is shameful, considering the serious problems we face in Indian Country, that the BIA has not had permanent leadership for nearly two years,” Dorgan said.

President Bush nominated Artman to oversee the agency last August, and again last month as the new Congress convened. Artman would replace Dave Anderson, who resigned in February 2005.

Artman, a member of the Oneida tribe of Wisconsin, has been the Interior Department’s associate solicitor for Indian affairs. Before joining the department, Artman was the chief counsel for the Oneida Tribe. He also worked on the staff of Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio.

Jacqueline Johnson, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, told the committee that the BIA post must be filled soon to handle decisions involving such matters as building schools and roads, the allocation of police and water rights settlements.

The BIA head “has an important decision-making role that affects individual tribes, and many of these decisions have been on hold for too long,” she said.

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