A proposal to allow Maine tribes to benefit from future federal Indian laws failed to advance in Congress after the Senate stripped it from the final version of the omnibus federal spending bill during negotiations on the package this week.

Provisions to prevent future efforts to overturn the results of a presidential election during the ceremonial counting of Electoral College votes have been added to the massive bill, which totals 4,155 pages.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation have played key roles in both efforts.

Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, introduced the tribal sovereignty proposal, which also was supported by Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District. But the legislation was opposed by Gov. Janet Mills and did not win the support of Maine’s senators.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins was a lead negotiator behind the Electoral Count Act reforms, which have been supported by the entire delegation.

The must-pass federal spending bill unveiled Tuesday includes funding to keep the federal government operating until next fall, but has a wide range of measures attached for what will be their last chance at passage before a narrow and divided Republican caucus takes control of the House of Representatives on Jan. 4. The compromise bill negotiated between Senate and House leaders includes continued emergency aid for Ukraine – which some of former President Donald Trump’s allies in the House Republican caucus oppose.


The spending bill also includes funding earmarked by members of Maine’s delegation for specific projects in the state.

The tribal bill championed by Golden passed the House on July 14 as an amendment to the annual defense spending authorization bill, but was opposed by Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. Golden’s bill also did not have Collins’ active support.

“Any significant change should result from negotiations between the tribes and the state,” King told the Press Herald last month, echoing the position of Mills, who quashed a more sweeping set of reforms passed by the Maine Legislature this year.

The provision would have made any future federal laws automatically apply to Maine’s tribes, effectively amending one of the provisions of the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act. That 42-year-old federal law has excluded Maine tribes from the provisions of numerous laws, including the Indian Gaming Act allowing and regulating tribal casinos, the Stafford Act allowing tribes to seek federal disaster relief funds, the Indian Health Improvement Act allowing tribes to employ medical professionals licensed in another state and the Violence Against Women Act, which allows tribes to prosecute non-Indian defendants for domestic violence crimes on their reservations. None of the 570 other federally recognized tribes in the United States faces similar encumbrances.

Pingree, who chairs an influential appropriations subcommittee, said King and Collins intervened to strip the tribal provision from the bill.

“We got it through the House, but the two Maine Senators don’t support it,” Pingree told the Press Herald Tuesday. “It was attached when it came over from the House but they opposed its inclusion. This one we just couldn’t get agreement on.”


Golden provided a written statement Tuesday.

“I’m disappointed that this provision, which we passed in the House on a bipartisan basis, fell out of the omnibus spending bill during negotiations with the Senate,” he said. “This issue is not settled and I look forward to working with the tribes to make headway on this important issue.”

King and Collins did not respond to interview requests Tuesday.

The bipartisan congressional effort to prevent anyone from trying to repeat former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of a presidential election during the ceremonial counting of Electoral College votes did make it into the massive spending bill.

King and Collins have both been at the forefront of the effort to correct the shortcomings in the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which Trump exploited on Jan. 6, 2021, in an effort to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election. A bipartisan agreement was negotiated in July by Collins and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. But it wasn’t put up for a final vote by the Democrat-controlled Senate despite being co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; 20 other Democrats and 16 other Republicans. Schumer announced last week he intended to attach the provisions to federal spending bill instead.

The federal spending bill first will need to pass the Senate – which requires at least 10 Republicans to support it – before going on to the House.

It also contains provisions to give more time and resources to Maine lobstermen facing federal fishing rules, changes intended to protect endangered right whales; to give “Wild and Scenic” designation to the York River, which will make area communities eligible for federal grants to improve the watershed; and millions of dollars in earmarks to fund local projects.

“Everyone knows there is going to be a lot of compromises in a bill like this, but I am happy with it and will be the most happy when this bill hits the president’s desk,” Pingree said. “Because the very fact of getting a bill passed now is very important when we are likely to have two years of congressional gridlock coming up.”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story