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Tony Batt
 

Senate panel again confirms official to oversee Indian affairs

2 February 2007

WASHINGTON, DC -- Less than five months after confirming President Bush's nominee to oversee Indian gambling and other tribal issues, a Senate panel on Thursday confirmed the same nominee -- again.

The nomination of Carl Artman to be assistant Interior secretary of Indian affairs stalled on the Senate floor in the final days of last year's congressional session after an unidentified senator placed a hold on it.

As it did last September, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Thursday approved Artman's nomination by voice vote.

"It's almost shameful that this position has been vacant for two years," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., the new chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

"It's unbelievable given the challenges we face," said Dorgan, who described Indian health care and housing "a crisis."

Dorgan said he hoped the Senate would approve Artman's nomination by the end of next week.

A report earlier this week indicated the hold occurred because of a dispute on legislation that was not related to Artman's nomination.

Dorgan said he still doesn't know which senator held up the nomination or why.

Artman is a member of the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin and represented the tribe on gambling issues when he served as its chief counsel for three years.

Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., asked Artman if he knew of economic development options for tribes that do not include gambling.

Artman, who is serving as an associate solicitor for Indian affairs at the Interior Department, said there are opportunities for tribes in "energy development."

Thomas also asked Artman about the Interior Department's view of off-reservation gambling, the recent trend of tribes putting casinos on land away from their native lands.

Artman said Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne is preparing a letter that will express the secretary's concerns about off-reservation gambling.

Those concerns will include the purchase of land by tribes that is not connected to their reservations and the effect of Indian casinos on surrounding communities, Artman said. He said he did not know when the letter would be released.

In response to a question from Dorgan, Artman said the Interior department plans to issue guidelines this spring for applications from tribes seeking to open off-reservation casinos.