After the House approved H. Res. 668 on December 19, 2012, by a lopsided 398-5 vote, the House Clerk on January 22, 2013, forwarded the resolution to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The resolution would authorize the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma (O-Gah-Pah) to appear before the Court of Federal Claims to plead for damages against the Federal Government for mismanagement of tribal funds. The Quapaw were legislatively represented by Drinker Biddle & Reath, whose team was headed by Paul G. Moorehead and Michael J. Remington.
H. Res. 668’s passage comes after 10 years of litigation between the Quapaw and the U.S. Government regarding the government’s mismanagement of tribal and tribal member trust assets. The Quapaw initiated multiple attempts to resolve their claims, which the government fought on threshold grounds.
In statements on the House floor, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said, “The government’s foot-dragging necessitates our passage of House Resolution 668 today. The bill doesn’t guarantee a desired outcome; it only allows the Quapaw a chance to go before the Federal court of claims and make their best case.” The bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), applauded Reps. Smith and Lofgren’s work in the “bipartisan effort to try and make sure that an Indian nation that has a legitimate claim against the United States of America has an opportunity to go to court and make its case.”
“Passage of the resolution is a huge success for the Quapaw tribe and tribal members and shows that bi-partisanship in Washington is not dead,” said Drinker’s Paul Moorehead.
Congressional reference bills are quite rare in Congress and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) stated in floor remarks that the House of Representatives had not considered such a bill since 2002, “but the fact that this procedure is a rare one doesn’t mean that it isn’t a useful one.” The last Congressional reference to the Claims Court was in 2002. Unlike other legislation, reference bills require passage only by one chamber of Congress to take effect, Lofgren said. Such a bill “would simply refer a claim against the U.S. Government to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims for consideration.” The court would not issue a final ruling on the claim; rather, it would submit a report to Congress with its findings and recommendations. Then, Congress could decide whether or not to enact a private claims bill or appropriate funs to the claimant in the interest of justice.