Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Chair: John Hoeven

F

Projected Grade for the 116th Congress*

* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]

1 Investigative Oversight Hearings

15 Policy/Legislative Hearings

23 Total Hearings

Last updated: Dec. 11, 2020, 5:39 p.m.

With jurisdiction limited to the Native American population (the 2010 census put the American Indian and Alaska Native population, the census designation, at 5.2 million), the committee is one of the less active in the Senate. It has no direct counterpart in the House. Split off from the committee that controls the Interior Department, which houses many Indian-related agencies, and made permanent only in 1984, the committee almost exclusively attracts members from the western states, what the committee often calls “Indian Country.” Conditions on Indian reservations, the Indian Health Service, education, and tribal-federal relations are the committee’s main focus. It has no subcommittees.

The committee usually has a modest hearing schedule compared with other legislative committees, with an unusually low number of nomination hearings, typically one or two per Congress. It doesn’t confirm any cabinet secretaries. However, in the 116th Congress (2019-20) under Chair John Hoeven (R, N.D.), even the overall figure dropped significantly, to just 23 hearings, compared to 41 hearings in the previous Congress and well below the committee’s average for the period.

The committee’s record on legislative and policy oversight has been consistent with its overall hearing activity. In each Congress more than half the committee’s hearings concern policy and legislative oversight. In the 116th Congress under Chair Hoeven, the committee held only 15 policy and legislative oversight hearings, the fewest of the period. That represents a drop from the 25 in the 115th Congress (2017-18), also chaired by Sen. Hoeven and significantly lower than the average 35 policy and legislative hearings for the four previous Congresses.

Despite its relatively low overall committee activity and narrow jurisdiction, the committee has had a solid schedule of investigative oversight hearings, though in the 116th Congress, it held just one. This hearing, held in September 2019 examined the digital divide on tribal lands.


Chairs

111th Congress: Byron Dorgan (D-ND)

112th Congress: Daniel Akaka (D-HI)

113th Congress: Maria Cantwell (D-WA) [John Tester (D-MT)]

114th Congress: John Barrasso (R-WY)

115th Congress: John Hoeven (R-ND)

116th Congress: John Hoeven (R-ND)


Current Congress

We are 100% of the way through the 116th Congress

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

1 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 31% historical maximum
15 Policy/Legislative Hearings; 48% historical maximum
23 Total Hearings; 44% historical maximum

Committee History

Number of Hearings
Committee Hearing Performance
Investigative/Oversight Policy/Legislative Total Hearings Score Grade
111th Congress 4 29 47 92% A
112th Congress 0 39 65 99% A
113th Congress 1 34 41 80% B-
114th Congress 3 37 50 100% A
115th Congress 3 25 41 77% C
116th Congress* 1 15 23 51% F
Historical average 2.0 29.8 44.5

* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]

Number of Hearings

--- Historical Average

Hearings held by the
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Date Hearing Title Committee Category