Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Chair: John Hoeven


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 []

1 Investigative Oversight Hearings

15 Policy/Legislative Hearings

22 Total Hearings

Last updated: Nov. 22, 2020, 3:42 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 115th Congress (2017-18) under Chair John Hoeven (R, N.D.), even the overall figure dropped significantly, to just 34 hearings, compared to 49 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 115th Congress under Chair Hoeven, the committee held only 25 policy and legislative oversight hearings, the fewest of the period. That represents a drop from 37 in the previous Congress under Sen. John Barrasso (R, Wyo.).

Despite its relatively low overall committee activity and narrow jurisdiction, the committee has had a solid schedule of investigative oversight hearings. It held three in each of the last two Congresses, under Sen. Hoeven and Sen. John Barrasso (R, Wyo.), more than many other Senate committees. In the 115th Congress it held three hearings on GAO reports about potential mismanagement, waste, fraud and abuse in federal Indian programs.


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
22 Total Hearings; 42% 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 22 51% F
Historical average 2.0 29.8 44.3

* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 []

Number of Hearings

--- Historical Average

Hearings held by the
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Date Hearing Title Committee Category