Today, as the House of Representatives considered the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2014 (H.R. 4329), Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee, expressed serious concerns about the legislation, which would reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA).
Specifically, Waters cited the legislation’s failure to protect the Cherokee Freedmen, a population that is facing discrimination and possible expulsion from the Cherokee tribe. Further, Waters expressed concern that the legislation waives the “Brooke Rule,” which states that the maximum rent paid by assisted households must be no more than 30 percent of their adjusted income.
The legislation passed on voice vote. Waters made the following statement on the House floor:
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This bill will provide an important and long overdue reauthorization of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act or NAHASDA.
Through NAHASDA, the federal government provides housing assistance to Native Americans and Native Hawaiians – two groups that not only experience some of the poorest housing conditions in the nation – but also face unique barriers to housing due to the legal status of tribal lands. Through block grants and loan guarantees, NAHASDA ensures federal assistance is tailored to address their needs, while respecting their right to self-determination. And I am encouraged that my Republican colleagues have finally agreed to include a provision to reauthorize Native Hawaiian programs.
As a supporter of the reauthorization of NAHASDA, I did not object to the bill before us today moving forward under suspension.
However, I must go on record to continue to support a fight and a struggle that I have been involved in with some of my colleagues for many years.
The bill would do nothing to protect the Cherokee Freedmen – the descendants of former African American slaves of the Cherokee, who are facing possible expulsion by the Cherokee nation. The ancestors of the Freedmen marched with the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears, and yet today, their tragic history continues as the Freedmen face ongoing discrimination from the tribe that they call their own. For the past several years, under the leadership of former Members including Carolyn Kilpatrick and Mel Watt, the Congressional Black Caucus has stood up for the rights of the Cherokee Freedmen.
I attempted to deal with this issue by way of an amendment, but the Republicans again refused to offer protections for the Cherokee Freedmen in this legislation. During the Committee markup, my amendment was rejected, which would have made NAHASDA funding to the Cherokee contingent on full recognition of the Freedmen as citizens of the Cherokee Nation. So it causes me great pain to not be able to support this bill, without granting the Freedmen the justice they deserve.
Furthermore, this bill would seriously undercut the central goal of providing affordable housing for low-income Native Americans. It would waive a long-standing tenet of affordable housing known as the “Brooke Rule,” which states that the maximum rent paid by assisted households must be no more than 30 percent of their income. And I have to be concerned about this, because this is a rule throughout the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and I do not wish to be a part of opening up that door as we deal with public and assisted housing. This bill strips away this basic safeguard, making low-income Native Americans vulnerable to unlimited increases in rent, without any kind of hardship exemptions in place.
Lastly, this bill includes a new demonstration program that moves towards increased privatization and deregulation of tribal housing activities. I remain very concerned that this program could have negative impacts on low-income Native American households in participating tribes.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to sincerely thank Ms. Moore, Mr. Heck and Mr. Kildee for their efforts to reach a bipartisan agreement on this bill. And I would like to thank Ms. Hanabusa and Ms. Gabbard for the work that they have done. However, I cannot support this reauthorization bill in its current form for all of the reasons I have stated.
Thank you. I yield back the balance of my time.”