Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

Turkey and the Indians

History is littered with odd couples: Oscar and Felix, Anna Nicole Smith and that old guy, etc. Add to that list Native Americans and . . . Turkey?

That unlikely pairing was the star of a perplexing bill that failed on the House floor Monday night. The measure would have made it easier for American Indian tribes to do business with Turkey.

Al Kamen

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. He began his reporting career at the Rocky Mountain News and joined The Post in 1980. He has covered local and federal courts, the Supreme Court and the State Department. Follow him on Twitter.

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Why Turkey, one might ask? An excellent question. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the bill’s sponsor, explains the ties that bind the disparate populations that live half a globe apart: “There’s a deep interest,” he said on the House floor last night. “There has been for hundreds of years.”

Turkey, he noted, was the only country to send a delegation to a recent Native American economic development conference, and there are scholarships for Native Americans at Turkish schools.

Well, then. Mystery solved — sort of.

And what kind of business might the Turks want to do with the tribes? Well, that’s also a good question, but getting a precise answer proved rather difficult.

In news releases, Lincoln McCurdy, president of the Turkish Coalition, said it’s all about “new commercial activity.” And John Berrey, chairman of Oklahoma’s Quapaw tribe, hailed “new global partnerships.”

Such as?

The bill makes mention of leasing land for “grazing” or farming or other, unnamed commercial purposes. Cole’s office referred us to the Turkish Coalition to provide specific examples, and a spokesman suggested that a Turkish solar-energy company was interested in leasing tribal land for a plant and that a construction company wanted to build infrastructure.

The legislation failed to get the two-thirds vote needed to pass a bill under suspension of House rules, after it got caught up in some skirmishing from various ethnic lobby efforts. The Armenian Caucus didn’t like it. The Hellenic Caucus didn’t either. Seems the idea of a single country being given the fast track to opportunities with the tribes didn’t sit well with them — although Cole pointed out that though the purpose of the bill was to encourage Turkey-Native American business, he had added language including all World Trade Organization countries.

And it seemed that the tribes were already getting the sovereignty they’ve been seeking in a bill adopted by both the House and Senate giving tribes greater control over leasing and development on their lands.

The bill left many folks on the Hill scratching their heads, and it looks as though they can keep on scratching.

The O’Reilly saga

No white smoke from the Pentagon on whether Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly is out as head of the Missile Defense Agency.

O’Reilly came under fire for an abusive management style, according to a blistering May 2 inspector general’s report.

George Wright, an Army spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday night that “after receiving the DOD inspector general’s report,” Army Secretary John McHugh “reviewed the findings and consulted with the Army general counsel.” McHugh then “referred the action to the vice chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Lloyd Austin, for appropriate disposition. This is the standard process for actions related to senior general officers.”

Meanwhile, the Hill has weighed in. Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the Armed Forces subcommittee on strategic forces, asked in a letter to McHugh whether O’Reilly had misled lawmakers about morale at the agency during the period covered in the IG report. Turner said he thought O’Reilly gave him information that was “out of context” and “cherry-picked.”

“I am deeply concerned there might have been an attempt to misdirect the subcommittee in its oversight. I ask that you look into this matter,” Turner wrote.

The bands play on

There’s a new note in the ongoing battle of the bands — that is, the debate over whether to trim the funding for the military’s bands, which have long been a target of penny pinchers.

Here’s how the most recent tune played out: Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) sponsored legislation to cut funding to the ceremonial bands, one of a series of amendments seeking to trim the military budget. Democrats circulated a memo summarizing it thusly: “Reduces Military Retirement Funds (for military bands).”

Cutting retirement funds for service members? That doesn’t sound as palatable as knocking a few trombonists off the roster.

And it wasn’t accurate, says Bill Harper, McCollum’s chief of staff. “She had people coming up to her on the floor and asking, ‘What are you doing?’ ” he said.

The measure failed by a vote of 250 to 166. Fifty-one fewer Democrats voted for it than for a similar band-cutting bill last year that passed the House 226 to 201, he noted. “The error drastically affected the outcome of the vote,” Harper told the Loop.

Not to say that everyone who voted against the bill did so because they were confused. Bands offer “a good shot of patriotism,” Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) argued during floor debate.

Rep. Norm Dicks (Wash.), the top-ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, who circulated the inaccurate memo, issued a corrected version sometime during the vote — but it was too late. The memo originated in House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s office, we hear.

So the bands remain funded, but some are hoping that Congress will someday sing a different song.

Quote of the day

“Looks like they should stop harping about ‘red tape’ and start looking for the Wite-Out.”

That’s what Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi , said after a typo in a bill sent Republicans scrambling. The GOP bill was meant to ban new regulations from taking effect until the unemployment rate is lower than 6 percent. But the text read “employment” instead of “unemployment.”

Oops.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

 
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