The House yesterday passed and sent to the Senate a bill authorizing $81.5 million to settle a claim by Indian tribes that they are rightful owners of more than half the state of Maine.
The Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and Maliseet tribes contended that more than 12 million acres was illegally taken from them in the late 18th and early 19th centuries because land transactions with the Indians were not sent to Congress for approval as required by an act of the First Congress.
The Indians and Maine officials have been arguing the case out of court for eight years. A lawsuit to settle the question could go on for years and cause economic chaos, including a freeze on sale of property. The 81.5 million would be used to purchase lands for Indian use and for a trust whose incomewould be used for social programs. The agreement has been approved by the Indians and the Maine legislature. The bill is supported by all members of the Maine congressional delegation and is expected to be approved by the Senate soon.
President Carter's effort to name two black federal judges in Alabama, which foundered over allegations of questionable conduct against one of them, is back on track with what appears to be an all-star replacement.
Original nominee Fred Gray finally asked that his nomination be withdrawn on condition the president name another black acceptable to Alabama blacks. Carter responded by nominating as a federal District Court judge Myron Thompson who, at age 33, would be one of the youngest persons ever elevated to the federal bench. He has been judged qualified by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American Bar Association. The ABA opposed Gray, a noted civil rights attorney.
Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.) gave Thompson a glowing sendoff at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday. A native Alabaman, Thompson graduated from Yale and its law school, then went home to Alabama to become the first black assistant attorney general in state history. He has served as a municipal judge, performed public service legal work and has had a varied practice in criminal and civil law. "He is a young man of rare maturity," said Heflin. "He has had great responsibility thrust upon him at an early age."
The committee plans to poll members on approving Thompson rather than waiting for a majority of members to be assembled to vote.
Conferees who met off and on since December to work out an agreement on broadening and expanding programs of the Economic ADMINISTRATION (EDA) have thrown up their hands in despair and walked away.
Legislation providing for a simple extension of EDA and regional development commissions was being drawn up yesterday for quick passage to assure the programs will continue into the next fiscal year.
The conference broke up with Senate members adamantly opposed to a $2 billion local public works program, to be triggered by unemployment, in the House bill. White House efforts to save part of the EDA package, providing new loans and loan guarantees for business, went for naught.