CBO Score Could Be a Hurdle for Federal Recognition of Virginia Indian Tribes

Jul 11, 2017

Senator Tim Kaine is working to gain federal recognition for Virginia's Indian tribes.
Credit AP Photo / Susan Walsh

Virginia Indian tribes have been seeking federal recognition for decades, and they are closer now than they have ever been. But a new score from the Congressional Budget Office might be a stumbling block for moving forward.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that granting federal recognition to six Virginia Indian tribes would cost $67 million over the next four years.

"That’s not a magnitude of a score that will trip the bill up.”

That’s Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, who introduced a bill to recognize the tribes in the Senate.

“This is the closest we’ve gotten. But the Senate floor vote is the last thing, and we are strategizing with the committee chair and our ranking member about how to get it over the last hurdle.”

The $67 million CBO score is down a bit from the last time the CBO scored a similar bill, which was estimated to cost $78 million back in 2015. The money would pay for child welfare services, health benefits and economic development grants -- among other things. The bill is already through the House, where Republican Congressman Rob Wittman’s bill passed in May.

“There are a number of things that they can access as far as economic development dollars for their tribes, but their footprints are small. Their land mass is small. It’s not about trying to get benefits. But it’s about saying that they have the same status as other tribes in the United States.”

Virginia Indian tribes don’t have recognition because they signed treaties with the crown of England before the revolution. Other Indian tribes signed treaties with the United States government, which didn’t exist when Virginia’s tribes entered into their agreements.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association