Indigenous Rights Advocates Question Keith Harper Nomination
The full Senate must still vote on Harper’s nomination for him to be confirmed. Republicans are widely expected to vote down his nomination, especially given McCain’s impassioned arguments against him, along with critiques from Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, who has also been among Harper’s top opponents. Before last fall, Republican displeasure toward Harper might have been enough to sink his bid, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) recently changed the Senate rules to require only a simple majority to approve presidential nominees, as opposed the 60 votes that were previously necessary. That means if 51 Senate Democrats approve of Harper, he will be confirmed.
To date, pleas from tribal citizens to both the Obama administration and to the Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee to reconsider Harper’s nomination have gone unheeded, with many Democrats choosing to highlight the historic nature of his nomination, rather than addressing issues that have been raised about his nomination.
The Democratic support for Harper troubles Craven, who had her name and address published in the infamous Cobell lawyer letter McCain decried at the September hearing. The Sisseton-Wahpeton citizen has told the Foreign Relations Committee that she and her family have been harassed as a result of the letter, and that individuals once associated with Harper who now work at the Department of Energy would not allow her to work on tribal projects any longer, which led to her exit in January from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
It has been frustrating for her to see Democrats, including the president that she donated to when he ran in 2008, push so hard to support a person that she believes is simply not qualified to be a human rights ambassador. While frustrated and currently looking for a job, she still holds out hope that grassroots Natives who may be more affected by human rights violations than powerful Native advocates in D.C. will contact their senators about this nomination.
“I want all members of the Senate – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – to know that these are very real issues being raised about Keith Harper’s character and commitments,” Craven says. “This should not be a partisan battle.”
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