Osage Nation Principal Chief Jim Gray said that until Congress passes the Government Operations Departments and Programs appropriation act, ONCA 09-66, he cannot send out the employee Christmas bonuses.

“The continuing resolution [ONCA 10-17] doesn’t allow the Christmas bonus to go out,” Gray said. “I cannot spend money that hasn’t been appropriated.”

Osage Nation Speaker of Congress, Archie Mason, sent a memorandum to Osage Nation Treasurer, John Jech, today asking that he “Please pay the Christmas bonuses immediately.” The memorandum maintains that a prior continuing resolution, ONCA 10-15, is still alive and that ONCA 10-15 exempted the one-twelfth restriction which would allow the Christmas bonuses to be given out. Chief Gray is maintaining that he pocket vetoed ONCA 10-15 and that the Nation is operating on the resolution passed and made into law Monday, ONCA 10-17.

The money for the employee Christmas bonuses is located in ONCA 09-66, and with the Nation nearly two months into the 2010 fiscal year, the bill has yet to be passed by Congress. The continuing resolution ONCA 10-17, that keeps the Nation functioning until Jan. 30 at one-twelfth of the 2009 fiscal year spending levels, did not have any exemptions to any certain program or service including the Christmas bonus.

“At this point they’re hurting Osage constituents and Osage employees,” said an Osage Nation employee who wished to remain anonymous. “I’m getting pretty sick of this.”

Congress will be considering the budgets next week during two committee meetings. The Education Committee meets immediately following session on Monday and the Government Operations Committee meets Tuesday at 1 p.m. Theoretically, if Congress were to pass ONCA 09-66 next week, the Christmas bonuses could be mailed out by the week of Dec. 14, if not sooner.

“How long can this continue? The answer is simple; it will continue until a majority in Congress believes it’s time to end this process and pass a budget for a fiscal year that is already two months old,” wrote Osage Nation Congressman Raymond Red Corn in his e-mail newsletter today. “In the meantime programs and beneficiaries, including Osage citizens and Osage Nation employees, will suffer the consequences.”

Red Corn wrote in his e-mail newsletter that Chief Gray called them into special session Monday to pass ONCA 10-17 because “Congress could not muster eight signatures to call itself into session.” In order to call a special session eight members of Congress must sign a petition to go into special session. According to Red Corn, two petitions were available, “but by the end of business on the day before Thanksgiving, neither petition had received more than four signatures.”

In Speaker Mason’s memorandum to the Nation’s treasurer, he said that bills and resolutions passed into law are recorded by the Clerk of the Congress, not the Executive Branch.

“If the Principal Chief wants to attempt to expand his legislative authority while putting the Employee Christmas Bonuses in jeopardy by challenging the law, he must do so in the Trial Court of the Osage Nation,” wrote Mason. “Until the Principal Chief files yet another lawsuit, ONCA 10-15 is valid law and I expect you [Treasurer John Jech] to follow the law passed by the Congress of the Osage Nation.”

To view the letter sent from Speaker of Congress, Archie Mason, to Osage Nation Treasurer John Jech, click here:

Letter to John Jech, Osage Nation treasurer