Osage Congress votes down rule change on establishing committee quorums

The Fifth Osage Nation Congress debated a proposed change to its Congressional rules regarding attendance at committee meetings, but ultimately voted down the motion during the Dec. 2 special session.

Written rules regarding the Congressional operations and parliamentary procedures are used by the 12-member Congress for governing sessions, electing Congressional officers, and specifying other legislative duties and powers. These rules are subject to amendments initially considered by the Congressional Rules and Ethics Committee and then must receive a two-thirds Congressional vote to amend the rules.

The three-member Rules and Ethics Committee considered an amendment to the rule regarding attendance during Congressional committee meetings. Congresswoman and committee member Alice Buffalohead proposed the change, which sought to state a quorum is established by having committee members present either in-person or by electronic means during the interim (when special or regular sessions are not taking place).

The Congressional rules currently state: “A committee can only take up bills or resolutions for consideration if a quorum of the committee is present. A quorum is a majority of the members of the committee. In order to establish a quorum, committee members shall be required to attend stated meetings in person. Quorums will not be allowed to be established through the use of electronic means.”

Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn said she supported the current rule because she did not want to see committees get to the point of only meeting via telephone calls. “I just don’t think that would be a good road to walk down,” she said of a scenario if five members of a six-person committee were only available by telephone and only one person could physically attend a meeting.

Buffalohead noted that some committees meet more than others and that Congress members were free to decide which committees to join during yearly committee formations. She also said she didn’t believe the attendance issue would get out of hand and noted some Congress members either live outside the Nation or must travel for other jobs, but would be able to attend via phone. “I think if they’re taking the time to get on the call and participate we should let them vote and count them as a quorum,” she said.

Congresswoman Shannon Edwards, also a rules and ethics committee member, recalled an emergency Congressional Affairs Committee meeting in October when she called into the meeting, but an in-person quorum was not formed by the meeting start time. The meeting started late after another committee member was able to make the meeting in-person, she said. “But I couldn’t vote, we couldn’t start the meeting because someone else wasn’t there … I think (the rule change) will help with the flow,” she said, adding the main agenda item was approval of a purchase requisition, which is part of “regular course of business stuff.”

Congressman Ron Shaw noted a person’s comments are sometimes not as strong over a telephone during a meeting versus in-person, which can impact that person’s debate, persuasion or chance to influence fellow committee members. Shaw said he would support the rule change, which would benefit those committees considering regular business matters.

The Congressional Affairs Committee, for example, meets often during the interim to consider Congressional Office matters including payables, cell phone stipends, travel requests for staff and Congress members, equipment and outside service purchases and rentals and Congressional staff personnel matters.

The proposed rule change failed with seven “no” votes from Congress members Otto Hamilton, John Maker, James Norris, William “Kugee” Supernaw, Joe Tillman, RJ Walker and Whitehorn. “Yes” votes came from Buffalohead, Edwards, Archie Mason, Shaw and Congressional Speaker Angela Pratt.

For more information on the Congressional Committees, visit the ON Legislative Branch website at: