President Trump urged congressional Republicans on Wednesday to vote against a bill that would keep the reservation of a Native American tribe in Massachusetts in trust – and renewed his controversial nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who supports the legislation.
“Republicans shouldn’t vote for H.R. 312, a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren,” Trump tweeted. “It is unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!”
The House was set to vote Wednesday on the bill – known as the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act - that would guarantee the tribe’s lands in the Bay State can't be taken out of trust by the federal government and can't be challenged by litigation.
“For perspective, keep in mind that once our bill is passed, our Reservation and Ancestral Homelands are FOREVER protected....our lands will never be under threat again,” Cedric Cromwell, the tribe’s chairman, said in a statement released last month.
The bill, however, was pulled on Wednesday by House Democrats following Trump's tweet - with some lawmakers accusing Trump of both racism and corruption for his tweets.
"It is the height of hypocrisy to say that you are in favor of treating Native Americans equally while tweeting a racial slur," Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., tweeted. "This is a classic Trump move - using racism to distract from corruption."
Gallego accused Trump adviser Matt Schlapp of lobbying Congress and the White House to oppose the bill after his is firm, Cove Strategies, was hired by Twin River Management Group, which owns a casino in Rhode Island that would face competition from the one proposed by the tribe.
Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, has been drawn into the debate over the bill because she sponsored a previous piece of legislation regarding the reservation, and her now famous claims of Native American heritage. While no companion bill has been introduced in the Senate, Trump and other Republicans leaders have publicly tied the resolution to Warren.
The tribe is seeking to have its land held in trust after Trump’s Interior Department overturned an Obama-era decision and ruled against a casino project on the reservation.
The resolution passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee last Wednesday by a vote of 26-10, including three Republicans, and now seems poised to pass with bipartisan support in a full House vote. It is unclear what the bill’s chances are of passing in the Senate, which is still controlled by a Republican majority.
Some congressional Republicans have voiced their concerns over the planned casino given that the tribe is currently embroiled in a financial scandal involving Genting Malaysia, a multinational gaming conglomerate that has already invested almost a billion dollars in the project.
Republicans are also concerned about the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s connection to scandal-ridden lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who lobbied back in the mid-2000s for the tribe to be nationally recognized so it could benefit from federal aid programs.
The legislation is also opposed by the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head— a sister tribe of the Mashpee tribe – whose Chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais said the bill’s passage would have a “very real potential to have a serious adverse effect” on her tribe’s ability to acquire additional land within the Wampanoag Nation’s ancestral territory, according to the Cape Cod Times.