The House has passed legislation aimed at protecting Native American land rights, after Democratic leadership opted to pull two bills from the floor last week in response to a tweet from President Trump.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act passed in a 276-146 vote on Wednesday, with 47 Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the measure. Just two Democrats voted against the bill.
The bill — spearheaded by Rep. William Keating (D-Mass.) in the House and endorsed by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHouse passes tribal land bills after votes were canceled following Trump tweet Poll: Biden leads Trump by double digits in Pennsylvania Warren to bank regulator who found her question insulting: ‘Good’ MORE (D-Mass.) — would end a legal challenge to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s Rhode Island reservation from opponents of a proposed casino.
The lawsuit was brought in 2016 after the Department of Interior reversed plans to reserve 321 acres of land on behalf of the tribe, according to The Cape Cod Times.
Critics have said that the bill is a thinly-veiled attempt to allow the tribe to build a casino.
Proponents said the bill provides necessary protections for the tribe’s land, and that failing to establish tribal rights to the land could hurt the tribe’s economy.
“I introduced this bill last Congress when we first heard rumors that the Department of Interior was going to, for the first time, reverse the position of the previous administration and refuse to defend the Mashpee Wampanoag’s right to their historic land,” Keating said during debate.
“They are the only tribe that has received recognition and then had it taken away from them,” he continued. “Now the tribe’s reservation is hanging by a thread and they have been left to defend their land on their own.”
Conservatives blasted the legislation as a special interest casino bill, and expressed opposition to Malaysian gaming conglomerate Genting leading the project.
Rep. Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarTrump tweets — and Dems pull two bills from floor Trump urges GOP to reject ‘casino’ bill backed by Warren Republicans offer ‘free market alternative’ to paid family leave MORE (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday that the bill is “contrary to the view of the Department of Interior” and the Supreme Court in order to benefit a foreign company.
Officials in Rhode Island have also pushed back against the efforts, citing the potential impact a casino on the reservation could have on the gaming industry in their state.
A second bill that affirms the federal government’s right to place land into a trust for a tribe’s benefit passed in a 323-96 vote.
Votes on the bills were initially scheduled for last Wednesday, but were canceled at the eleventh hour after a tweet from President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse passes tribal land bills after votes were canceled following Trump tweet Trump to meet with Moon in South Korea as part of G20 trip Interior chief dismisses climate concerns in first Natural Resources hearing: ‘I haven’t lost any sleep over it’ MORE encouraging Republicans to vote against one of the measures. The president’s criticisms of the measure heightened the possibility that it would fail to garner the two-thirds majority needed to pass the lower chamber under suspension rules.
“Republicans shouldn’t vote for H.R. 312, a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren,” he tweeted, taking a swipe at Warren. “It is unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!”