Just days after President Trump called out House Republicans for supporting legislation promoted by presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Democrat leaders are scrambling to determine whether they can ram the bill or one of similar profile through the House this week.
Warren has been promoting legislation that would grant a Massachusetts-based Indian-tribe, called the Mashpee Wampanoags, recognition of land over 40 miles away from its tribal headquarters to build a $1 billion casino.
The political show heated up on May 8, when the president tweeted, “Republicans shouldn’t vote for H.R. 312, a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren. It is unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!” This denouncement caused Democrats, who recognized that the bill would now never receive two-thirds majority approval as required, to scramble and pull the scheduled vote from the House floor.
Nevertheless, bad ideas never seem to die in Washington, and the special interests seldom give up. This case is no exception, and with the news of Trump’s twitter opposition fading, members of the Massachusetts delegation are now back at work pushing H.R. 312, as well as H.R. 375 – a bill that makes H.R. 312 look like the epitome of ethical D.C. governance by comparison. As such, allow me to take a step back and walk you through the current state-of-play.
Aside from the fact that the Massachusetts senator pushing this bill is the same one that once said, “gambling can be a real problem economically for a lot of people,” there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the intentions of those pushing the legislation.
The first among them is that both the Supreme Court and Department of Interior agree “the Tribe does not satisfy the ‘under Federal jurisdiction’ requirement of the…definition of ‘Indian’,” which it would need to receive any handouts of land from the federal government.
In accordance with the Indian Reservation Act, that would require the tribe to have received recognition from the federal government before 1935. Michael Graham at The Boston Herald noted that not only did they miss this deadline but, “The Mashpees weren’t federally recognized until 2007. And that only happened because of the money they poured on notoriously corrupt D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff.”
In addition to H.R. 312, which would specifically grant the well-heeled Massachusetts tribe a casino away from their reservation, another bill being pushed in the House, H.R. 375 would not only grease through the casino long sought after by Warren and the Mashpees; it would also allow for the same to occur for every tribe in the country – creating an endless cycle of lobbying victories in place of Supreme Court precedent, the rule of law, and states’ rights.
Should H.R. 375 pass, all that the roughly 600 recognized tribes in the country would have to do to strong-arm the federal government into recognizing their land is demonstrate that their tribe has received acknowledgement from the Department of Interior. And as we’ve seen from the Mashpee’s lobbying efforts, often all that will require is having enough lobbying connections and sums of cash to influence the right bureaucrats and representatives with key committee assignments.
The Native Americans that have sharply called out the Mashpee’s land claims would ostensibly agree that by advancing the interests of crony capitalists, this bill is a raw deal for the Native American people. Should the legislation go into effect, the rich and powerful will succeed at the expense of everyone else, and that’s simply not fair.
Republicans should not be fooled. Elizabeth Warren is just trying to provide crony favors for groups with strategic political value to her and Republicans should reject both bills outright.
(George Landrith is the President and CEO of Frontiers of Freedom — a public policy think tank devoted to promoting a strong national defense, free markets, individual liberty, and constitutionally limited government.)