President Trump took to Twitter Wednesday and urged Republicans to vote against H.R. 321, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act. That bill would essentially reaffirm the Mashpee Wampanoag reservation as trust land.
In response to the president’s words, Democratic leaders pulled two bills, H.R. 312, and a second bill H.R. 375, that would reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of the Department of the Interior to take land into trust for tribes.
According to a description of the process by Politico:
The bills were supposed to be considered under a fast-track process requiring a two-thirds majority to pass, making the support of GOP lawmakers necessary.
The move to scrap the votes follows 24 hours of drama in the upper ranks of the GOP conference. During a Republican leadership meeting Tuesday night, Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., argued with Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., one of the bill’s co-sponsors, over the legislation, according to multiple sources. The issue also came up at a GOP-wide caucus meeting, with some members complaining that the bills were being rushed to the floor.
The bill H.R. 312, does have bipartisan support including several Republicans to include Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-California: Rep. Tom McClintock, R-California, Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, R-Oklahoma, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania and Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee Nation, R-Oklahoma.
In a tweet opposing H.R. 321, President Trump attacked Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, a co-sponsor of the bill.
He said: 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!
In an immediate response to Trump, Chair Raúl M. Grijalva D-Ariz., said today in a press release that, “he will pursue other means of passing a pair of bills to help Indian Country after they were pulled from consideration by the House of Representatives in the wake of President Trump’s racist tweet and subsequent Republican opposition to the measures. The House was scheduled to vote on Rep. Bill Keating’s (D-Mass.) H.R. 312, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, and Rep. Tom Cole’s (R-Okla.) H.R. 375, which updates the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 to affirm that the federal government can take land into trust for the benefit of tribes that received federal recognition after June 18, 1934.”
“We needed significant Republican support to get these bills approved today, and apparently the president tweeting a racial slur was compelling enough to give them cold feet,” Grijalva said in the release. “It’s my intention to move both of these bills forward soon, and we’re currently evaluating our options for other avenues to passage. I stand with my friends Bill Keating and Tom Cole in supporting Indian Country, and I have no intention of letting the president’s gutter commentary derail the people’s business.”
In addition, Rep. Gallego of Arizona's 7th Congressional District issued the following statement calling out Trump for what the president accused Warren of doing:
“It is the height of hypocrisy to claim you are treating Native Americans equally while including a racial slur in your tweet.
“This Administration refused to defend the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s right to a homeland in Court. This Administration stripped a tribe of its sovereign right to land for the first time this century. Now the President is tweeting racist lies to further undermine the Mashpee Tribe’s effort to reclaim their homeland and right to self-determination.
“With this tweet, President Trump is not only allowing special interest lobbyists like Matt Schlapp – who happens to be married to his staffer – to direct federal policy, but reinforcing the federal government’s ugly history of oppression towards Indian tribes.
“The Mashpee Wampanoag and all of Indian Country deserve better than this racism, disrespect, and sabotage.”
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling