House Democrats pull tribal bills after Trump tweet

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic leaders pulled two bills concerning Native American tribes from the House floor Wednesday after President Donald Trump criticized one of the bills on Twitter and urged Republicans to oppose it.

The bills were to be considered under a fast-track provision that requires two-thirds majority to pass, making Republican support necessary for approval.

Trump said one of the bills, which reaffirms the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe reservation as trust land in Massachusetts, was a “special interest casino Bill” backed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. He called it unfair and said it “doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bill Keating, D-Mass., said Trump opposes the bill because of “his well-documented alliance” with a lobbyist for Rhode Island casinos that would compete with one planned by the Mashpee Wampanoag.

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Keating said on Twitter that Trump was making a “weak attempt to hide corrupt influence in a racist tweet” that uses a derogatory term for Warren, a Democratic candidate for president.

Matt Schlapp, a prominent Trump supporter and chairman of the American Conservative Union, represents Twin River Management Group, which owns two casinos in Rhode Island. Twin River has paid Schlapp’s firm, Cove Strategies, $30,000 for its work so far this year, federal records show.

Schlapp also is the husband of White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp.

Matt Schlapp has publicly criticized legislation to recognize the Mashpee tribe and tweeted Wednesday that the House would soon “vote to reward Sen Elizabeth Warren with…wait for it…an INDIAN casino in Massachusetts.”

Warren has co-sponsored a Senate version of the tribal bill, which is intended to ensure that the Mashpees don’t lose their federally designated reservation lands after the Trump administration said the tribe does not qualify to have the land placed into trust because it wasn’t under federal jurisdiction when the Indian Reorganization Act passed in 1934.

Another Trump-linked firm, Black Diamond Strategies, also received $30,000 from Twin River to lobby the House on the tribal bill. Doug Davenport, one of the firm’s lobbyists working on Twin River’s behalf, was a senior adviser to the Trump presidential campaign.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said Trump’s tweet caused Republicans to get “cold feet” on the tribal bill, but said the measure could come back as soon as next week under regular order.

“I have no intention of letting the president’s gutter commentary derail the people’s business,” said Grijalva, whose committee has oversight over tribal issues.

The other bill withdrawn Wednesday would reaffirm the interior secretary’s authority to take land into trust for Indian tribes. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

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Associated Press writer Richard Lardner contributed to this story.

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