Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has been pushing a sweetheart deal for a Native American tribe seeking a casino in Massachusetts, but on Wednesday her hopes were (temporarily) dashed by President Donald Trump.
In a surprise tweet issued early Wednesday morning, Trump urged Republicans “to vote against a bill that would end a legal challenge to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s reservation in Massachusetts,” allowing the tribe to declare ownership over a tract of land they are reportedly looking to turn into a resort and casino, according to The Hill.
“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!” the president tweeted.
The president’s tweet got Republicans moving on the legislation, which Democrats had fast-tracked to come to a vote this week — a happy and not-at-all planned conicidence for Warren, who is slowly regaining support in Democratic primary polls. The bill was pulled from the floor early Wednesday afternoon, over the objections of Warren and other members of the Massachusetts delegation, but will likely return to the floor next week in a closed session.
Critics of the president claim that he was acting on behalf of Conservative Political Action Conference head Matt Schlapp, who has an interest in a competing casino operation, but the issue of Elizabeth Warren and the Massachusetts casino didn’t simply appear on the docket today, and the vote, which did not go Warren’s way, may have a long-term impact on her 2020 hopes.
Warren joined the crusade on behalf of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe last year, according to the Boston Herald, which has followed the story since the beginning, likely as a way of convicing Native Americans that she was adequately representing their interests — as a Native American herself — in Congress, and to deflect criticism over her decision to embrace her faux Native American heritage (Warren is somewhere between 1/64 and 1/1024 “Native American” according to an at-home DNA test she took last year, and is not a registered member of any tribe, though she claims Cherokee heritage).
The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is not a recognized Native American tribe under the United States Department of the Interior, and members do not fall under the 1934 “Reorganization Act” which listed out the known Native American tribes existing in the United States at the time, who were eligible to receive land grants for reservations. In 2016, they sued the federal government for recognition and a federal court ruled against them.
But now the Mashpee tribe wants to build a casino in partnership with a controversial Malaysian conglomerate, Genting Group, and they’re looking to challenge the federal court’s ruling by obtaining recognition through Congress — a cause Warren embraced immediately, then subequently abandoned, according to the Boston Herald, then embraced again after she declared her candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Needless to say, now that she’s back in the top five, Warren is likely to need protection against claims she has no ties to Native American issues in Congress, so she’s back on the bandwagon, supporting the Mashpee Recognition measure.
And all was going swimmingly until this morning when President Donald Trump brought the bill to the attention of Senate Republicans who might have otherwise thought it was just a routine declaration.
The bill is not fully dead. Masschusetts legislators no doubt see the value in having a Native American casino on the border with Rhode Island, though the last polls taken in the area show residents aren’t thrilled with the idea. The bill is scheduled to return to the floor next week, but out of sight of the public (and, they hope, the president).