The connection was gladly exploited by one Republican during debate on Wednesday."H.R.375 has ridden alongside H.R.312 largely unnoticed, and no one has pointed out two crucial facts. One, that it exists as a contingency plan in case its sister bill, H.R.312, fails. And two, that its effect would be national rather than local," said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona), who led opposition to both measures. "H.R.375 and H.R.312 are two heads of the same snake, one large, one small," added Gosar, who once called Native Americans "wards of the federal government" and refused to apologize for the inaccurate comment. "Senator Warren, regardless, will get her casino if either bill passes," Gosar concluded, happily pointing out the reason why H.R.312 is under fire. It's because Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), who is hoping to defeat Trump as the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020, has supported the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's efforts.
Trump's attack led to H.R.312 being brought up under a rule. It was the first time in recent memory -- perhaps about 10 years and maybe more -- that a stand-alone tribal bill was subjected to such scrutiny, another sign of how the tweet inflicted damage on Indian Country. "Bipartisan legislation to help a tribe like the Mashpee would normally pass the House without issue," Keating observed on Wednesday. "Just two weeks ago, we passed a parallel Republican-led bill for a tribe in California without a single member objecting -- not a peep from the other side." That bill is H.R.317, which protects the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians from having some of its lands being taken out of trust, just like the Mashpee measure. It's title is remarkably similar too -- it's called the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Land Affirmation Act. But unlike H.R.312, the Chumash bill was brought up under a suspension of the rules. In a sign of its non-controversial nature, it passed the House without even going through a recorded vote, a route that is frequently taken for stand-alone Indian Country legislation. In contrast, more debate was required on the Mashpee bill, as was a roll call. And after Trump's tweet, Republicans weren't afraid of saying no to something they liked just a short while ago. A staggering 144 Republicans voted against H.R.312, according to the roll call. Only 47 supported it, far fewer than the ones who voted for H.R.375. As a result, both bills are in danger going forward on Capitol Hill. The Republican leaders of the Senate are already on record as refusing to bring up legislation that lacks backing from their party.
The House just passed two bills to protect tribal land rights. After years of broken Republican promises to address the land into trust issue, we're moving forward and righting historic wrongs. I said @NRDems would fight for Native American rights. This is what that looks like. pic.twitter.com/Y7aDPxKsh8— Raul M. Grijalva (@RepRaulGrijalva) May 15, 2019
With a Carcieri fix in reach for the first time since the Obama era, tribes and their advocates are hoping for a different outcome. "NCAI’s hope is that our champions in the United States Senate will get behind this bill for a swift passage," the largest inter-tribal organization said in a statement on Wednesday. "Its passage would be a monumental win for Indian Country as tribal government land bases are part of the foundation of tribal sovereignty." Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona), the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, is also expressing optimism. A Carcieri fix languished in the committee for years until Democrats took control in January. “Putting these issues off has already led to years of unnecessary misery for Indian Country, and tribes are tired of broken Republican promises to move tribal bills, so let’s get these done in the Senate and move on,” Grijalva said in a statement. “These should not be controversial issues, but we’ll have to see what Senate Republicans have in mind. Native Americans have waited too long for Congress to act, and I’m proud to say today that the House has done its part under a Democratic majority.” On February 24, 2009, the Supreme Court issued its Carcieri decision. The case is named for the Republican governor of Rhode Island who challenged the way the land-into-trust process has worked in the decades since it was authorized by Congress through the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. For the first time, a tribe must show that it was "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934 to qualify for the land-into-trust process. The requirement is considered unfair for those like the Mashpee, which gained federal recognition in 2007 despite having a long relationship with colonial, state and federal entities. "All tribal nations deserve to receive equal treatment under the IRA," NCAI said on Wednesday. H.R.375 clears up the uncertainty by stating that “any federally recognized Indian tribe” can follow the land-into-trust process. That would include the Narragansett Tribe, whose rights were diminished by the Carcieri ruling. Due to that connection, Rep. David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) and Rep. James Langevin (D-Rhode Island) were among the small number of Democrats -- 8 total -- who voted against the Carcieri fix.
After 10 years of unnecessary turmoil, NCAI thanks the House of Representatives for passing a “Carcieri clean fix,” (H.R. 375) addressing the land into trust conflict. NCAI hopes the Senate will also pass this legislation, marking a big win for all of #IndianCountry pic.twitter.com/2fPaaPk8b0— NCAI (@NCAI1944) May 15, 2019
Statement from Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) on passage of H.R.375 in US House of Representatives on May 15, 2019. Cole's bipartisan bill ensures all tribes, regardless of the date of federal recognition, can restore their homelands through the land into trust process. #CarcieriFix— indianz.com (@indianz) May 15, 2019
“Despite a misguided Supreme Court opinion 10 years ago that jeopardized ownership of tribal trust lands and questioned the authority of the Secretary of Interior, I am encouraged progress has been made to reverse it and rightly restore 75 years of past precedent,” said Cole.— indianz.com (@indianz) May 15, 2019
Despite bringing parity to all tribes, the language in H.R.375 doesn't resolve the doubts facing Mashpee, which is why H.R.312 was drafted. In addition to affirming the trust status of the tribe's reservation, the bill requires any litigation to be dismissed. Congress did the same for another tribe in 2014 and the Supreme Court later sanctioned the approach as constitutional in a decision known as Patchak v. Zinke, which was issued during Trump's second year in office. Only two Democrats voted against H.R.375: Cicilline and Langevin. Both remained silent about the Carcieri fix because speaking up might require involving the tribe in their home state. In contrast, they were honest about the reason they were vocal about a tribe in neighboring Massachusetts. Both said the First Light Resort and Casino would hurt Rhode Island's gaming interests. "This bill will allow the Mashpee Tribe to open a massive off-reservation casino right on the border of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, nearly 40 miles away from their historic tribal lands in Cape Cod," Cicilline asserted. "This bill will have enormous impacts on my home state of Rhode Island," Langevin said. "The intent of this bill is to allow for the construction of a new casino resort near the state line between Rhode Island and Massachusetts, which would rival the existing casinos in our state."
“While the federal government & tribal nations have at times had a battered and troubled relationship, this legislative action in the House symbolizes desire to keep the promises made to tribes, respect their sovereign status & repair damage done,” said Cole, who is Chickasaw.— indianz.com (@indianz) May 15, 2019
Reaction from Chairman Cedric Cromwell on passage of H.R.312, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act in US House of Representatives on May 15, 2019. #StandWithMashpee pic.twitter.com/puvqsbYnIk— indianz.com (@indianz) May 15, 2019
"This is a Big Step for My Tribe, The People of The First, The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Nation!!— indianz.com (@indianz) May 15, 2019
Powerful Day for My people!!
Onward to the Senate!!
Thank You for your Patience, Love and Continued Support!!"
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