Trump tweet stalls Wampanoag bill

Keating accuses president of doing lobbyist favor

A TWEET BY PRESIDENT TRUMP uprooted the strategy of legislators who aim to save Mashpee Wampanoag plans for a $1 billion casino in Taunton.

“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!” said Trump in a tweet.

Democrats responded by pulling back the bill, which was scheduled for a full House vote. The bipartisan bill, which required a two-thirds majority to pass, would have granted reservation status to land controlled by the tribe, and paved the way for the opening of a casino on the property.

Rep. William Keating, a lead sponsor of the legislation, tweeted that Trump had signed a similar bill for another tribe last year. “So why tweet against a bill recognizing the tribe of the first Thanksgiving? Because of his well-documented alliance with the RI casino lobbyist. A weak attempt to hide corrupt influence in a racist tweet.”

The lobbyist Keating was referring to is Matt Schlapp, a Trump adviser and husband of Trump’s director of strategic communications. One of Schlapp’s lobbying clients is Twin River Management Group, which owns the Twin River and Tiverton casinos in Rhode Island, which would be in direct competition with the Wampanoag casino. Keating called the move by Trump “disgusting.”

Warren, who cosponsored a Senate version of the legislation, could not be reached for comment.

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

The tribe has faced a long struggle in getting its casino project to move forward. The Interior Department granted reservation status to the tribe’s land in 2015, but that decision was overturned in 2016 by a lawsuit brought by local property owners.

With Trump’s tweet foiling the plan to push through the bill quickly via a suspension of House rules, lawmakers say they will now attempt to pass the bill through the regular legislative process. “This delay won’t be long,” Keating said.