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House to Vote on Massachusetts Tribal Casino Bill Opposed by Trump

Do you support or oppose the Mashpee Wampanoag casino bill?

by Countable | 5.14.19

The House is set to vote Wednesday on a bill that was abruptly removed from last week’s schedule after a tweet of disapproval from President Donald Trump jeopardized its passage under the fast-track “suspension of the rules” process typically used for relatively uncontroversial bills.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act (H.R. 312) would reaffirm the status of the tribe’s reservation so that it can convert the land into a trust that enables it to build a $1.1 billion casino in Taunton, Massachusetts.

The bill was introduced by Rep. William Keating (D-MA) in response to a 2016 court ruling, which held that the Dept. of the Interior couldn’t take the land into trust because the Mashpee Wampanoag weren’t federally recognized at the time of the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934. The Dept. of the Interior in 2018 refused to declined to confirm the status of the tribe’s reservation, making the casino’s development untenable barring an act of Congress.

The casino has faced opposition from politicians in neighboring Rhode Island, including House Democratic Reps. David Cicilline and James Langevin, who are concerned a Mashpee Wampanoag casino in Massachusetts could cost the state of Rhode Island millions of dollars in tax revenues from gambling. And President Donald Trump encouraged House Republicans to join them in opposition via Twitter, prompting the scheduling change:

What is “suspension of the rules” in the House?

Bills that are considered under suspension of the rules can only be debated on the floor for 40 minutes, and no amendments are allowed. Because the debate is accelerated for bills under suspension of the rules they have a higher support threshold to clear for passage — two-thirds of members have to vote in favor rather than the usual simple majority.

Suspension bills are typically brought up on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Wednesdays when the House is in session. Only the Speaker of the House has the power to bring a bill up for vote under suspension of the rules, although committee leaders recommend bills with bipartisan support.

While many suspension bills pass through voice votes or overwhelmingly lopsided recorded votes, occasionally they fail to meet the two-thirds majority required for passage. The last notable incidence of suspension bills failing occurred in July 2017 when House Democrats ― then in the minority ― withheld the votes needed to advance that year’s Intelligence Authorization Act and a funding extension for the Veterans Choice program because they felt the bills should be debated on the floor (although they later passed with more than a two-thirds margin).

What’s next for the bill?

When the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act (H.R. 312) comes up for a vote Wednesday, it will do so "pursuant to a rule" adopted by the House Rules Committee, which could take three forms:

  • Closed rules allow no amendments.
  • Structured rules allow only specific amendments.
  • Open rules allow any amendment to be brought up as long as it complies with the House’s "germaneness rule," which basically means amendments have to be related to the underlying bill.


— Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: iStock.com / welcomia)

Countable

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