TAUNTON (AP/CBS) — Democratic leaders have pulled two bills concerning Native American tribes from the House floor after President Donald Trump criticized one of the bills on Twitter and urged Republicans to oppose it. The vote could have helped revive the Taunton casino project.

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

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 Sen. Elizabeth Warren. He called it unfair and said it “doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!”

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

Site of proposed casino project in Taunton (WBZ-TV)

In February 2012, the tribe and city of Taunton first announced an interest in developing a casino along Route 24. More than three years later, the Obama administration approved the tribe’s control over the property. But in October of 2018, that decision was overturned by the Trump administration, bringing the project to a halt.

Today, the massive tract of land next to the junction of Route 24 and 140 sits vacant, overgrown and attracting garbage.

“It would be a great opportunity for the city of Taunton, it would mean revenue worth up to $8 million a year, plus it would hire us about 23 police officers and 23 firefighters,” said Taunton Mayor Tom Hoye.

Rendering of First Light Casino in Taunton (WBZ/Lana Jones)

The mayor says the tribe has done everything by the book.

“It was a great economic opportunity for all of Southeastern Massachusetts, it would produce about 2,000 permanent jobs,” Mayor Hoye said.

Even if the bill passes the House, it’s not clear sailing for the Wampanoags. They still would have to get it through the Senate and President Trump, who has already voiced his displeasure with the project.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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