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House faills to pass off-reservation gaming bill

At around 12:05pm today, the House began debate on H.R.4893, a bill to restrict off-reservation gaming. Just a couple hours later, the bill failed to gain enough votes for passage.

The House voted 247 to 171 on the Restricting Indian Gaming to Homelands of Tribes Act (RIGHT) Act. Although that was a majority of the Republican-controlled chamber, the bill needed two-thirds of the votes to pass.

The two-thirds was needed because the bill was placed on "suspension" by House Republicans. As a result, it was not open for amendments, a chief complaint voiced by Democrats and at least one Republican, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma.

It was also open to just 40 minutes of debate on the floor. Rep. Richard Pombo (R-California) while Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Michigan) led the opposition. Each had 20 minutes to control.

Updates on the debate are posted below.

Pombo just finished his opening statement. "H.R.4893 is real reform that will once and for all solve the problems of off-reservation gaming," he said.

Kildee is up next.

Kildee said he objects to the bill "because it subverts tribal sovereignty by requiring tribes to negotiate with counties, which are not sovereign at all but creatures of the state." He cited widespread opposition in Indian Country to the measure.

He also objected because the bill will not be open for amendments.

Pombo just passed on his turn.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a member of the Chickasaw Nation, is now speaking against the bill.

Cole said he respected Pombo as an advocate for Indian Country. But he said he opposed the bill because it subjects tribes to local governments. "As the only enrolled member of a tribe in Congress ... I take my obligation to defend the concept of tribal sovereignty very seriously," he said.

Kildee yielded time to Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-Rhode Island), who objected to the local government provision.

Kildee yielded time to Rep. David Wu (D-Oregon).

Wu said he opposed the bill even though he is fighting an off-reservation casino sought by the Warm Springs Tribes. He said the placement of the bill on "suspension" means there will not be sufficient debate. "This is completely inappropriate," he said.

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) said the bill will "change the rules" on the Bad River and St. Croix bands of Chippewa, who are seeing an off-reservation casino in Beloit.

Pombo yielded to Rep. Charles Dent (R-Pennsylvania).

Dent cited the Delaware Nation's land claim to Pennsylvania. He said tribes should not be allowed to cross state lines to open casinos. "H.R.4893 will prohibit this kind of reservation shopping," he said. He did not mention that the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals threw the claim out of court.

Pombo yielded to Rep. Jim Costa (R-California).

Costa touted his bill that requires states to submit Class III gaming "master plans" to the Interior Department. His proposal is not a part of H.R.4893.

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-West Virginia), the top Democrat on the House Resources Committee, spoke in favor of the bill, which he is co-sponsoring. He cited opposition to "reservation shopping" by the United South and Eastern Tribes.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Washington) objected because the bill is not open to amendments. He said tribal sovereignty is being abused.

Kildee asks how much time is left. He has 4.5 minutes. Pombo has 9 minutes.

Kildee agrees IGRA is not perfect. He wants Pombo's bill to be open to more discussion. "To amend it in this fashion, particularly on suspension" runs contrary to tribal sovereignty, he said. He said he will work with Pombo to address tribal concerns.

Kildee yielded to Rep. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico).

Udall said the bill undermines 200 years of tribal sovereignty. "I don't know of a single tribe in the entire state of New Mexico who wants to see these changes," he said.

Kildee made his final statement.

In his closing statement, Pombo said this bill is needed to protect tribes from attacks. "If you care about the Native Americans in our country, then you better support this bill," he said. He said the spread of gaming, if unchecked, will inspire other members of Congress to impose limits on sovereignty.

A voice vote was called. Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tennessee) said it passed by the necessary two-thirds but Kildee asked for a recorded vote. Wamp said further proceedings on the bill will be delayed. "At the conclusion of debate, the Yeas and Nays were demanded and ordered. Pursuant to the provisions of clause 8, rule XX, the Chair announced that further proceedings on the motion would be postponed," the official House record states.

Pombo IGRA Bill:
H.R.4893 [As Passed by Committee] | H.R.4893 [As Introduced] | MP3: House Resources Committee Debate | Substitute | Explanation

McCain IGRA Bill:
S.2078 | Senate Indian Affairs Committee Report

National Indian Gaming Association Resolutions:
Section 20 | IGRA Amendments

Relevant Links:
National Indian Gaming Commission -
National Indian Gaming Association -

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