Pombo Brings Tribal Gaming Bill To Defeat
Yesterday, Richard Pombo’s Indian gaming bill, H.R. 4893, went down to defeat. Although it was approved by a vote of 247-171, the bill failed to get the 2/3 majority that it would have required for passage. H.R. 4893 would have prevented tribes from building casinos on newly-acquired land, a practice known as “reservation shopping.” The bill had generated a great deal of controversy among Native Americans, with those wealthy tribes who already had casinos supporting a law that would have given them virtual monopolies on gaming in their areas. Poorer tribes who were still hoping for a share of the wealth being created by casinos were opposed to the bill, as were a large number of Native Americans who were simply concerned about the erosion of sovereignty for tribal governments.
Yesterday, just before the vote, Rep. George Miller announced his opposition to the bill. His concern was that a bill which had generated so much controversy was being placed on the suspension calendar, which is typically used for noncontroversial measures (thus the requirement for a 2/3 majority vote). Bills which are placed on the suspension calendar receive little debate, and there is no mechanism for offering amendments to such bills.
"It's an inappropriate procedure for a bill of this magnitude," [Miller chief of staff Daniel Weiss] said.It’s worth noting that Miller voted for the bill when it was in committee. Weiss went on to state that “Miller has not decided whether he would support Pombo's bill if it were to get a full debate on the House floor.” But Pombo refused to open the bill up for debate.
Weiss said several House Democrats have concerns about the bill that have not been addressed, though he did not specify those concerns.
So what, exactly would this bill have meant to residents of CA-11?
Well, the Sacramento Bee explained it this way:
Pombo's bill was aimed at stopping the spread of what has been called "off-reservation" gambling. The term has come to describe the efforts of usually remotely located tribes or newly recognized tribes that, typically working with a casino developer, acquire property distant from their historic territory and apply to the Interior Department to have it qualify for a casino under the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.Okay. So what exactly did this bill mean to Richard Pombo?
Despite the enormous expansion of tribal casinos in California, little of it is the result of the loopholes in the 1988 act that Pombo sought to close. And while Pombo initially had proposed even more restrictive legislation, the version that came to the House floor Wednesday would not have stopped any of the major new casinos proposed in Northern and Central California.
"The way the legislation is now, we would be fine," said Jacquie Davis-Van Huss, secretary of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, which is working to develop a large casino complex north of Madera on state Route 99.
Tribal spokesmen said the bill also would not stop two controversial casino projects in Amador County proposed by the Ione Band of Miwok Indians and the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians.
The Sacramento Bee had an explanation for that, as well:
Last year the odds of legislation curbing Indian gambling looked better. The Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal focused attention on the enormous wealth of gambling tribes and their efforts to wield power in Congress.
But even then, critics charged that the legislation was as much about campaign contributions as stemming casino expansion. Pombo held hearings on the issue around the country, and often held fundraisers in conjunction with them. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Pombo is the top recipient of contributions from the gambling industry with nearly $200,000 to his re-election committee in the last two years, much of it from gambling tribes.
So Pombo carried the bill for his big donors in the gambling tribes. Now, a cynic might say that perhaps he purposely took a bill that would have passed had it been brought under normal circumstances and guaranteed its failure by subjecting it to a super-majority vote. A cynic might point out that the failure of this bill in this Congress merely opens up whole new round of fundraising opportunities for Richard Pombo AND it gives Pombo the added bonus of being able to rail against Democrats for the defeat of his bill.
Here’s how George Miller’s chief of staff put it:
Hastert and Pombo had the votes and could have passed the bill easily if they brought it up under regular rules. "The only people to blame for this bill not passing are Republican leaders," [Daniel Weiss] said.