Politics

House Democrats shelve casino bills after surprise opposition from Trump

Key Points
  • It's rare for a president to use the weight of the office to publicly support or oppose a bill that impacts a private sector venture. 
  • Before the tweet on Wednesday, sent just hours before a vote in the full House, Trump had never spoken about the issue in public.
President Donald Trump delivers remarks to reporters while participating in a roundtable about ‘fair and honest pricing in healthcare’ in the Roosevelt Room at the White House January 23, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

House Democrats on Wednesday were forced to delay votes on a pair of relatively obscure tribal casino bills after President Donald Trump issued a surprise tweet urging Republicans to vote against one of the two bills.

If passed, H.R. 312 would clear the way for a new casino to be built in Massachusetts on land belonging to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. A related piece of legislation, H.R. 375, would allow the Interior Department to take land into trust for Native American tribes — land on which the tribes could then operate casinos.

It's rare for a president to use the weight of the office to publicly support or oppose a bill that impacts a private sector venture. 

Trump's tweet was also unusual because of the timing. Before the tweet on Wednesday, sent just hours before a vote in the full House, Trump had never spoken about the issue in public.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment about the genesis of Trump's tweet.

About an hour before Trump sent his tweet, a top outside adviser to the White House and a friend of the president's, Matt Schlapp, tweeted a similar message, writing that the passage of H.R. 312 would be a "reward" for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Schlapp is president of the American Conservative Union and a registered lobbyist with a firm called Cove Strategies, which lobbies on behalf of casino operator Twin Rivers Management Group. His wife, Mercedes Schlapp, is a senior White House communications aide.

In January of this year, Twin Rivers Management hired Schlapp and Cove Strategies to lobby on "gaming issues."  Schlapp did not respond to questions from CNBC Wednesday.