Senator John McCain Embraces Congressman Trent Franks' Anti-West Valley Casino Bill
Arizona's political heavyweights have spent years in federal court challenging the legality of Tohono O'odham Nation's proposed West Valley Resort, a casino near 91st and Northern avenues.
Senator John McCain at a oversight hearing hosted by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
Since the law hasn't been on opponents' side, they've desperately been trying to change it.
Congressman Trent Franks, who is now joined by Senator John McCain, is attempting for at least the third year in a row to manipulate the terms of the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act with a narrow bill that would effectively block the Nation's casino.
Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris, Jr. says that "despite the opposition's latest efforts, we are confident that Congress, like so many others, will recognize the incredible benefits the West Valley Resort will provide to the region and all of Arizona."
Last year, Franks measure made it out of the House, but didn't go anywhere in the Senate. It's unclear how the bill will fare this year with McCain backing the companion bill.
McCain has been an odd player during this west-side casino controversy.
McCain, during his days as a U.S. Congressman, co-sponsored the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act that was signed into law in 1986. That Act gave the Nation the legal right to purchase up to 9,880 acres of private lands in Pima, Pinal, or Maricopa counties to replace all of the reservation land that the federal government inadvertently -- but carelessly -- destroyed when it built the Painted Rock Dam near Gila Bend.
The Nation bought a Maricopa County parcel neighboring the City of Glendale.
We're hardly surprised that Franks, an ineffectual politician with the warped belief that incidents of rape resulting pregnancy are very low, has reintroduced his narrow anti-casino bill.
But it's hard to understand why McCain is turning against a promise he helped make to the Tohono O'odham Nation via the Gila Bend Land Act.
During a July 23 U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, McCain tried to say that Indian gaming wasn't around in 1986 when he and other worked to get that law into place. But a top ranking official in the Department of the Interior reminded McCain that gaming had already emerged as a hot button issue and had sparked lawsuits across the country.
Despite his support for the anti-casino legislation, McCain told his fellow senators that the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act -- which he also worked on during his early days as a federal lawmaker -- "allows for a Vegas-style gaming facility to be built on trust lands if they were acquired by an Indian tribe under a Congressionally approved land claim settlement" and that in Glendale's case, that land claim settlement is the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act.
"I share the objections of many Arizonans when I see a casino being air dropped into the metro Phoenix area," he told the oversight senate committee. "However, I understand that U.S. Federal District Court has decided in favor of the Tohono O'odham Nation to acquire the land consistent with the technical wording in the Arizona gaming compact, and that the Glendale City Council recently voted in support for the casino."