Senators gang up on Littons

Feb 15, 2005 9:45 AM

What Washington grants, Washington can take away.

That’s what it seemed to the Litton Band of Pomo Indians last week when it appeared that Sen. Diane Feinstein (D) was being joined by Sen. John McCain (R) in opposing their plan to build a casino across the bay from San Francisco.

The Littons, although a recognized tribe, have no land. In 2000, Congressman George Miller of California, added language to a spending bill, about to be passed, that gave the tribe land special federal trust status, permitting them to legitimize their San Pablo card club property.

When Feinstein realized that the Miller addition would let the Littons convert the card club into a full-blown casino, she filed legislation to block it.

Things got worse last year when California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reached an agreement with the Littons that would permit them to expand the club to include 5,000 slot machines, an agreement that later was modified to limit the club to 2,500 machines.

Sen. McCain, the new chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, has promised to hold hearings on the Feinstein bill that would revoke the special trust status and require the tribe to go through the normal approval process, thus negating the Miller amendment.

McCain took over the chairmanship of the committee with the retirement of former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, an Indian supporter who never held hearings on the Feinstein bill.