Indy Congressional Tracker: EPA gets a coal lobbyist as No. 2, balanced budget takes a hit, stalking minors online

Former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler was confirmed as deputy administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency by the Senate this week, ensuring a successor should embattled EPA head Scott Pruitt quit or be fired by President Trump.

Nevada’s senators split on the 53-45 confirmation vote — Republican Sen. Dean Heller voted to confirm while his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, voted no.

Prior to Wheeler’s confirmation, he was a lobbyist for Murray Energy, the largest coal company in the world. Documents obtained by The New York Times show Murray Energy’s deregulation wishlist for the coal industry that was sent to President Trump shortly after the presidential inauguration. The EPA, under Pruitt, has steadfastly worked to roll back those regulations.

Balancing the budget continues to cause some dissatisfaction among the delegates. H.J. RES.  2 failed to pass the House by 233-184, as the vote required a two-thirds majority to move forward.

The proposed amendment would have required three-fifths of the votes from both the Senate and the House to approve any spending that exceeded government revenue.

The same number of votes from both legislative bodies would be necessary to raise the debt ceiling — a limit Congress places on debt that the federal government can carry at any given time — and also requires the president to submit a balanced budget to Congress.

Had the bill passed, Congress would be able to waive the vote requirements for any fiscal year if the country was engaged in military conflicts or military threats to national security. The bill did not provide any resolutions for the possibility of a deadlocked House or Senate where a two-thirds vote could not be easily obtained.

This vote comes after the Congress approved a tax bill that added $1.8 trillion to the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) revised the deficit this week and found it to be $1.6 trillion larger than the $10.1 trillion that the office anticipated. The deficit growth stems from a $194 billion reduction in projected revenues.

Delegates voted along party lines as Republican Rep. Mark Amodei voted yes and the Democratic representatives voted no. A similar bill was co-sponsored in 2017 by Democratic Rep.  Jacky Rosen. H.J. Res. 107 asked for the same three-fifths vote from each chamber in an effort to limit spending beyond the federal government’s total revenue receipts. The bipartisan bill was introduced in the House but never voted on.

Democratic Rep. Dina Titus said the idea of a balanced budget was only good in theory.

“But this is not about fiscal responsibility; this is all smoke and mirrors by the Republicans in an attempt to cover up the nearly $2 trillion in deficits caused by their tax scam for the wealthy and ballooning defense spending. It will also help Republicans justify deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and other critical safety net programs,” Titus said.

HR 4203, or the Combat Online Predators Act, added five years to the maximum prison sentence for anyone stalking minors.

Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia said H.R. 4203 creates greater penalties to people convicted of stalking minors.

“No child should live in constant fear for their own safety, and this bill will further deter predators from such conduct,” said Goodlatte. “Stalking cases are also notoriously difficult to prosecute because they require showing repeated intentional harassment. It is important for prosecutors to be able to reference best practices in investigating and prosecuting these cases, therefore, H.R. 4203 requires the Attorney General to issue a report identifying best practices in bringing these cases.”

The legislation is headed to the Senate after passing the House 409-2. Nevada representatives all voted for the bill’s passage.

For a full rundown of the measures the delegates supported or opposed this week, check out The Nevada Independent’s congressional vote tracker and other information below.


Legislation co-sponsored:

  • S. 2635 - A bill to amend the Controlled Substances Act and the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act to modify the offenses relating to fentanyl, and for other purposes.
  • S.Res. 454 - A resolution relative to the death of Zell Bryan Miller, the former Governor and Senator of the State of Georgia.
  • S.Res. 455 - A resolution relative to the death of the Honorable Daniel K. Akaka, Senator from the State of Hawaii.


Legislation co-sponsored:

  • .S. 2416 - National Guard and Reserves Benefits Parity Act
  • S.Res. 454 - A resolution relative to the death of Zell Bryan Miller, the former Governor and Senator of the State of Georgia.
  • S.Res. 455 - A resolution relative to the death of the Honorable Daniel K. Akaka, Senator from the State of Hawaii.


Legislation co-sponsored:

  • H.R. 1876 - Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act of 2017
  • H.R. 1676 - Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act
  • H.R. 3956 - STARS Act
  • H.R. 5468 - To amend chapter 7 of title 5, United States Code, to provide for certain limitations on judicial review of agency actions, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 1409 - Cancer Drug Parity Act of 2017


Legislation sponsored:

  • H.R. 5463 - To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow a credit against income tax for equity investments in research intensive small business concerns, to provide for the proper tax treatment of personal service income earned in pass-thru entities, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

  • H.R. 4906 - Ensuring Full Participation in the Census Act of 2018
  • H.R. 4548 - WAGE Act
  • H.R. 5359 - 2020 Census IDEA Act
  • H.R. 2055 - Lifetime Income Disclosure Act
  • H.R. 3207 - Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act
  • H.R. 5467 - To amend title 10, United States Code, to extend certain morale, welfare, and recreation privileges to certain veterans and their caregivers, to authorize the appropriation of funds for the purpose of improving the electronic physical access control system used by military commissaries and exchanges, and for other purposes.
  • H.J.Res. 107 - Proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
  • H.Con.Res. 117 - Recognizing the significance of Equal Pay Day to illustrate the disparity between wages paid to men and women.
  • H.R. 5132 - Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Economic Exclusion Act


Legislation co-sponsored:

  • H.R. 3528 - Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act
  • H.R. 4379 - Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act of 2017
  • H.R. 1861 - Larry Doby Congressional Gold Medal Act
  • H.R. 5108 - No Tax Breaks for Outsourcing Act
  • H.R. 5216 - DISARM Act
  • H.Con.Res. 117 - Recognizing the significance of Equal Pay Day to illustrate the disparity between wages paid to men and women.
  • H.Res. 199 - Recognizing the self determination of Gibraltar to determine its status as a British Overseas Territory.
  • H.R. 3010 - Promoting Good Cyber Hygiene Act of 2017
  • H.R. 4941 - Keep Our Pets Safe Act of 2018
  • H.R. 5292 - 2020 Census Accountability Act
  • H.R. 5339 - Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act of 2018
  • H.R. 5464 - Pink Tax Repeal Act


Legislation co-sponsored:

  • H.R. 2315 - To posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to each of Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, J. Christopher Stevens, and Sean Smith in recognition of their contributions to the Nation.
  • H.R. 2095 - Fair Pay Act of 2017
  • H.R. 2418 - Pay Equity for All Act of 2017
  • H.R. 959 - Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2017
  • H.Res. 817 - Promoting and supporting the goals and ideals of the Fair Housing Act and recognizing April 2018 as Fair Housing Month, which includes bringing attention to the discrimination faced by everyday Americans in the United States in housing and housing-related transactions on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, familial status, disability, and religion.