Indy DC Download: House Democrats pass a bill to protect elections from foreign interference, Amodei snubbed by Trump campaign

With the 2020 election nearly a year away, House Democrats last week passed legislation to require local, state and federal campaigns to report to the authorities any foreign efforts to interfere with elections. 

That vote came as Senate Democrats failed to pass legislation blocking a recently promulgated federal regulation to prevent state and local governments from getting around a cap on deducting state and local income tax.

All of the state’s Democratic representatives voted for the election-protection bill, formally known as the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy Act, or SHIELD Act. The measure passed 227 to 181 with no Republicans voting for the bill, which is unlikely to be considered by the GOP-run Senate.

“In 2016, foreign adversaries tried to manipulate our elections – and we know they’re already trying again. We must protect our democracy from foreign interference. That’s why I just voted to pass the #SHIELDAct,” said Rep. Dina Titus on Twitter

Republican Rep. Mark Amodei did not vote on the bill, or any legislation considered Wednesday. His office did not respond to requests for comment Friday. 

But his office earlier in the week said he would have opposed the measure because “it mandates federal overreach in elections.”

Amodei said he had concerns that the bill would give the U.S. attorney general the ability to interfere in state or local elections. His office also noted that the legislation would not prevent some of the strategies used in the 2016 election, including the use of troll farms.

Ukraine fallout

House action on the SHIELD Act comes as Trump’s 2020 campaign did not ask Amodei to be a Nevada campaign chair.

Amodei had been approached by the campaign earlier in the year to be a campaign chair just as he had been in the 2016 election.

But on Tuesday, the campaign instead named former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, Republican Senate Leader James Settelmeyer and Republican Assembly Leader Robin Titus as his Nevada campaign chairs.

Amodei, who in a statement Wednesday said he had not heard from the campaign, chalked it up to certain media coverage, but did not specify which outlet or story. His support for congressional oversight on President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine was initially taken for support for impeachment, which he has never supported.

House Democrats in September launched an official impeachment inquiry into whether the president pressured Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election against a political rival, his withholding of military aid and a White House meeting to Ukraine and possible efforts to cover up his actions. Amodei has been critical of that process. 

On Thursday, the Club for Growth announced that Laxalt led Amodei in a hypothetical primary, according to a poll released by the conservative group.

The group, which all but urged Laxalt to enter the race, said that Amodei had supported impeachment, which he does not.

For his part, Laxalt told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he was not interested in running against Amodei.

House Republicans on Monday sought to force a vote on a resolution censuring Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and one of the leaders of the Democrats’ impeachment effort. Amodei was a co-sponsor of the resolution.

But Democrats essentially killed the measure by voting to table it on a 218 to 185 vote with all Republicans voting against the motion to table.

And, like most Republicans, Amodei has had concerns about Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Northern Syria. But he has given the president the benefit of the doubt to wait and see if the latest strategy is adequate to protect the Kurds, U.S. allies that helped in the fight against ISIS Islamic terrorists, from an invasion by Turkey.

Trump announced Tuesday that he was lifting sanctions on Turkey in exchange for an extended cease-fire in Syria. He also said he would be deploying troops to secure oil fields in Eastern Syria rather than the full withdrawal he initially ordered. 

Senate SALT rule vote

In the Senate, both Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen voted in favor of a resolution that would have blocked the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury rule preventing state and local governments from using charitable tax credit programs to get around the $10,000 limit on deducting state and local taxes (SALT) from federal taxes. The measure failed 43 to 52, with all but one Democrat backing the legislation. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was the only Republican to vote for the resolution.

A spokeswoman for Rosen said the rule helps middle-class taxpayers who choose to itemize their returns and run up against the cap. She also noted that the SALT deduction, which includes sales tax, allows taxpayers to avoid being taxed twice on the same income.

“Along with a bipartisan group of 43 Senators, Senator Rosen voted for the resolution overturning the IRS’s regulation pertaining to state and local sales tax,” Rosen’s office said. “She believes that middle-class families should not be taxed twice on the same income, nor should they be penalized for itemizing their deductions, including counting sales tax paid on major purchases.”

The SALT cap was imposed by the 2017 tax reform law, pushed through by Republicans and Trump, and hit taxpayers hard in states with high taxes such as New York, New Jersey, and California. 

Those states sought to get around the cap by creating new state and local charitable tax credit programs. Under those programs, taxpayers whose tax liabilities exceed the cap could make donations to the new programs, receive tax credits that reduce their state tax liabilities and receive a federal charitable deduction for the donation that then could be written off.

Republicans argued that the Democratic resolution would help upper-income earners in big cities at the expense of more rural America, which they contend got short shrift under President Barack Obama.

“Republicans didn’t think it was fair that middle-class working families in the states the Obama economy left behind had to subsidize the tax bills of rich people in high-tax states, without limit,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. 

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York argued that along with hurting the middle class, the cap reduces an important incentive for charitable giving. 

Miscellany 

Rep. Steven Horsford helped pass legislation out of the House Ways and Means Committee that includes a bill he introduced earlier this month to establish a $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drugs under Medicare Part D, which is designed to help Medicare beneficiaries pay for prescription drugs. 

“In my district, there are 87,000 people enrolled in Medicare Part D and 471,000 people enrolled in private health insurance – all of whom stand to benefit from the proposals discussed in this committee today,” Horsford said at the markup.

But the measure is not likely to become law with Republicans objecting to the measure.

Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the panel’s top Republican called the bill “dead on arrival in the Senate” and criticized the measure for a lack of input from the GOP and raised concerns that the bill would stifle innovation.

Rep. Susie Lee gave a very personal speech in support of the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act, which would require an employer with 15 or more employees to make reasonable accommodations for job applicants or employees based on pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.  

At a hearing on the bill, Lee talked of having “several unsuccessful pregnancies” and spending three months on bed rest before going into premature labor with her son.

She said factors including avoiding heavy lifting and staying off your feet can sometimes be the difference between having a healthy baby, going into premature labor or even having a miscarriage.  

“In Nevada, over 64 percent of women are the primary or co-breadwinner, and these women are more likely to work low-wage jobs,” Lee said. “A woman in Nevada is over 60 percent more likely to work a low-wage job than a man.” 

“When pregnant women are forced to leave their jobs because she didn’t receive reasonable accommodations at work, it’s their families that are forced to live without health insurance or income during a time when they need it most,” she continued. 

Lastly, Titus and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio sent a subpoena to Emily Murphy, the head of the General Services Administration, which oversees the federal government’s real estate, for documents, including financial records in connections with the Trump Hotel in Washington D.C.

Titus and DeFazio are leading an investigation into whether Trump violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clauses with the operation of the Trump hotel in Washington, D.C. Murphy had until Nov. 4 to produce the material requested, according to the subpoena. 

“Our committee just issued a subpoena for documents related to Trump’s D.C. hotel because this Administration’s stonewalling left us with no other choice,” Titus tweeted Friday. “The Emoluments Clauses are not ‘phony.’ We will not allow President Trump’s lawlessness and corruption to go unchecked.”

Earlier in the week, Trump called the clause “phony” when he talked to reporters about his decision not to reverse himself and not to award his hotel in Florida the contract to host the 2020 G7 meeting, an annual summit of the world’s top seven economic nations.

Titus dismissed news Friday that the Trump Organization was considering a sale of the hotel.

“President Trump has made money from people looking to curry favor by booking hotel rooms and hosting private events,” Titus said in a statement. “Selling this hotel will not change the fact that President Trump has ignored the Constitution for nearly three years and he continues to encourage corruption in his own backyard.”

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.

SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO

Legislation sponsored:

S. 2648 – A bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to improve the benchmarking process for the Medicare Shared Savings Program.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S. 2659 – A bill to address the needs of workers in industries likely to be impacted by rapidly evolving technologies.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation co-sponsored:

S. 2670 – A bill to award career pathways innovation grants to local educational agencies and consortia of local educational agencies, to provide technical assistance within the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education to administer the grants and support the local educational agencies with the preparation of grant applications and management of grant funds, to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to support community college and industry partnerships, and for other purposes.

REP. DINA TITUS

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 4809 – To require the White House and each agency to provide an official website in the five most commonly used languages in the United States other than English as determined by the Census data and any other languages determined to be appropriate by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and for other purposes.

H.R. 4782 – To establish a national commission on online platforms and homeland security, and for other purposes.

REP. SUSIE LEE

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 4837 – To prohibit Federal agencies from using funds for grants related to the history of wine in countries outside of the United States, whether insects are attracted to artificial light, or the levels of stress on humans when discussing politics in social situations, and for other purposes.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 4836 To build safer, thriving communities, and save lives by investing in effective violence reduction initiatives.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 4768 – To amend section 511 of the Social Security Act to reduce maternal mortality by continuing to invest in evidence-based home visiting models that are addressing the social determinants of maternal health and morbidity.