Indy DC Download: Senate GOP blocks Jan. 6 commission, chamber pauses work on tech innovation bill

Senate Republicans killed legislation to establish an independent commission to investigate the causes of the Jan. 6 insurrection in the U.S. Capitol after they struck a deal with Senate Democrats to finish consideration of a technology innovation measure after the Memorial Day recess.

Democrats in Nevada’s congressional delegation had strong words for Republicans who opposed the commission.

“The only reason to oppose an independent fact-finding commission is if you are afraid of the facts,” Rep. Dina Titus (R-NV) said. “This is a disgrace to our democracy.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for urging his fellow Republicans to oppose it.

“The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was a truly painful day,” Cortez Masto said. “Why is Mitch McConnell blocking a bipartisan commission to investigate what happened? The brave law enforcement officers who defended us and the Capitol deserve so much better.”

The vote on the commission came after the Senate voted on a series of amendments to the United States Innovation and Competition Act, which would provide about $250 billion for technology research that will help the nation better compete with China. 

While no votes were held in the House, members participated remotely in hearings, including Titus, who took part in a hearing on Russia and how the nation sees climate change as a geopolitical advantage. 

1/6 Commission

The Senate voted 54 to 35 to open debate on the measure to establish the commission, but 60 votes were needed to overcome a filibuster. All Democrats that were present voted for the measure. Six Republicans joined with them, short of the 10 needed given the current 50-50 party split in the chamber.

McConnell said he opposed the commission because he believes that it is politically motivated and is not needed given the other investigations underway in Congress and the Department of Justice.

“I do not believe the additional, extraneous “commission” that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing,” McConnell said Thursday on the Senate floor. “Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to.”

After voting, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) said part of the rationale for the commission is to learn lessons and improve security at the Capitol complex, which is a symbol of freedom around the world.

“It shouldn't be political because this is about the integrity and the safety of our Capitol,” Rosen said. “The world is watching this bill and the United States Congress, it stands for something.”

Rosen said she felt for Gladys Sicknick, the mother of the late U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who visited with 16 GOP senators Thursday to urge them to support the bill. Sicknick suffered two strokes a day after the riot, though District of Columbia authorities said he died of natural causes. 

“I can't imagine being a mother; the pain and the strength it took to come and look people in the eye and say, ‘Please honor my son so something like this doesn't happen again,” Rosen continued.

Cortez Masto said that the defeat of the measure does not honor the Capitol Police.

"It's disappointing," Cortez Masto said. "We were all here on Jan. 6. We should be supporting, not only upholding the rule of law and uncovering through an appropriately independent investigation, not only what happened but how we prevent it.

The bill would “ensure that our Capitol Police, who stand guard for us every single day... have the resources and the support they need to ensure that they can also do their job and that we respect what they're doing,” Cortez Masto continued.

The House may still form a select committee, a special-purpose panel, that could investigate the insurrection. But it's unlikely that Republicans would participate and then would question its impartiality. 

Innovation

The Senate is poised to approve the United States Innovation and Competition Act when it returns from the Memorial Day recess the week of June 7. The package includes about $190 billion for various provisions to strengthen domestic technology markets to better compete globally, including $81 billion for the National Science Foundation over five years.

The legislation includes $16.9 billion for the Department of Energy for research and development and energy-related supply chains in key technology areas. NASA would get $10 billion in connection with the Artemis program that plans to land the first woman on the moon.

The bill would also provide $49.5 billion over five years to help address the shortage of semiconductors, which are now in so many products that demand has outstripped supply.

Rosen spoke highly of the bill, which has bipartisan support.

“It puts investment in basic research, in public private partnerships, in things that we need to do to be competitive,” Rosen said. She drew an analogy to the Global Positioning System, which was slowly built up by launching a series of satellites over decades for military use. 

“That was developed over time,” Rosen said. “Now who among us doesn't have Google Maps. So that research, done years and years prior, was really able to be put to use. And so those are the kinds of things we have to think about. And that's what a lot of this basic kind of research does.”

Elko Cemetery

Cortez Masto cheered an announcement by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that the agency has selected a site for a national veterans cemetery in Elko.

“Elko’s veterans and community leaders have been waiting for this day for almost 10 years,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “The approval of this cemetery has been a longtime priority of mine, and I can’t wait to see construction begin on a site that will finally allow Elko to establish this much-needed veterans cemetery for the region.”

The VA plans to acquire 15 acres from the city to construct the cemetery. The initial construction will consist of five acres of burial ground, with the intent to hold 10 additional acres in reserve for veterans in the future. It will serve more than 4,000 veterans and be the largest cemetery ever established under the VA's Rural Initiative. 

Elko is one of eight places chosen by the VA to build national cemeteries under the initiative. The closest veterans cemetery currently available for Elko regional veterans and their families is over 200 miles away in either Reno or Salt Lake City.

Gil Hernandez, commander of Elko’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2350 and member of the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery Advisory Committee, also praised the announcement.

“This cemetery means so much to our veteran population and their families, thanks to her advocacy with the VA we are now able to complete a new, nationally recognized burial ground for the men and women who have served our nation in uniform,” Hernandez said.

Miscellany

At a hearing on Russia, Titus asked experts whether the U.S. could work with the Vladimir Putin-led state on climate change. She raised, for example, whether Russia could be held accountable along with nations that joined the Paris Climate Accord.

Yuval Weber, who teaches at Texas A&M, said that Russia views climate change as geopolitically beneficial.

“It’s better growing seasons inside of Russia, which is a cold country,” Weber said. “It’s greater access to the mineral resources in the Arctic itself and if the Arctic becomes a navigable zone, well then they can militarize it and make it something which they are a founding member of...something to negotiate with the United States and others, akin to nuclear weapons. So they are actually all in on climate change being a good thing.”

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) signed onto a letter, with more than 100 others House members urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to provide more funding to the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

RRF,  which provides grants to restaurants hurt by the pandemic, received more than 362,000 applications that requested about $75 billion in funding, nearly tripling the initial $26.8 billion Congress provided by Congress.

“We urge you to work together with House Small Business Committee leadership and the SBA to bring a bill to the floor that would allocate funds so every eligible applicant can receive assistance,” the letter said. “Our economy is still emerging from the immense damage of the COVID-19 crisis and our hardest hit small businesses, such as restaurants, bars, and food trucks, are still navigating the impacts of over a year of lockdown orders and limits to capacity among other health requirements.”

Titus and Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) were also signatories.

Horsford addressed the Legislature last week and highlighted the $4 billion the state received from the American Rescue Plan. He also touted 100 percent coverage of COBRA health insurance premiums for unemployed or furloughed workers and increased benefits under the law's child tax credit provision.

“The American Rescue Plan allocates around $4 billion to help Nevada’s state, county, and local governments get back on track,” Horsford said.

He also pointed to bills he hopes to help enact this legislative session. These include the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act, which would provide a series of hospitality and tourism industry tax breaks. 

The measure includes a new tax credit that would let taxpayers write off the cost of attending or hosting a convention, business meeting or trade show between 2022 and 2024. It would also create a credit to encourage middle-class travel. The credit would be worth 50 percent of qualified travel expenses up to a maximum of $1,500 per household plus $500 for each qualifying child.

Horsford wants to pass the SAFE Banking Act, which would give the marijuana industry access to banks and financial services. He also backs a bill to remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act and expunge previous marijuana convictions. He is working to pass police reform legislation, a bill to protect about 2 million acres of public lands in Southern Nevada and immigration reform.

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.1928 – A bill to amend the National and Community Service Act of 1990 to establish a national climate service corps to help communities withstand and respond to changes in the Earth's climate with respect to natural disasters, and for other purposes.

S.1913 – A bill to modify the penalties for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1993.

S.1902 – A bill to empower communities to establish a continuum of care for individuals experiencing mental or behavioral health crisis, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.1947 – A bill to authorize the position of Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Travel and Tourism, to statutorily establish the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, and for other purposes.

S.1942 – A bill to standardize the designation of National Heritage Areas, and for other purposes.

S.1924 – A bill to direct the President to enforce the intellectual property provisions of the Economic and Trade Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of China, and for other purposes.

S.1918 – A bill to support the reuse and recycling of batteries and critical minerals, and for other purposes.

S.1912 – A bill to clarify the rights of certain persons who are held or detained at a port of entry or at any facility overseen by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

S.1901 – A bill to amend the Act of June 18, 1934, to reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian Tribes, and for other purposes.

S.1900 – A bill to amend the Trade Act of 1974 to modify the eligibility requirements for the Generalized System of Preferences to strengthen worker protections and to ensure that beneficiary developing countries afford equal rights and protection under the law, regardless of gender, and for other purposes.

S.1891 – A bill to transfer and limit Executive Branch authority to suspend or restrict the entry of a class of aliens.

S.1885 – A bill to provide funds to assess the availability, accelerate the deployment, and improve the sustainability of advanced communications services and communications infrastructure in rural America, and for other purposes.

S.1859 – A bill to amend title 37, United States Code, to require the Secretary concerned to pay a member in the reserve component of an Armed Force a special bonus or incentive pay in the same amount as a member in the regular component of that Armed Force.

S.1856 – A bill to enhance the security operations of the Transportation Security Administration and stability of the transportation security workforce by applying the personnel system under title 5, United States Code, to employees of the Transportation Security Administration, and for other purposes.

S.1848 – A bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), and marital status in the administration and provision of child welfare services, to improve safety, well-being, and permanency for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning foster youth, and for other purposes.

S.1841 – A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to revise and extend projects relating to children and to provide access to school-based comprehensive mental health programs.

S.1819 – A bill to support State, Tribal, and local efforts to remove access to firearms from individuals who are a danger to themselves or others pursuant to court orders for this purpose.

S.1802 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to expand and modify employer educational assistance programs, and for other purposes.

S.1795 – A bill to address mental health issues for youth, particularly youth of color, and for other purposes.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation sponsored:

S.1884 – A bill to ensure that fixed broadband internet access service assisted by any Federal broadband support program meets a minimum level of service.

S.1881 – A bill to reauthorize and improve a grant program to assist institutions of higher education in establishing, maintaining, improving, and operating Student Veteran Centers.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.1943 – A bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to improve access to, and utilization of, bone mass measurement benefits under part B of the Medicare program by establishing a minimum payment amount under such part for bone mass measurement.

S.1942 – A bill to standardize the designation of National Heritage Areas, and for other purposes.

S.1891 – A bill to transfer and limit Executive Branch authority to suspend or restrict the entry of a class of aliens.

S.1868 – A bill to amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to require that equitable distribution of assistance include equitable distribution to Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations, to increase amounts reserved for allotment to Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations under certain circumstances, and to reserve amounts for migrant programs under certain circumstances, and to provide for a Government Accountability Office report on child abuse and neglect in American Indian Tribal communities.

S.1864 – A bill to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to require a section on reproductive rights in the Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, and for other purposes.

S.1856 – A bill to enhance the security operations of the Transportation Security Administration and stability of the transportation security workforce by applying the personnel system under title 5, United States Code, to employees of the Transportation Security Administration, and for other purposes.

S.1848 – A bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), and marital status in the administration and provision of child welfare services, to improve safety, well-being, and permanency for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning foster youth, and for other purposes.

S.1810 – A bill to provide incentives to physicians to practice in rural and medically underserved communities, and for other purposes.

S.1795 – A bill to address mental health issues for youth, particularly youth of color, and for other purposes.

REP. DINA TITUS

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 3547 – To amend title 23, United States Code, to encourage widespread and proper use of child safety seats, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 3552 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide that floor plan financing includes the financing of certain trailers and campers.

H.R. 3485 – To impose sanctions on foreign persons responsible for violations of internationally recognized human rights against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) individuals, and for other purposes.

REP. MARK AMODEI

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 3537 – To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to support research on, and expanded access to, investigational drugs for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and for other purposes.