Nevada House Democrat likely gains subcommittee chairmanship after midterms

With the passing of the election comes a reorganization of Congress and Nevada’s congressional delegation will see its fortunes rise in the House, where Democrats will be in control, but will lose some clout in the Republican-run Senate after losing its only member in the majority.

Nevada Democrats held onto the four House seats they had before the midterms. The one House Republican, Rep. Mark Amodei, held on to his seat, and will be in the minority.

Rep. Dina Titus, one of the four House Democrats and the longest-serving member of the delegation, is expected to become the chairman of one of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee subcommittees, putting her in a prime spot if Congress takes up an infrastructure bill. President Donald Trump named an infrastructure package as a possible area of agreement with Democrats following the midterm elections following the shift in power in the House.

In the Senate, Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who has been named chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, is angling for a seat on the Finance Committee. Republican Sen. Dean Heller has served on the panel, and Cortez Masto hopes to keep Nevada represented on the tax panel with in the wake of Heller losing to Rep. Jacky Rosen.

The Nevada Independent talked with Nevada’s congressional members and their offices about the committees on which they want to serve for the 116th Congress, the two-year legislative session that begins in January. 

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto

The Nevada Democrat has served on six committees in her first Congress, which is two more than any of the Democratic freshmen also elected in 2016, giving her a broad portfolio of issues over which she has jurisdiction.

“Every single one of them, I am fortunate to be on to fight for issues that are important to Nevada,” she said recently.

But she wants a spot on the Finance Committee, which would allow her, among other things, to be at the table to help develop a plan to raise tax revenue to pay for any infrastructure bill.

“That was on the top of my wish list when I first became a United States senator,” Cortez Masto said of joining the committee.

While there are two openings on the Democratic side of the panel created by the departures of Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who lost their races, she was unsure whether she would win a slot given all the jockeying among senators for the position. She also has little seniority in the Senate, having only arrived in 2017.

The downside if she joins the panel is that she may have to give up a seat on one of the top committees on which she currently sits, including the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, or the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

She also serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, an important panel for the state due to its oversight of energy resources and development, nuclear energy, public lands and surface mining.

As a member of the Senate Rules and Administration Committees, she helps oversee federal elections, Senate procedures, rules, and buildings, and assists in the planning of the presidential inauguration.

She also sits on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and the Senate Committee on Aging.

Two years ago, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer announced committee assignments in late December.

Sen.-elect Jacky Rosen

Rosen, a Democrat, has requested posts on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

“I want to continue the work I’ve been doing in the House as a Member of the House Armed Services and Space, Science and Technology Committees, and I hope to continue serving on the Senate committees with similar jurisdiction,” Rosen said in a statement provided by her office. “It’s my hope that I will be able to sit on committees where I can be an effective advocate for Nevada’s servicemembers and military bases, and for critical investments in clean energy jobs and STEM [short for Science Technology, Engineering and Math] education for our kids.”

Rosen also said that she is working with leadership to find other committees where she can be most effective for the state. Possibilities include the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions [HELP] Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, according to her office.

Sitting on the HELP Committee would give Rosen a seat at the table as Congress looks to address health care and mandatory coverage by insurance companies of pre-existing conditions, an issue on which she campaigned heavily.

A post on Appropriations would allow her to look after the funding interests of the state, such as the budget for the Department of Interior, which sets policy on federal lands.

Rep. Dina Titus

The dean of the delegation, Titus is expected to be the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee.

The Nevada Democrat said recently that the panel has jurisdiction over the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is important to the state as climate change and resulting wildfires threaten Nevada.

“That will be fun to have a gavel there,” she said, adding that the committee will play a key role in crafting any infrastructure bill, which could help advance Interstate 11, the proposed highway connecting Las Vegas to Phoenix. Titus is a co-chair of the I-11 Caucus. 

She also serves on the Aviation, Highways, and Transit Subcommittee, and the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee. 

She said she has no interest in moving off of any of the committees on which she serves because of the seniority she’s built up.

“If you start over at another committee, you start over at the bottom,” Titus said.

She is also a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where she sits on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee, and the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee.

Titus said she really likes serving on the panel as a political scientist, a subject she taught at UNLV. But she noted that Las Vegas has an international and diverse population that hosts people from all over the world. So serving on the committee, as well as the transportation panel “makes sense.”

“We’re an international city,” Titus said of Las Vegas.

She is also a member of the Senior Whip Team and she expects to keep her position on the Steering and Policy Committee, which makes decisions on chairmanships that are recommended to the full caucus. That’s expected to take place in January.

Titus plans to support Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi for speaker. Pelosi is fighting an effort to deny her the votes need to win the speakership on the House floor, an election that is expected to take place in January.

Rep. Mark Amodei

The state’s lone House Republican, Amodei, expects to stay on the Appropriations Committee, where he has served since late 2013.

“That’s going to be my request,” Amodei said recently.

Under House GOP rules, members who serve on the panel typically don’t sit on other committees. When he joined the spending panel, Amodei left his posts on the Natural Resources Committee, the Judiciary Committee and the Veterans Affairs Committee.

There can be exceptions to that rule, though, and he is considering possibly requesting to join the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, with an eye to getting a seat on the panel’s Interior, Energy and Environment Subcommittee.

“I still have the door a little bit open for maybe asking to do that,” Amodei said, but he added that he is reluctant because he doesn’t want to gain a seat if someone has to leave the panel. “I don’t think I am going to ask for it, but I want to give it a little more thought.”

There is one opening. Florida Republican Rep. Dennis Ross, a member of the panel, did not seek re-election.

Failing that, Amodei believes he still has direct access to the Interior Department—an important agency for Nevada because of its regulation of public lands—by virtue of his position on the Appropriations Committee. He sits on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee, which writes the agency’s budget every year.

He also serves on the Financial Services and General Government and Legislative Branch subcommittees.

Rep.-elect Susie Lee

Newly elected Lee, a Democrat, is exploring her options for committee assignments.

“I am sort of in flux right now,” she said recently, deferring to other members of the delegation.

She said serving on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is on her wish list, but with Titus on the committee she does not think she’ll get it.

She has asked to join the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Education and labor issues including pensions, wages, civil rights and equal opportunity.

“Student debt is a big issue for me, so I hope I can make some change on Education and Workforce on that,” she said.

She’s also interested in the Armed Services Committee, which writes the annual defense policy bill. The House Veterans Affairs Committee is also on her list.

Looking ahead, Lee said she eventually wants to serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a much sought-after committee with a broad portfolio that includes health care, technology, the environment and an has its own investigation and oversight subcommittee.

Lee said she also looks forward to working on campaign finance reform, gun safety and immigration reform.

Lee has not said whether she would support Pelosi’s bid for speaker.

Rep.-elect Steven Horsford

In 2018, Horsford, a Democrat, won his seat back in a rematch from the 2014 election. 

He retains the seniority from the committees he served on in his previous stint in Congress.

“Fortunately, I have seniority from my prior service,” Horsford said recently, though he left open the possibility that he may try for a committee on which he did not previously serve.

“Whatever I serve on, it’s going to be to help my district and the people in Nevada,” he added.

He previously served on the House Homeland Security Committee, the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

A year into his first term, though, he won a spot on the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees banking, insurance and related industries. In order to move to financial services, he had to give up the natural resources and homeland security slots.

“At a minimum, I hope to go back to the committees I was on; there are other opportunities too,” he said, declining to name what those are.

The financial services panel could be an attractive option given its jurisdiction over Wall Street. The oversight panel could also be desirable given that it is poised to conduct a raft of investigations into President Donald Trump’s administration and businesses.

In his previous term, Horsford also served as an assistant whip, and said he would be interested in doing it again. He declined to say whether he would support Pelosi’s bid for speaker.