Indy DC Download: Congress approves Juneteenth federal holiday as House repeals 2002 Iraq war authorization

Congress voted to create a new national holiday to celebrate Juneteenth as the House voted to repeal the 2002 authorization that allowed President George W. Bush to go to war in Iraq.

Those votes came as the Senate confirmed six of President Joe Biden's nominees, including Tommy Beaudreau, now the number-two official at the Department of Interior. Beaudreau's nomination, approved on an 88 to 9 vote, was a compromise after a reversed course on Biden’s initial choice for the position.

Original nominee Elizabeth Klein, who helped challenge President Donald Trump’s energy policies as deputy director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law, was viewed as a threat by senators from fossil-fuel states, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

Both Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Sen. Jacky Rosen supported Beaudreau’s nomination. The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which oversees public lands around the nation, controls about 67 percent of Nevada for various activities, including grazing, recreation, mining, wild horses and conservation.

Members of the congressional delegation also participated in a series of hearings, including one led by Cortez Masto’s public lands subcommittee. The panel took a look at several pieces of legislation, including her Clark County Lands bill and Ruby Mountains Protection Act.   

Juneteenth

The House on Thursday approved a bill, 415 to 14, that established a new federal holiday to celebrate Juneteenth, which commemorates the effective end of slavery in the U.S. The African-American community had celebrated the holiday going back to its origin, when slaves in Galveston, Texas, were finally told that they had been freed on June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The new holiday’s name combines June with the last few letters of nineteenth. 

All members of the delegation supported the legislation. The Senate approved the measure Tuesday by unanimous consent.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), who serves as first vice-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, attended the bill's signing ceremony Thursday at the White House. 

Horsford said he hopes the momentum can carry over to passing an expansion of voting rights, a broad infrastructure package and other pieces of the Democrats’ agenda he argues will help African Americans and others.  

“I call on my fellow members of Congress to join me and take the next step—making real change for Black Americans,” Horsford said. “With renewed energy from today’s victory, we must redouble our efforts to improve police accountability, protect voting rights, and pass a jobs bill that allows every family to thrive.”

The holiday this year falls on a Saturday, so federal workers got Friday off in observance. But Gov. Steve Sisolak said he did not have authority, without action by the Legislature, to require the Friday observance in the state. The legislature wrapped up its session in May. However, Sisolak did sign a proclamation naming June 19, 2021, as Juneteenth National Freedom Day in Nevada. 

On Saturday, he’ll join the DISCOVERY Children’s Museum in Las Vegas for a flag-raising ceremony and poetry reading by Clark County Poet Laureate Vogue Robinson in honor of Juneteenth. 

“I encourage all Nevadans to join me in observing Juneteenth this Saturday to commemorate the day when the message was delivered to the last American slaves that they were now free," Sisolak said in a release. 

AUMF

The House voted to repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that has been used to continue military operations in the Middle East on a 269 to 161 vote, with 49 Republicans voting with Democrats. 

All Nevada’s House Democrats supported the repeal. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) did not. 

Many Republicans opposed the repeal. Led by House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX), they argued that, without replacing the AUMF, the repeal would hinder the president's ability to protect the nation from terrorist threats.

The 2002 AUMF gave President George W. Bush the OK to fight the Iraq war. But it has since been used to justify other military activity, including the assassination of an Iranian general in 2020. 

McCaul cited the assassination as evidence that the AUMF is needed to counter threats posed by Iran proxy-fighters in Iraq unless replaced with something more targeted.

“The Biggest threat in Iraq is not Saddam Hussein,” McCaul said. “It is the Iran-sponsored terrorist groups attacking our diplomats, our soldiers, our embassy and our citizens.” 

“They cannot be targeted using the 2001 AUMF because they are not associated with the forces of Al Qaeda, the Taliban or ISIS,” McCaul continued. “But they can be targeted using the 2002 AUMF.”

Supporters of the repeal, such as Rep. Dina Titus, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said it would allow Congress to have a more significant role in deciding issues of war and peace. Presidents since Bush have increasingly relied on the AUMFs to expand executive powers on using force.

“It’s long since time,” Titus said of repealing the AUMF. “If you want to have authorization to do something, it should be timely and specific.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate would consider the repeal later this year. 

Clark County lands

Cortez Masto held her first hearing as chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Public Lands, Forests and Mining Subcommittee. At the hearing, 14 bills, including the Clark County Lands Bill and the Ruby Mountains Protection Act, were discussed.

Nada Culver, BLM deputy director of policy and programs, said the Biden administration “supports the goals of the [Clark Lands Bill], as they align with administration priorities.”

In written testimony, Culver said that the agency had a few issues with the bill, though, including providing adequate time to do land surveys and other technical clarifications. 

Both BLM and Cortez Masto said they plan to iron those out.

“BLM’s testimony demonstrated that they support the [Clark lands] bill, and that they understand the needs of our local municipalities,” Cortez Masto’s office said. “The Senator looks forward to working with the BLM and relevant stakeholders to work out these technical issues.”

Cortez Masto hopes to get the bills through the committee in the “coming months.” 

BLM also said it supports the goal of the Ruby Mountains Protection Act, which would prohibit further oil and gas leasing.

Marci Henson, the director of the Clark County Department of Environment and Sustainability, also testified. She said that the Clark lands bill would allow the county to plan for the 820,000 new residents expected by 2060.

The county consists of 5.2 million acres, but 89 percent is administered by a federal land management agency or the Department of Defense. The majority of land, more than 2.6 million acres, is administered by BLM.

“Due to this federal land ownership in Southern Nevada, our options for planning and development are very constrained and require significant coordination with federal land management agencies,” Henson said.

The bill, as introduced, would open up a large stretch of federal public land running south along the I-15 corridor toward Jean and the California border, for potential commercial and residential development. It also would open up public land near Indian Springs, Laughlin and the Moapa Valley.

The legislation also proposes conserving about 2 million acres of public land. 

The bill would establish 337,406 million acres of wilderness in the county, and protect about 1.3 million acres of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness. 

The refuge is the largest in the contiguous U.S. and has faced recent threats with the Air Force looking to expand a training range. The bill also would set aside about 350,000 acres of land for wildlife habitat.

The Sierra Club's Toiyabe chapter and the Greater Basin Water Network issued releases during the hearing arguing that the planned development would put more pressure on dwindling water resources and exacerbate extreme heat with more paved surfaces. 

But Cortez Masto's office said that the bill is designed to ensure the growth is sustainable and takes these concerns into account.

"Without a collaborative, locally-focused approach, Clark County's growth would be dangerously unregulated, and uncoordinated," her office said. "Environmentally sensitive land could be sold to developers seeking quick profits who are willing to ignore conservation rules or are outside the County's sustainable growth and climate mitigation plans." 

Cortez Masto’s office also pointed to the endorsement of the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), which serves the Las Vegas metro area. “The Southern Nevada Water Authority strongly endorses this important bill because it helps secure the water resources and facilities that SNWA needs to provide reliable and safe water to our customers for decades to come,” said SNWA General Manager John Entsminger. 

Infrastructure

Congress is waiting on Biden for a decision on a path forward on infrastructure.

A bipartisan group of senators are working on a deal that would provide about $1.2 trillion funding with roughly $600 billion in new spending, and the remaining coming from previously approved spending. But Biden rejected some of the offsets proposed, including indexing the gas tax to inflation, which he said would violate his pledge not to raise taxes on those earning less than $400,000 a year.

Senate Democrats, according to Politico, are also talking about a package — priced at $6 billion — that they could pursue should bipartisan talks break down. 

Democrats would use the reconciliation process, which allows the Senate to approve tax and spending legislation on a simple majority, to pass the mega-spending package. But it's a tricky calculation because, with a 50-50 party split in the Senate, all Democrats would need to support it, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who both have said they want a bipartisan deal on infrastructure.

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) said she too wants a bipartisan deal, though she wouldn’t rule out supporting a Democrat-only drafted package. 

“The devil is in the details,” she said of anything she’ll have to vote on.

“I’m looking for a two-step solution,” Lee, a member of the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus, continued. 

Such a path would include a bipartisan deal on traditional infrastructure and a Democratic reconciliation package that would include extending the child tax credit, funds for child care and other “care economy” programs that the GOP is unlikely to support.

Horsford said he would also prefer a bipartisan deal, but noted a single large package would ensure those "care economy" priorities don't get left behind.

He argued that using reconciliation does not preclude Republicans from supporting the bill, though they would have little political incentive to do so.

But with bipartisan talks underway, Horsford, a member of the Problem Solvers, said he remains hopeful that the "care economy" provisions can be included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill currently being negotiated. 

“I am not convinced that we can't get it in the first package,” Horsford said. 

“I meet with Republicans all the time and they recognize that we can’t only do the component around ‘hard infrastructure.’

“I really want to talk about who this impacts, because it's women and people of color that were the hardest hit during this pandemic, and if we don't have policies that Susie Lee and I are pushing, then we're going to leave a whole segment of our population behind and we can’t do that.”

Miscellany

Lee also voted against the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Disclosure Simplification Act, which was passed by the House 215 to 214. She was one of four Democrats to oppose the bill. 

The measure would require public companies to disclose certain environmental, social, and governance matters in annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Lee said that the bill would add more bureaucratic requirements for businesses just as they are trying to overcome economic headwinds created by the pandemic.

"As Nevada businesses are working to recover from this pandemic and get our economy back on track, this bill adds more unnecessary red tape that would be especially burdensome for smaller companies that don’t have armies of compliance experts and lawyers,” Lee said in a statement from her office. “I remain committed to supporting legislation that more directly strengthens protections for workers, fights climate change, reforms our campaign finance system to make it more transparent, and closes tax loopholes that are often abused by some of the largest corporations."

Also, the Senate Commerce Committee approved a transportation bill Wednesday that included a provision from Rosen designed to improve the travel and tourism industry. The measure included Rosen’s Travel Optimization by Updating and Revitalizing Infrastructure Act, which would update the National Travel and Tourism Infrastructure Strategic Plan with both immediate-term and long-term strategies. Those strategies would guide the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other agencies on infrastructure investments to revive the travel and tourism industries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill also included three amendments offered by Rosen, including a requirement that the DOT conduct a study on travel and tourism to evaluate the agency’s ability to consider criteria in weighing applicants for its grant programs.

The measure approved by the committee, the Surface Transportation Investment Act, would provide $78 billion over five years for rail infrastructure, freight transportation, safety initiatives and transportation-related research and development programs.

“This new funding will help to significantly increase ease of access to transportation in communities in Nevada and across the United States,” Rosen said. 

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 co-sponsored:

S.2128 – A bill to ensure the humane treatment of pregnant women by reinstating the presumption of release and prohibiting shackling, restraining, and other inhumane treatment of pregnant detainees, and for other purposes.

S.2118 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax incentives for increased investment in clean energy, and for other purposes.

S.2115 – A bill to amend title 28, United States Code, to prohibit the exclusion of individuals from service on a Federal jury on account of sexual orientation or gender identity.

S.2094 – A bill to provide for a new building period with respect to the cap on full-time equivalent residents for purposes of payment for graduate medical education costs under the Medicare program for certain hospitals that have established a shortage specialty program.

S.2087 – A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand the membership of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to include veterans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender diverse, gender non-conforming, intersex, or queer.

S.2069 – A bill to expand the Medicaid certified community behavioral health clinic demonstration program and to authorize funding for additional grants to certified community behavioral health clinics.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.2120 – A bill to establish the United States-Israel Artificial Intelligence Center to improve artificial intelligence research and development cooperation.

S.2090 – A bill to prevent a person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime, or received an enhanced sentence for a misdemeanor because of hate or bias in its commission, from obtaining a firearm.

S.2082 – A bill to mitigate drug shortages and provide incentives for maintaining, expanding, and relocating the manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients, excipients, medical diagnostic devices, pharmaceuticals, and personal protective equipment in the United States, and for other purposes.

REP. DINA TITUS

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 3988 – To authorize contributions to the United Nations Population Fund, and for other purposes

H.R. 3938 – To authorize contributions to the United Nations Population Fund, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3930 – To amend title 38, United States Code, to expand the membership of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to include veterans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender diverse, gender non-conforming, intersex, or queer.

H.R. 3929 – Disarm Hate Act

H.R. 3896 – To amend the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act of 2018 to authorize support in high-income economy countries for projects involving development or processing of covered critical materials if such support furthers the national security interests of the United States.

H.R. 3884 – To suspend the provision of security assistance to the Philippines until the Government of the Philippines has made certain reforms to the military and police forces, and for other purposes.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 3974 – To extend the trade adjustment assistance program, and for other purposes.

Indy DC Download: Senate passes tech innovation bill while House takes steps on infrastructure

The Senate approved legislation to spur technological innovation as a House panel approved $547 billion transportation infrastructure legislation that included $54.5 million requested by Nevada's House members for 11 state projects.  

The vote on the Senate innovation bill, also designed to give the U.S. tech industry a leg up against China, came just before Senate Republicans blocked the chamber from taking up Democratic legislation to address the gender pay gap. The motion to proceed to the Paycheck Fairness Act failed 49 to 50; it needed 60 votes to advance. 

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) believes that fixing gender pay equity should be a no-brainer.

“Women make up half of the population,” Rosen said, adding that it’s “fundamental” and essentially a “nonpartisan issue.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) argued that the cause of the pay equity gap is the result of choices made by women, who tend to be the primary caregivers in households. He said the Democratic bill would reduce flexibility, enforce rigid pay scale and open employers up to lawsuits, making it harder for women to be hired. 

Lee called for a Senate vote on a GOP measure, the Working Families Flexibility Act, which would change federal labor law to allow private-sector businesses to offer workers paid time off instead of overtime pay. 

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) objected, arguing that Lee's bill would not guarantee workers could actually use the time earned and that employers would have a month to pay workers if their use of the time off is denied. 

While the House did not hold any roll call votes, the chamber remotely conducted a slew of committee business, including the transportation bill markup.  

Infrastructure

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the infrastructure measure, known as the Invest in America Act, on a 38 to 26 vote after a 19-hour markup session. Only two Republicans on the panel voted for the bill.

The committee’s passage of the legislation begins the House process of passing President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Jobs Plan. Other committees, including the Ways and Means Committee, which oversees tax policy in the House, must still approve its portion of the package. Rep. Steven Horsford is a member of the tax committee, and Rep. Dina Titus sits on the transportation panel.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing to pass a broad infrastructure package by the July 4th recess. Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have said Biden's plan spends too much. They also oppose a provision to raise the corporate tax rate to cover the bill's cost.

A group of GOP Senators, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), broke off talks with Biden last week without reaching a deal.

But a second group of Senate Republicans, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), is negotiating with a group of Democrats to craft a bipartisan infrastructure bill. Collins said last week that the group has a tentative deal that would provide roughly $1.2 trillion with half of that redirected to previously appropriated spending and the rest to new funding. Details still need to be worked out with the White House.

The committee-passed infrastructure bill would provide $547 billion over five years, of which $343 would go to roads and bridges, including $4 billion for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Transit would receive $109 billion, and passenger and freight rail would get $95 billion.

The committee bill included all transportation projects requested by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), Titus and Horsford. Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) did not ask for funding for any transportation projects.

Amodei sought five transportation projects totaling $21 million, including $6 million for the Arlington Ave. bridge over the Truckee River in Reno. That bridge was among a list of 24 in his district deemed to be in poor condition by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s (ARTBA) most recent “Bridge Report.”

Titus requested $20 million for four projects, including $7 million for the Charleston Boulevard underpass in Las Vegas, which is prone to flooding.

“These federal resources will make it easier for Las Vegans and our visitors to get around town,” Titus said in a release.

Horsford asked for $13.5 million for two projects. Most of the funding—$12 million—was for retrofitting street lights in North Las Vegas with energy-efficient LED bulbs. 

Innovation

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Rosen on Tuesday praised Senate passage, on a 68 to 32 vote, of the United States Innovation and Competition Act, which would provide about $200 billion over five years for technology research in order to better compete with China.

Both noted that Nevada had increased its tech industry footprint, including constructing an Apple data center in downtown Reno and the growing Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center (TRIC) in Storey County. TRIC is home to the Tesla Gigafactory and a Switch data center, among other firms.

“Nevada’s technology industry provides thousands of good-paying jobs and will help position our state for a bright future, but we have to make sure our state and nation are prepared to compete in our international economy,” Cortez Masto said adding that bill “will help our state attract additional industries, create more jobs, and boost our economic competitiveness on the world stage.”

The bill includes provisions that Cortez Masto helped secure, including one to beef up protections for research conducted on U.S. soil from international espionage and another to enhance protections for intellectual property. 

Rosen, who serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill, also helped secure provisions in the bill. One would direct the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support rural science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce development through grants for teaching STEM in rural schools. She also helped draft and include language to provide grants for worker education, training, development and entrepreneurship for advanced manufacturing and reauthorizing a program that allows the NSF to work with community colleges. 

Bills

The Senate approved, by unanimous consent, a bill championed by Cortez Masto that would keep private the contents of peer support and peer counseling provided to law enforcement officers. The measure would also require the Department of Justice to develop best practices and professional standards for peer support counseling programs.

“Giving law enforcement officers across Nevada access to quality and confidential mental health counseling services will save lives, reduce the stigma of seeking help, and lead to better policing,” Cortez Masto said in a statement.

Rosen, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee’s tourism subcommittee, and Cortez Masto also last week introduced separate legislation to help revitalize the tourism industry.

Rosen's bill, Travel Optimization by Updating and Revitalizing Infrastructure to Support Mobilization Act, would update the National Travel and Tourism Infrastructure Strategic Plan with immediate-term and long-term strategies. Those strategies would guide the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other agencies on infrastructure investments to revive the travel and tourism industries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By making these additional investments, we can help American travel and tourism get back to creating jobs, drive economic growth, and allow visitors to see and take part in the unique and worthwhile experiences that our communities and our states have to offer,” Rosen said in a statement.

The National Travel and Tourism Infrastructure Strategic Plan was established under the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. The plan, which includes policy recommendations intended to aid the industry, was developed by the DOT in consultation with the National Advisory Committee on Travel and Tourism, state departments of transportation, and other appropriate public and private transportation stakeholders.

DOT published the National Travel and Tourism Infrastructure Strategic Plan in January 2021. The plan is designed to inform policy and investment until 2024. But the plan does not fully consider the fallout from the pandemic because the pandemic and its impacts are still unfolding, Rosen's office said.

The TOURISM Act, which Cortez Masto cosponsored, is endorsed by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority, the Vegas Chamber, the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce, Henderson Chamber of Commerce and the Urban Chamber of Commerce Las Vegas, Rosen's office said.

Cortez Masto also introduced, with a group of four other senators, the Visit America Act to create an assistant secretary position within the Department of Commerce. The secretary would be focused on bolstering America’s travel and tourism industry and coordinating a strategy across federal agencies by establishing annual goals and recommendations.

The bill would “make sure our government is doing everything it can to revitalize our country’s tourism and travel industry in the wake of the pandemic,” Cortez Masto said.

Cortez Masto also reintroduced legislation that would address a shortage of teachers certified to teach the nation’s 5 million students in public schools—or one in ten students—who are English learners (EL).

“There's 32 states that have a shortage of teachers for EL students,” Cortez Masto told The Nevada Independent last week. “That's a lot of states. So this is an area we really have to focus on putting the resources into building that capacity.”

The Reaching English Learners Act, which she introduced in the last legislative session, would create a grant program for colleges and universities to train future teachers to instruct ELs.  

Hearings

Last week, members of the delegation participated in several hearings, including Horsford, who pressed leaders at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over the agency focusing on low-income, minority communities.

“Americans with the highest incomes account for a disproportionately larger share of under-reported taxes, while at the same time, lower income communities, especially black and brown communities, are targeted more by the IRS,” Horsford said at a Ways and Means Committee hearing Thursday. “This is not fair, and it must end.”

Doug O'Donnell, IRS deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, who appeared before the committee, told Horsford that high-income taxpayers are statistically more likely to come under IRS scrutiny. But he agreed that the IRS could do better.

“It's been part of the discussion from the beginning that our coverage on the large multinationals, on the multi-tiered partnerships, on the high wealth is much lower than we think is appropriate,” O’Donnell said.

At a hearing on the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, Rosen discussed with Colonial Chief Executive Joseph Blount a bill she introduced in the last Congress to protect the electrical grid.

Blount told Rosen that her bill, the Cyber Sense Act, could help the pipeline industry.

“I think that’s a great program for electric utilities, and I think that would help our side of the business be more secure and less susceptible to any threats is a great idea,” Blount said.

Rosen's bill would create a voluntary program at the Department of Energy (DOE) to test the cybersecurity of products and technologies intended for use in the nation's bulk-power system, which provides the electricity that supports national defense, emergency services and critical infrastructure. It would also establish a testing process for the products and a reporting process of cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and require DOE to keep a related database on the products.

Miscellany

Rosen last week said she would be willing to vote to get rid of the filibuster to protect “our fundamental rights as Americans.

Her comments came after a Washington Post profile published Wednesday, in which Rosen said she backed reforming the filibuster. Rosen, who is proud of her efforts to work across the aisle with her GOP colleagues, had previously signaled that she would be reluctant, if not unwilling, to vote to get rid of the rule requiring 60 votes to end debate and advance most legislation in the Senate.

“That interview actually happened several weeks ago,” Rosen said Thursday when asked about her comment and the article.

“And so I wanted to make it clear that I’m going to protect democracy at all costs,” Rosen said. 

Her comment comes as the Senate is expected to vote at the end of the month on the For the People Act, far-reaching voting rights, election and campaign reform legislation. Republicans, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), oppose the bill for, among other things, what they say amounts to a federal takeover of elections from states and localities. 

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) also opposes the bill for being too partisan, he said in a recent op-ed. Manchin has also been a vocal advocate of the filibuster, and has said he would not vote to get rid of the rule. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has made a similar vow, which—given the 50-50 party split in the Senate—dooms any effort to ditch the filibuster unless she and Manchin have a change of heart. 

Their positions contrast with Rosen’s, who sees voting rights as an issue worthy of axing the filibuster.  

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.2037 – A bill to amend title XVIII to strengthen ambulance services furnished under part B of the Medicare program.

S.1963 – A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to direct the Secretary of Education to award institutions of higher education grants for teaching English learners.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.2015 – A bill to amend the FAST Act to require an update to the national travel and tourism infrastructure strategic plan, and for other purposes.

S.2014 – A bill to permit legally married same-sex couples to amend their filing status for tax returns outside the statute of limitations.

S.2008 – A bill to strengthen the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

S.1979 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to expand and modify the credit for increasing research activities, and for other purposes.

S.1978 – A bill to prohibit the use of funds for the 2026 World Cup unless the United States Soccer Federation provides equitable pay to the members of the United States Women's National Team and the United States Men's National Team.

S.1975 – A bill to protect a person's ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider's ability to provide abortion services.

S.1964 – A bill to amend the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act of 1996 to provide for the establishment of a Ski Area Fee Retention Account, and for other purposes.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation sponsored:

S.2015 – A bill to amend the FAST Act to require an update to the national travel and tourism infrastructure strategic plan, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.2014 – A bill to permit legally married same-sex couples to amend their filing status for tax returns outside the statute of limitations.

S.2013 – A bill to provide for the coverage of medically necessary food and vitamins and individual amino acids for digestive and inherited metabolic disorder under Federal health programs and private health insurance, to ensure State and Federal protection for existing coverage, and for other purposes.

S.2012 – A bill to amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to include certain communities, and for other purposes.

S.1996 – A bill to protect human rights and enhance opportunities for LGBTQI people around the world, and for other purposes.

S.1975 – A bill to protect a person's ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider's ability to provide abortion services.

S.1964 – A bill to amend the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act of 1996 to provide for the establishment of a Ski Area Fee Retention Account, and for other purposes.

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. 3800 – To protect human rights and enhance opportunities for LGBTQI people around the world, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3799 – To direct the Secretary of the Treasury to develop and administer a national incentive program to provide prizes for qualified vaccinated individuals.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 3755 – To protect a person's ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider's ability to provide abortion services.

REP. MARK AMODEI

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 3779 – To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to direct the Secretary of Education to award institutions of higher education grants for teaching English learners.

REP. SUSIE LEE

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 3755 – To protect a person's ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider's ability to provide abortion services.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 3800 – To protect human rights and enhance opportunities for LGBTQI people around the world, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3755 – To protect a person's ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider's ability to provide abortion services.

Indy DC Download: Democrats praise Biden budget; Amodei worried about debt; Cortez Masto concerned about tax hike on rural assets

President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2020 budget blueprint largely drew praise from Nevada’s congressional Democrats for providing free universal preschool, free community college and funding rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. 

Nevertheless, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) raised concerns about a tax increase that could adversely affect farmers and ranchers. 

“I am concerned that certain provisions of the administration’s tax proposal may unfairly impact Nevada’s small businesses and family-owned farms and ranches,” Cortez Masto said in a statement provided by her office.

Cortez Masto was the latest of a growing number of Democrats with rural constituencies who balked when asked about a Biden proposal to repeal a tax break on inherited assets that have appreciated, including property. The break allows heirs to avoid paying capital gains on the appreciation. The rule is known as stepped-up basis, since the cost basis of an inherited asset is “stepped up” to its value at the time of the owner’s death instead of at the time of purchase by the original owner. 

Their comments follow those of Rep. David Scott (D-GA.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, who told Roll Call on Wednesday that he is fearful the repeal would hurt minority farmers.

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), the delegation’s lone Republican, was critical of the spending plan over its $6 trillion price tag. 

But on the whole, Democrats were pleased with the budget. 

“These are things that I've been talking about, that the president has talked about on the campaign trail,” Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) said this week of Biden’s budget. “So it's a long way from soup, but it's certainly moving in that direction.”

Titus also noted that the budget proposal included no funds to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. “A huge accomplishment” for the delegation’s Democrats, who oppose the project, she said. Biden opposed the project during the 2020 campaign and Titus said he was “as good as his word.”

Amodei said in an interview that the budget struck him as an effort by Biden to undo policies initiated by President Donald Trump’s administration, including prioritizing national defense, border security and domestic energy production.

“As a general proposition, the answer to every question is not more borrowed federal money,” Amodei said. 

“I look at this thing, and I'm going, ‘Wow, this is a repudiation, you know,’ because you put resources where your priorities are,” Amodei said of the Biden budget. “There's a repudiation of some fairly basic stuff in terms of defense, borders [and] energy.” 

The $6 trillion budget was released on the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend, timing that had the effect of playing down some of the numbers including the projected growth in the debt. By the end of the current fiscal year, federal debt is projected to hit a record 110 percent of gross domestic product, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. It would swell to 114 percent by the end of 2024 and 117 percent by the end of 2031. 

The White House stressed its position that now is the time to boldly invest in infrastructure and domestic programs because borrowing rates are low and are predicted to remain relatively low. 

Amodei said that’s a big gamble, though. “If they could lock in the interest rate, they’d have a hell of an argument,” he said. “I missed the part where they can lock in the interest rate.”

Amodei admitted that Republicans are guilty of turning a blind eye to the growth of the debt and deficit under GOP presidents. But he added that the pandemic response accounts for most of the recent increases. “Hopefully, it’s closer to over than it is to the middle,” Amodei said of the pandemic response.

Biden's budget comes after Trump's last two spending proposals totaled about $4.8 trillion. Amodei said he is concerned that continuing to spend and provide aid at elevated pandemic levels will hurt the labor force and the economy.

“Are we trying to create a major vocation, here, where your vocation is federal checks?” Amodei said.

Amodei was a critic of the last COVID-aid package, passed with only Democratic votes and signed into law in March, which included the third round of direct payments to taxpayers ($1,400 per person), and extended the $300 weekly federal unemployment insurance bonus payment through Sept. 6. He wanted the aid more targeted to where he believed it was needed.

Titus and Amodei's takes on the White House's annual spending proposal essentially mirror the response in Congress and hint at the fiscal fights to come between the political parties. That includes an expected battle over raising the statutory ceiling on the federal debt, which was suspended in 2019 and will be reinstated on Aug. 1, requiring a raise before then. 

Amodei said he doesn't support shutting down the government or defaulting on the nation's debt, but he would like to see more fiscal discipline. He said he would decide how to vote on such matters as they arise.

The president’s budget request is far from the last word on annual spending, but it does kick off the process. Congress will now set about drafting the 12 annual spending bills, though it usually tends to miss the Sept 30 end-of-fiscal-year deadline for doing so. 

The White House budget also gives Democrats, who control both the House and Senate, guidance on how to proceed as they write the first drafts. Republicans will have some input as the bills are amended in committee and again on the House and Senate floors, but their real power is in the Senate. The chamber is split 50-50 between the parties, and 10 Republicans will be needed to overcome any filibuster to advance spending legislation.  

Nevada’s congressional Democrats this week highlighted several provisions of the budget, which included the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan (AJP) proposed by Biden to revamp the nation’s infrastructure and the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan (AFP), which would provide $200 billion for universal preschool for three- and four-year-olds and about $100 billion for two free years of community college.

“We've been woefully near the bottom of the list over the years,” Titus said of early childhood education. 

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) also praised the education provisions. “I came to Congress to fight for better educational opportunities for all students, and this budget is certainly a step in the right direction,” Lee said. 

But negotiations on the AFP have yet to begin in earnest. Other provisions include $225 billion to help families with childcare costs for kids up to five years old and $225 billion to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. 

Cortez Masto said she was pleased to see that the federal budget included a $65 million increase for rural broadband over the $1 billion the Rural e-Connectivity Program received in the current fiscal year.

“This proposal includes a number of important investments, and I’m especially glad to see the Biden Administration focus on improving rural broadband and expanding access to paid family leave,” Cortez Masto said.

A member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Titus said the AJP would help Nevada widen I-15 between Las Vegas and California and finish the Arizona piece of I-11 in order to better connect Las Vegas and Phoenix. The two are the largest cities in the nation not currently linked by an interstate highway.

She said the Biden jobs plan would help build a high-speed rail line along I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

“You’ve got to invest boldly or we won't be able to compete with China,” Titus said, adding that U.S. infrastructure ranked 13th in the world in a survey by the Peterson Foundation and received a C-minus from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Biden has been in negotiations with a handful of Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), on the infrastructure plan. According to The Washington Post, they met Wednesday and Biden lowered his topline to $1 trillion, but insisted that the money represent  new spending. The most recent GOP infrastructure offer totaled $928 billion but contained only $257 billion in new spending, with the rest coming from unused covid-relief money. 

It remains to be seen whether a bipartisan deal can yet be struck. Some House Democrats, including Titus, believe time is just about up for talks if Congress is to pass a bill by July 4th, as Speaker Pelosi has proposed. Titus is also skeptical that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would go along with the bipartisan deal, even if it is struck.

Biden also has offered to pay for the infrastructure package with a 15 percent minimum corporate tax rather than claw back tax cuts under the 2017 Trump tax law. He had previously proposed raising corporate taxes to 28 percent from 21 percent in order to pay for a large part of his plan. Tampering with the 2017 cuts has been a red line for the GOP.

Notably, some Democrats also have pushed back on the level of Biden’s tax increases. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has said the 28 percent corporate tax increase is too high and urged a 25 percent rate. Biden has said he is open to that. 

And there has been a growing number of Democrats speaking out against repealing the stepped-up basis rule. Biden’s budget includes an exemption for farmers and ranchers that delays the tax liability until the asset is sold, but Scott has called that inadequate. 

“My understanding of the exemptions is that they would just delay the tax liability for those continuing the farming operation until time of sale, which could result in further consolidation in farmland ownership. This would make it more difficult for young, beginning, and socially disadvantaged farmers to get into farming,” Scott said in a letter.

Titus said that the tax proposals would get worked out. She added that there is unity among Democratic and even some GOP voters, according to recent polling, for making the wealthy pay a higher share of their income — and noted that Biden has pledged not to raise taxes on those earning less than $400,000 a year.

“I think that it's an approach that is popular with the public, Democrats and Republicans,” Titus said. “It is just making people pay their fair share.”

Lee said that the wealthy and corporations needed to do their part, but she also struck a cautious note. 

“Of course, the devil is in the details, and I will continue to analyze the impact that these tax proposals would have on Nevada families and our economy,” Lee said in a statement provided by her office.

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.

Indy DC Download: House approves independent commission to investigate Capitol riot, but Senate GOP skeptical

East front of the U.S. Capitol.

The House approved legislation to create an independent commission to investigate the causes of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building and to provide $1.9 billion to beef up security in and around the Capitol campus.

Most Republicans, including Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), balked at supporting the bill. They raised concerns that it could be used to generate campaign fodder against GOP candidates for the next election. They also said it could further politicize the reckoning of the Jan. 6 effort by supporters of former President Donald Trump to stop the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election.

But Democratic leaders held out hope that enough Senate Republicans would support the measure, despite all signs pointing to its likely defeat. 

No GOP members backed the Capitol security measure. The bill also left Democratic leaders scrambling after six progressive members, including liberal stalwarts Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), refused to vote for the bill, citing concerns that it would provide $43.9 million to the U.S. Capitol Police without giving details on how the funds would be spent. That's similar to the rationale Amodei gave for opposing the bill, which passed 213 to 212.

Amodei bucked GOP leadership, though, by voting for a resolution condemning the March shooting in Atlanta that left eight people dead, including six who were Asian.

The House votes came as the Senate began considering the Endless Frontier Act. Designed to help the nation compete with China on the global stage, it would provide $100 billion over five years to the National Science Foundation (NSF) for research, commercialization and innovation of technology of geostrategic importance.

Commission unlikely

The House approved the Jan. 6 commission bill 252 to 175, with 35 Republicans joining all Democrats. The panel is modeled on the commission created to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The bill was negotiated by House Democrats and Republicans, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's blessing. But last week, McCarthy withdrew his support and urged his GOP colleagues to do the same. Part of his calculation includes the opposition to the commission by Trump. The former president generally remains popular with Republican voters, and McCarthy hopes he will work to help the GOP win back the majority. 

The vote also comes as Republicans have downplayed the January insurrection. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) said during a hearing recently that “if you didn't know that the footage was from Jan. 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.” Pictures later emerged showing Clyde helping to barricade the door to the House chamber as rioters tried to push their way in. 

Similar to McCarthy, Amodei said he opposed the commission because it would be a platform to further politicize the Jan. 6 issue, the panel would not be required to investigate left-wing violence and the panel would be duplicative and possibly even interfere with other ongoing investigations.   

“Unfortunately, just like many issues these days, this tragedy has become hyper politicized,” Amodei said in a statement. “Between task forces, commissions, prosecutors, and committees, quite frankly, I’ve grown incredibly weary of Congress’s addiction to “special” this and “special” that.”

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee, argued that the bill is designed to take the politics out of the issue and that the GOP is just making excuses because “they don’t want McCarthy to testify” before the panel.

McCarthy, when asked, said he would testify.

The commission bill vote comes about a week after House Republicans voted to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from the chairmanship of the Republican conference, the third-ranking post in House GOP leadership. Cheney has been an outspoken critic of Trump and the incendiary speech he gave on the day of the riot. 

Amodei said Cheney’s removal had to do with winning elections and the need to keep Trump on board. 

Senate Republicans have made a similar calculation about the commission. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came out against the bill Wednesday after initially withholding judgment.

He called the proposal "slanted and unbalanced." McConnell noted that between law enforcement and congressional investigations, "there is, there have been and there will continue to be no shortage of robust investigations by two separate branches of the federal government."

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the Senate minority whip, said it could be a political liability.

“I think, a lot of our members—and I think this is true of a lot of House Republicans—want to be moving forward and not looking backward and anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 election, I think, is a day lost on being able to draw contrast between us and the Democrats' very radical left wing agenda."

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) said that she supports the formation of the commission to “make sure the American public has an understanding of not only what occurred and what they saw, but that people are going to be held accountable for it.” 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he plans to hold a vote on the House bill as soon as next week.  Ten Republicans would need to vote with all Democrats to overcome a filibuster and advance the bill.

Capitol security 

Amodei also stuck with his GOP colleagues on opposing the $1.9 billion Capitol security spending bill, which include $520.9 million for unanticipated pay and operations costs for the National Guard deployment at the capitol and region from over about five months and $43.9 million for the U.S. Capitol Police.

“This is an enormous amount of funding for legislation that contains very little specificity, which only further contributes to the sad culture of overcompensating on funds and undercompensating on details and oversight to ensure there’s actual value brought in,” Amodei said.

Omar echoed the sentiment.

“To be honest, we have not really been made to understand how the money will actually increase the safety,” the Minnesota Democrat told Roll Call.

All House Democrats voted for the measure except for six.

Omar, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), also criticized the bill for providing more funds to police.

“A bill that pours $1.9 billion into increased police surveillance and force without addressing the underlying threats of organized and violent white supremacy, radicalization, and disinformation that led to this attack will not prevent it from happening again,” they said in a statement.

Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) of Michigan voted present. The bill passed by one vote. 

The measure could be held up in the Senate where Republicans, including Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, said Congress should tread carefully and gather more information.

“We should go about it methodically, make sure that what we’re doing is the right thing to do,” Shelby told reporters last week.

Atlanta murders

Amodei waved off his GOP leaders when he was one of 30 Republicans to side with all Democrats in favor of a resolution condemning the murders of eight in Atlanta in March. The legislation was approved 245 to 180.

Republican leaders whipped against the resolution, in part, because it included labeling the terms "Chinese virus", "Wuhan virus" and "kung flu" as anti-Asian. Those are terms Trump often used at his rallies. 

“It’s just descriptive, it’s not insulting by any stretch,” Rep Pat Fallon (R-TX), said of Wuhan virus, during debate on the House floor.

Amodei said the resolution did not strike him as anti-Trump.

“I read it and it didn't look like yet another thing to go, ‘you know, Trump's a rotten bugger, even though he's gone,’” Amodei said. “It was just straight up supporting Asian-Americans.”

Miscellany

Cortez Masto, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) all virtually addressed the Legislature last week, highlighting the passage of pandemic recovery legislation providing billions of dollars for the state. 

Cortez Masto cited the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, enacted in March 2020, which included funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that provided forgivable loans to small businesses to prevent layoffs and furloughs.

PPP loans “helped people like Juan Vasquez in Las Vegas,” Cortez Masto said. “His beloved restaurant, Juan's Flaming Fajitas, was able to stay open and keep its workers on the payroll, because my colleagues and I teamed up to help our economy bounce back.”

Rosen spoke about the recovery measures in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) enacted in March. Specifically, she mentioned the $4 billion for the state and local governments and a provision she championed with Cortez Masto that provides a subsidy that covers 100 percent of the cost of COBRA health insurance premiums for unemployed or furloughed workers.

“I'm here to tell you that we are at a turning point in this fight,” Rosen said. “And I'm here to say that hope and help are on the way.”

Lee pointed to provisions in the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, President Joe Biden’s proposal to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure that could help the state diversify its economy, which was hit so hard by the pandemic, in part, because it is so driven by hospitality and tourism.

“Nevada is of course already a leader in renewable energy with more than 33,000 Nevadans working in the field” Lee said. “And the American Jobs Plan would create even more good paying union jobs by extending and expanding tax credits for clean energy generation, carbon capture and more.”

Cortez Masto and Rosen wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra last week, lauding the administration for beginning to reverse a 2019 rule prohibiting medical facilities that receive Title X federal family planning funding from referring patients for abortion services. 

The rule also required advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) to provide pregnancy counseling. The senators said that change hurt access to family planning services in rural areas where registered nurses typically provided the care.  

“In some cases, APRNs visit clinics only once a month,” the letter said. “The rule thus severely limited the window of availability for counseling services, and diverted APRNs from performing more complicated services that they are uniquely qualified to deliver.” 

Rep. Steven Horsford participated in his first Armed Services Committee since recently joining the panel. The committee heard testimony from former Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV), who appeared before the committee as chairman for the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service. Congress created the commission to evaluate the Selective Service System, which maintains a list of men from which to draw in case of a national emergency requiring rapid military expansion. The commission issued its report last year.

Horsford asked Heck about the commission recommendations to establish a Cabinet-level position that would advise the president on military, national and public service.

Heck said the advisor would be responsible for "addressing the national security and the critical skill needs of the nation" and would be able to work across agencies to provide an overarching approach to populate the nation's military effectively. 

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.1781 – A bill to require the Comptroller General of the United States to assess the quality and nutrition of food available at military installations for members of the Armed Forces.

S.1684 – A bill to strengthen the ability of the Federal Home Loan Bank system to provide critical financing to address the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 and to meet the short- and long-term housing and community economic development needs of low-income communities, including Tribal communities, and for other purposes.

S.1674 – A bill to amend the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 to authorize use of amounts under the Troubled Assets Relief Program to be used for activities under the Housing Trust Fund, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.1708 – A bill to exempt children of certain Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas, and for other purposes.

S.1704 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to permanently extend the exemption for telehealth services from certain high deductible health plan rules.

S.1701 – A bill to amend title 13, United States Code, to require the Secretary of Commerce to provide advance notice to Congress before changing any questions on the decennial census, and for other purposes.

S.1681 – A bill to amend title 49, United States Code, to promote transportation career opportunities and improve diversity in the workforce.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation sponsored:

S.1690 – A bill to provide direct appropriations for processing applications for the paycheck protection program, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.1720 – A bill to provide stability to and enhance the services of the United States Postal Service, and for other purposes.

S.1708 – A bill to exempt children of certain Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas, and for other purposes.

REP. DINA TITUS

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 3393 – To remove college cost as a barrier to every student having access to a well-prepared and diverse educator workforce, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3312 – To provide for the overall health and well-being of young people, including the promotion and attainment of lifelong sexual health and healthy relationships, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3283 – To repeal the joint resolution entitled "A joint resolution to promote peace and stability in the Middle East".

North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee announces run for governor as Republican, weeks after switching parties

North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee launched his campaign for governor on Monday, framing himself as a candidate who will fight socialism and cancel culture in Nevada.

His announcement featured an 80-second video that showed Lee riding a bicycle through the desert and included images that accompany his narration about his life. In the short “ride,” Lee tells his story — from starting up a plumbing business to being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer to running and being elected mayor of North Las Vegas to recently switching from Democrat to Republican.

“I’m running for Governor of Nevada because I want to stop our state’s tightening embrace of socialism and make Nevada the best state in the nation to work, raise a family, and visit,” Lee said in a tweet announcing his run for governor

In a press release, Lee said that Gov. Steve Sisolak has “mismanaged” the economy of Nevada, while he as mayor has “turned around” North Las Vegas from an “economically broken city” to one with a better environment for investors and new businesses, and said he plans to apply that philosophy with the rest of the state.

“I’ve always made my own path. Socialism is a cancer, and if we don’t fight back … it’ll kill us,” Lee narrates in the video. “By the grace of God, I beat cancer, and together as Republicans, we’ll beat this, too.”

In April, Lee announced that he was switching parties because of the state Democratic Party’s recent leadership takeover by members of the Democratic Socialists of America. 

Lee was first elected as mayor of North Las Vegas in 2013. Prior to becoming mayor, he served as a Democratic member of the Legislature for 15 years – two terms in the Assembly from 1996 to 2000, and two terms in the state Senate from 2004 to 2012. Lee lost a state Senate re-election bid in 2012 in the primary to Democrat and current office-holder, Sen. Pat Spearman, whose campaign was supported by party members and advocates who believed Lee was too conservative.

In 2011, Lee said he was going to run for Congress but later dropped out, citing support for his colleague, Rep. Steven Horsford, as the reason.

Lee also said in the press release that he will stand up for Nevadans’ constitutional rights and focus on embracing small government, as well as defending free speech, protecting unborn life and supporting the right to bear arms.

Lee is the only announced candidate against Sisolak, who is seeking re-election in 2022. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, Rep. Mark Amodei and former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, all Republicans, have also said they are considering running for governor.

In 2020, Sisolak reported raising upwards of $2.4 million for his re-election bid.  

Nevada’s gubernatorial election candidate filing period is not until next March.

Indy DC Download: The House approved debt collection and pregnant workers protection bills

Debt collectors would be barred from threatening to reduce the rank of military service members, and pregnant workers would see increased anti-discrimination protections under legislation approved by the House this week.

Votes on those bills came as the Senate remained focused on confirming President Joe Biden’s nominations, including Cynthia Marten to be deputy secretary of the Department of Education.

Marten had previously led the San Diego Unified School District since 2013.

Both Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) voted for Marten, who was confirmed on a 54 to 44 vote.

Nevada’s House members also have posted lists of projects they have identified for potential funding under the revamped earmark process, allowing members to direct funding to specific projects in their states. The House delegation is seeking a total of $104 million for 33 projects, including $54.5 million in transportation-related earmarks. Not all are expected to be funded as House leaders ease back into the practice.  

Earmarks were banned beginning in 2011, when Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) first became House speaker following a few high-profile scandals, including the construction of a bridge in Alaska that was dubbed “the bridge to nowhere.” 

House votes

The House last week approved the Comprehensive Debt Collection Improvement Act on a 215 to 207 vote, with all but one House Democrat and no Republicans backing the bill.

Rep. Steve Horsford (D-NV) said the passage of the measure, which seeks to implement a series of consumer protections, comes at a time when debt collections have increased as a result of the pandemic. 

“This has disproportionately impacted low-income communities and communities of color in Nevada’s Fourth District,” Horsford said. “The Comprehensive Debt Collection Improvement Act will protect small and minority-owned businesses, students with loans, consumers with medical debts, and servicemembers by reinforcing their rights and holding debt collectors accountable.” 

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) dismissed the bill as a partisan exercise. 

“It looks like an agenda bill,” Amodei said, as opposed to really helping improve the debt collection process.

Among the reforms implemented by the bill are an end to the practice of collectors threatening to reduce a military servicemember’s rank, revoke security clearance or prosecute under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Other provisions would ban confessions of judgment, sometimes included in small business loan contracts, requiring a borrower to give up certain rights in court before obtaining a loan. The bill also would prohibit debt collectors from collecting medical debt for two years after the debt is incurred, and from contacting consumers by email or text message without a consumer’s consent. It also would limit debt collection fees.

The House also approved the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act 315 to 101. All of Nevada’s House Democrats voted for the bill. Amodei was among 99 Republicans to vote for the legislation. 

Amodei called the bill “a good deal.”

He also voted for the measure the last time the House took it up, in September, when he said he backed the bill because it is already the law in Nevada. 

The legislation would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers as long as the accommodation does not impose an undue burden on the employer.

The House also approved a bill to require the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to provide best practices for schools to establish Behavioral Intervention Teams (BITs). Used by some schools and universities, BITs meet regularly to coordinate interventions for students who might need help. 

The bill was approved on a 323 to 93 vote under a suspension of the rules and received the two-thirds majority needed to pass. The vote split the state’s House delegation with Horsford and Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) opposing the measure.

Titus’s office said her concern is that the bill, as currently written, could result in unnecessary interactions with law enforcement. 

“It could unnecessarily push students – especially students of color and children living with disabilities – into the juvenile justice system in situations where non-punitive interventions could be more effective,” her office said.

Horsford’s office raised similar concerns and said that the bill’s authors have pledged to work with them both to address their concerns. 

Earmarks

Two House committees have solicited earmarks. The Appropriation Committee sought earmarks for the fiscal 2022 budget, allowing House members to request up to ten projects for consideration to receive funds from certain pots of money.

The process requires members to certify that neither they, nor their families, would benefit financially from an earmarked project. 

The House Transportation Committee, working on a new surface transportation package, also collected funding requests.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will start taking earmark requests on June 16. 

Titus requested the most amount of money, $40.7 million, for 11 projects. That includes $20 million for four transportation projects. Her request also includes $15.3 million for the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, which is the most she sought for a single project and the second-highest amount sought for a project by anyone in the House delegation. 

The funds would be used to design and build a new facility and help expand the programs and services of the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center, which supports the victims of the 1 October shooting and other victims of crime. 

Amodei requested five transportation projects totaling $21 million, including $6 million for the Arlington Ave. bridge over the Truckee River in Reno. That bridge was among a list of 24 in his district deemed to be in poor condition by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s (ARTBA) most recent “Bridge Report.”

He also requested $6 million for a hydrogen fuel cell bus project in Reno, $5 million to expand Coleman Rd. in Fallon, $2 million for improvements to State Road 28 in Washoe County and $2 million for William St. in Carson City.

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) requested nearly $5 million for five projects. She only entertained requests made to her office from state and local governments and institutions of higher learning.

Her largest request was $2 million for the Henderson Workforce Training Center. The funds would be used to outfit the center with advanced manufacturing training equipment. The center received a nearly $7 million federal grant in February to help with construction costs, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported. The center, affiliated with the College of Southern Nevada, will be a 25,000 square-foot facility designed to help build the state’s manufacturing workforce. 

Horsford requested a total of $37.6 million for 12 projects. Funding for ten of the projects was requested from the Appropriations Committee. The remaining two projects were transportation-related, totaling $13.5 million, and were requested from the transportation committee. He requested the most projects.  

His list included the largest request for a single project, $15.4 million, was to help Opportunity Village develop a 17.49-acre parcel of land in his district. The nonprofit plans to build a baked goods manufacturing facility and hydroponics/indoor farm that would provide vocational training and employment to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Southern Nevada.

Miscellany

Rosen announced that she will hold a hearing Tuesday in her Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion Subcommittee on reviving international travel and tourism. Witnesses will include Rosemary Vassiliadis, director of aviation at McCarran International Airport. The hearing will be Rosen’s second in her new post.

All members of the delegation also introduced legislation last week to extend the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act. The law, which provided $415 million to protect the lake and the Tahoe Basin over seven years, was reauthorized in 2016 and doesn’t expire until 2024. But that reauthorization came after a six-year gap following  the program’s expiration in 2010. The region’s lawmakers don’t want to risk another lapse, they said, so they introduced the measure a few years ahead of the 2024 expiration.

“Lake Tahoe is a treasure that provides a beautiful refuge for Nevadans to enjoy while boosting our state’s tourism economy,” Cortez Masto said in a release. “This legislation has helped fund numerous restoration and conservation projects while supporting local jobs.”

Also, last week, Horsford was appointed to serve on the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees military policy in the lower chamber. 

“This appointment will create new opportunities for my office to advocate for military families and veterans and push for the high-quality health care, education, child care, and additional support they deserve,” Horsford said.

His district includes Nellis Air Force Base, Creech Air Force Base, the Nevada Test and Training Range and Hawthorne Army Depot.

Amodei introduced legislation that seeks to ease the federal permitting process for domestic mineral exploration and the development of critical and strategic minerals.

“By streamlining the permitting process, this legislation will decrease our dependency on foreign sources of minerals and allow us to leverage our nation’s vast mineral resources while paying respect to economic, national security, and environmental concerns,” Amodei said.

Last week also saw the Treasury Department release guidance on how state and local governments can spend $350 billion in pandemic aid, which included allowing states to make up for lost revenue and fund water and broadband infrastructure projects. The Treasury barred state and local governments from funding tax cuts. 

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.1638 – A bill to protect immigrant families, combat fraud, promote citizenship, and build community trust, and for other purposes.

S.1583 – A bill to reauthorize the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, and for other purposes.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation sponsored:

S.1587 – A bill to allow nonprofit child care providers to participate in the loan programs of the Small Business Administration.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.1651 – A bill to impose certain measures with respect to Hizballah-affected areas in Latin America and the Caribbean and to impose sanctions with respect to senior foreign political figures in Latin America who support Hizballah, and for other purposes.

S.1583 – A bill to reauthorize the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, and for other purposes.

S.1574 – A bill to codify a statutory definition for long-term care pharmacies.

REP. DINA TITUS

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 3166 – To make demonstration grants to eligible local educational agencies or consortia of eligible local educational agencies for the purpose of increasing the numbers of school nurses in public elementary schools and secondary schools.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 3224 – To amend title 10, United States Code, to improve the responses of the Department of Defense to sex-related offenses, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3132 – To reauthorize the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3122 – To amend title 10, United States Code, to expand parental leave for members of the Armed Forces, to reduce the service commitment required for participation in the career intermission program of a military department, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3121 – To expand child care opportunities for members of the Armed Forces, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3097 – To amend titles 23 and 49, United States Code, to require metropolitan planning organizations to consider greenhouse gas emissions in long-range transportation plans and transportation improvement programs, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3093 – To provide assistance to the hotel industry, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3088 – To amend chapter 44 of title 18, United States Code, to ensure that all firearms are traceable, and for other purposes.

REP. MARK AMODEI

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 3132 – To reauthorize the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 3101 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the firearm transfer tax, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3080 – To protect law enforcement officers, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3079 – To amend title 18, United States Code, to punish criminal offenses targeting law enforcement officers, and for other purposes.

REP. SUSIE LEE

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 3155 – To allow nonprofit child care providers to participate in the loan programs of the Small Business Administration.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 3224 – To amend title 10, United States Code, to improve the responses of the Department of Defense to sex-related offenses, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3132 – To reauthorize the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, and for other purposes.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 3224 – To amend title 10, United States Code, to improve the responses of the Department of Defense to sex-related offenses, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3180 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide an elective payment for energy property and electricity produced from certain renewable resources, and for other purposes.

H.R. 3132 – To reauthorize the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, and for other purposes.

Amodei on Liz Cheney: ‘You can't run a railroad where the person driving a locomotive hates the president of the railroad.’

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) voted Wednesday to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from the number three House GOP leadership post because of her conflict with former President Donald Trump, whom he cast as the head of the GOP.

"You can't run a railroad where the person driving a locomotive hates the president of the railroad," Amodei said.

Amodei and House Republicans voted by voice — without recording the ayes and nays —  Wednesday morning to strip Cheney of the House Republican conference chairmanship for  contradicting Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Cheney also has said the former president fomented the riot in the U.S. Capital on Jan. 6.

The ouster underscores the House GOP’s belief that Trump remains the party's head. 

Amodei said his vote against Cheney was based on her unwillingness to moderate her personal opinions to work with the House GOP, and not on "Trump or the big lie," a catch-all term for Trump's false election claims.

Asked if he believes President Joe Biden was legitimately elected, Amodei said yes. "I voted for the Electoral College" results, he noted.

He added that the election in Nevada was also conducted lawfully. Though there were irregularities, nothing rose to the level that "somebody stole something," Amodei said. He stressed that Trump almost won the state, losing by just two and a half percentage points.

Amodei, who was one of 61 members to vote to relieve Cheney of her post back in February, said nothing had changed since the four-hour meeting before that earlier referendum during which an unrepentant Cheney said she stood by her position. 

“She needed to apologize, there,” Amodei said, adding that she was just as defiant Wednesday.

“We all have opinions where if we were the king or queen of the world, this is how we do it,” Amodei continued. “This is an odd sport to be involved in, when you have absolutely no ability to work with people who have an opinion which may differ from yours.”

Cheney’s persistence in asserting that Trump has no place at the head of the Republican Party cost her the confidence of her House Republicans colleagues, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who has said he wants to turn the page and work toward winning back the majority—with Trump's help.

Amodei echoed the point. "For me it has to do with 'you're supposed to lead us' and in this game they keep score by who wins more races," he said. "This war with a guy who lost a close presidential election takes us nowhere in that direction."

Amodei said Wednesday that he pledged to vote for Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) to take over as House Republican conference chair, waving off criticism that her voting record is not conservative enough. 

Amodei argued that it is not unusual for Republicans from upstate New York to be to the left of the party's right-wing. 

"If you're going to carry the Republican banner up there, those voting records tend to kind of be a little bit left of far right," Amodei said of Stefanik, who opposed Trump's 2017 tax cut.

"So for me, listen, quite frankly, I have no problem with giving her a chance," Amodei continued. "I think she has a good strong concept of team and will act accordingly."

The Nevada Republican added that Stefanik had called him to ask for his vote, and he obliged.

Stefanik first rose to prominence within the party as a staunch and vocal defender of Trump during his first impeachment. 

Her performance during the first impeachment has led most GOP members to overlook her moderate voting record. For the last two-year legislative session, Stefanik voted 56 percent of the time with the conservative Heritage Action, which ranks lawmakers on specific votes. Stefanik has a 48 percent lifetime rating. Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, scored an 82 percent rating for the last session and has an 80 percent lifetime score.

Reports surfaced Wednesday afternoon that Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), a conservative House Freedom Caucus member, could also launch a bid. He sent a letter to his GOP colleagues asking them to, among other things, consider Stefanik’s voting record in their decision to replace Cheney.

But with the vote set for Friday morning and Stefanik already locking down votes, Roy’s bid would be a longshot — at best.

This article was updated Thursday, May 13, 2021, at 2:03 p.m. to include comments from Rep. Mark Amodei on the 2020 election.

Indy DC Download: House passes D.C. statehood bill while bipartisan policing reform talks get fresh momentum

The U.S. Capitol Building under blue skies

The House approved legislation to make the District of Columbia the 51st state, as the guilty verdict issued in the killing of George Floyd sparked renewed congressional interest in passing a bipartisan policing reform bill.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) has been involved in discussions on a policing proposal with a group of lawmakers, including Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the only African American Republican serving in the Senate.

“This is not just about one officer or one police department,” Horsford told reporters following the verdict against former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin Tuesday. “This is about a system that we still need to reform.”

Scott told reporters Thursday he was hopeful that an agreement could be reached “in the next week or two.”

The House also passed a measure to ensure that those legally entering the country have access to counsel if detained and approved a bill that would prevent presidents from banning entry to the country based on religion.

Votes in the House came as the Senate approved, 94 to 1, legislation to address a surge in pandemic-related hate crimes against the Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.  

Both Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) voted for the bill, which would designate a point person to expedite review of hate crimes reported to federal, state and local law enforcement.

The measure helps “ensure that hate has no place in Nevada and that all Americans, in every community, are treated with the respect, dignity, and protection that they deserve,” Rosen said in a release after the bill was passed.

The Senate also voted to confirm Vanita Gupta to the number three post at the Department of Justice on a 51 to 49 vote. Both Nevada senators also supported Gupta’s nomination.

Police reform

Horsford, the number two leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, said there is "general agreement" on many provisions of the police reform proposal. That includes banning no-knock warrants that allow police to enter a residence without warning, a topic of national conversation since the death of Breonna Taylor in her Louisville apartment last year.

“There are a group of us meeting in a bipartisan way with people like Senator Tim Scott, Senator Cory Booker, and there are provisions that we're talking about,” Horsford said Tuesday. “But to be clear, we need to eliminate no-knock warrants; we need to eliminate the chokehold; we need to establish a national registry so that bad police officers can't go from department to department; we need to have increased standards, national standards, for training to eliminate racial profiling where it may occur. So those are really issues that we have general agreement on.”

Bass, who is leading the talks for House Democrats, told reporters Thursday that the next step entails the House and Senate leadership giving its blessing to what have so far been informal discussions.

The House passed its police reform bill, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, for the second time in March. The chamber first passed the measure in June, about a month after Floyd’s death, which was captured on video and sparked protest against systemic racism worldwide. Shortly after the House action in June, Senate Democrats blocked the Senate from taking up Scott's bill, which differed from the House bill.

The major differences center on Democrats’ push to make it easier to hold police officers liable. The Democrats’ bill would weaken so-called qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that protects police from civil liability if they do not violate “clearly established” law. The Democrats also want to lower the standard currently in the law, known as section 242, that says an officer must be shown to have willfully violated the law, meaning the officer knew the conduct was unlawful at the time. The Democrats’ bill would change willful to reckless, an easier legal standard to meet.  

Scott said that changing the section 242 standard was “off the table” for him. Instead, he wants police departments held accountable rather than individual officers. 

"There is a way to put more of the onus or the burden on the department or on the employer than on the employee," Scott said. "I think that is a logical step forward." 

When asked about Scott’s comments, Bass stressed that changing section 242 and qualified immunity were important — but would not say that it was a red line for Democrats.

“I would never say that, you know, it's my way or the highway,” Bass said when asked about the provisions. “But what I will say is that those are very important.”

“The main point is that we have to figure out a way to prevent these shootings from continuing to happen,” Bass said. “Until officers are held accountable, there's no reason to think they won't happen, as we've seen over the last couple of days. So to me, qualified immunity and 242 are essential.”

She noted that she was hopeful a compromise could be reached.

House votes

The House voted on three bills last week, including the measure to make D.C. a state. The bill passed 216 to 208 on a party-line vote. 

Rep. Dina Titus touted her vote on Twitter. “#DCStatehood is a civil rights issue. I voted for #HR51 because D.C. residents deserve equal citizenship and full voting rights,” Titus said.

The district has more than 700,000 residents (more than Wyoming or Vermont) and does not have a representative who can vote on the House floor, nor representation in the Senate. 

The bill would address the matter by making D.C. a state, making Delegate Eleanore Holmes Norton (D-DC) a U.S. House representative and expanding the Senate by two seats. The federal district would also be reduced to a roughly two-mile perimeter around the Capitol and White House. 

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) said the bill is simply an effort by Democrats to solidify their control of the Senate. The District is overwhelmingly Democratic, with 73 percent of registered voters identifying as Democrat.  

“Well, they say ‘this is about representation.’ No, it isn't,” Amodei said recently. “It's about what they perceive now as two rock solid, Democratic votes to the U.S. Senate.”

Republicans said that there are other ways to address the issue of representation without affecting the Senate's number. One would be to have Maryland absorb the District, except for the small federal part. 

But Democrats rejected the idea, which was offered by Republicans as their motion to recommit, the last opportunity for the minority to change a bill. The proposal failed 215 to 205.

The bill also faces an uncertain future in the Senate. With Democrats controlling only 50 votes, 10 Republicans would be needed to overcome any filibuster. No Republicans have yet voiced support, and neither have all Democrats. 

“I think that all Americans have a right to equal representation, even in the United States Congress,” Sen. Mark Kelley (D-AZ) told reporters Thursday. “But I haven't made a decision on it one way or the other.”

The House also approved the No BAN Act, 218 to 208, to prevent future presidents from banning entry to the country to a group based on religion. The bill was prompted by President Donald Trump's attempt to ban entry to people from seven Muslim-majority countries in 2017. Initially rebuffed by the courts, the ban's third iteration eventually went into effect in 2018. President Joe Biden rescinded the ban on his first day in office. 

"Donald Trump’s bigoted and unconstitutional Muslim Ban separated families and forced Muslim-Americans to live in fear,” Horsford said in a release. “We must never allow xenophobia and hatred to govern our nation’s immigration policies again.”

During debate on the House floor, Republicans argued that the bill would make it more difficult for the president to protect the nation. “Without this authority, the president would have been powerless to take simple precautions against terrorists and criminals from entering the United States,” said Rep, Tom McClintock (R-CA), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee.

The House also approved a related bill, the Access to Counsel Act, 217 to 207. The measure would require that immigrants with legal documents who travel through the nation’s ports of entry, like airports, and who are detained have the right to call an attorney or relative. 

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who introduced the bill, said it was needed following the chaos that ensued after the ban was initially put in place, resulting in people, including legal U.S. residents, being detained for hours with no access to help. 

“They were held because of their Iranian heritage, or ties to the Middle East,” Jayapal said, adding that no one can be legally held just because of their country of origin.

No Republicans voted for the bill, and McClintock raised concerns that the measure would severely slow down operations at the nation’s points of entry.

Infrastructure 

Senate Republicans, including Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), unveiled a $568 billion infrastructure plan meant to counter Biden's $2 trillion package.

“It serves as a realistic, thoughtful approach that addresses the core areas of infrastructure that we all agree upon,” Capito said Thursday. 

Capito and other Senate Republicans opposed Biden's plan over its price tag, the proposed seven percent corporate tax increase to pay for it and its broad definition of infrastructure, which includes $400 billion to expand access to Medicaid for the care of the elderly and disabled. 

The GOP plan would provide $299 billion for roads and bridges, which is more than the $115 billion Biden’s plan proposed. Under the GOP plan, another $65 billion would go to improving broadband internet, $61 billion to transit and $44 billion for airports.

Biden’s package called for $100 billion for broadband, $85 billion for transit and $25 billion for airports. The president’s plan would also provide $80 billion for Amtrak, whereas the GOP plan would provide $20 billion. 

To pay for their plan, Republicans called for repurposing unspent federal funds, including pandemic-relief aid. 

“The point is not to go out and incur new and additional debt,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) at a press conference unveiling the plan. “We incurred the debt to cover those obligations, but we think they can be put to better use in many cases.” 

Examples of unspent COVID-relief funds include “money that is not scheduled to be spent until the distant future, money that has nothing to do with COVID or the economic response,” Toomey said. “So we think that should be available for this.”

They also called for fees for electric vehicles to ensure those drivers help pay for infrastructure, which the 18.4 percent federal gas tax has traditionally funded. But the tax has not kept pace with the need and Congress has used general funds to make up the difference since 2008.

Democrats were not too welcoming of the GOP plan. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) said that corporations, who benefit from the infrastructure, should contribute.

“Big corporations certainly use our roads and bridges,” Wyden told reporters Thursday. “And you're going to argue that those big corporations shouldn't pay a penny for infrastructure? Pretty hard to get a bipartisan approach from that.” 

The release of the GOP counteroffer comes as Biden pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52 percent by 2030 — and to hit net-zero emissions by 2050. The president held a two-day virtual climate summit last week with world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Gov. Steve Sisolak praised the goal while touting Nevada’s climate strategy goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

“Achieving this new national target will require aggressive, bold action – and collaboration – at all levels,” Sisolak said. “I am proud that Nevada has already taken bold steps to adopt our own emissions reduction targets.” 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Thursday that passage of Biden’s infrastructure plan, known as the American Jobs Plan, is key to hitting that target.

“In order to do that, we need the American Jobs Plan,” Pelosi said Thursday at her weekly press conference.

The Biden proposal includes $174 billion to establish a grant program for states and localities to build a network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2030. It also seeks to replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles and electrify at least 20 percent of the country's yellow school bus fleet.

Capito also speculated that if discussions progress, she too expects climate to be a topic of conversation. 

“I think that when we get to the negotiating phase, climate will be part of the discussion,” Capito said. “They’ve made that very clear.”  

Miscellany

Cortez Masto introduced legislation last week that would allow victims of sexual assault to access state victim compensation funds after deadlines expire if rape kit processing is delayed because of the backlog. Rape kits are used to collect and store evidence in sexual assaults. Many states have a backlog for analyzing them. 

“These funds are essential because they reimburse survivors for medical care, for mental health treatment, for courtroom advocates, but they only get it if they apply within certain time limits,” Cortez Masto said on a call with reporters Thursday. “And that these deadlines are unfair to many rape victims because of the tremendous backlogs in testing rape kits across the nation.”

State deadlines to apply for compensation vary from 18 months to three years. 

Cortez Masto said one possible vehicle for her bill is to attach it to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Authorization of the law expired two years ago and the House passed its reauthorization in March. The bill provides grants to support training for law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, service providers, and communities to provide comprehensive support for victims of violent crimes, including domestic violence.

Passage of VAWA, which funds law enforcement training for working with traumatized victims, could also help reduce the backlog, said Daniele Staple, executive director of The Rape Crisis Center.

“One of the biggest reasons the backlog exists is law enforcement don't understand trauma and sexual assault survivors, and so they don't believe survivors, and then the case is shelved, and the kit is shelved,” Staple said on the call.

Nevada cleared its backlog of rape kits last year. Cortez Masto championed the passage of a law in 2019 to help states address the backlog.

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.1339 – A bill to amend the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 to ensure crime victims are not denied compensation because of rape kit backlogs, and for other purposes.

S.1269 – A bill to require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to complete an interagency report on the effects of special recreation permits on environmental justice communities, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.1360 – A bill to amend the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 and the Head Start Act to promote child care and early learning, and for other purposes.

S.1351 – A bill to strengthen the security and integrity of the United States scientific and research enterprise.

S.1327 – A bill to amend the Federal Reserve Act to add additional demographic reporting requirements, to modify the goals of the Federal Reserve System, and for other purposes.

S.1315 – A bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for coverage of certain lymphedema compression treatment items under the Medicare program.

S.1302 – A bill to amend title II of the Social Security Act to repeal the Government pension offset and windfall elimination provisions.

S.1299 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for the tax-exempt financing of certain government-owned buildings.

S.1298 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax incentives for increased investment in clean energy.

S.1256 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a tax credit for investors in start-up businesses, to provide a credit for wages paid by start-up businesses to their first employees, and for other purposes.

S.1255 – A bill to require the Minority Business Development Agency of the Department of Commerce to promote and administer programs in the public and private sectors to assist the development of minority business enterprises, to ensure that such Agency has the necessary supporting resources, particularly during economic downturns, and for other purposes.

S.1238 – A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to ensure that members of the Armed Forces and their families have access to the contraception they need in order to promote the health and readiness of all members of the Armed Forces, and for other purposes.

S.1229 – A bill to modify the procedures for issuing special recreation permits for certain public land units, and for other purposes.

S.1212 – A bill to address the needs of workers in industries likely to be impacted by rapidly evolving technologies.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation sponsored:

S.1324 – A bill to establish a Civilian Cyber Security Reserve as a pilot project to address the cyber security needs for the United States with respect to national security, and for other purposes.

S.1297 – A bill to amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to create a new national program to support mid-career workers, including workers from underrepresented populations, in reentering the STEM workforce, by providing funding to small- and medium-sized STEM businesses so the businesses can offer paid internships or other returnships that lead to positions above entry level.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.1360 – A bill to amend the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 and the Head Start Act to promote child care and early learning, and for other purposes.

S.1315 – A bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for coverage of certain lymphedema compression treatment items under the Medicare program.

S.1298 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax incentives for increased investment in clean energy.

S.1255 – A bill to require the Minority Business Development Agency of the Department of Commerce to promote and administer programs in the public and private sectors to assist the development of minority business enterprises, to ensure that such Agency has the necessary supporting resources, particularly during economic downturns, and for other purposes.

S.1251 – Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021

S.1238 – A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to ensure that members of the Armed Forces and their families have access to the contraception they need in order to promote the health and readiness of all members of the Armed Forces, and for other purposes.

REP. DINA TITUS

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 2824 – To promote United States-Mongolia trade by authorizing duty-free treatment for certain imports from Mongolia, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 2817 – To amend the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 and the Head Start Act to promote child care and early learning, and for other purposes.

H.R. 2814 – To repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, and provide for the discoverability and admissibility of gun trace information in civil proceedings.

H.R. 2806 – To amend title 38, United States Code, to establish a mission statement of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

H.R. 2774 – To authorize appropriations for climate financing, and for other purposes.

H.R. 2770 – To amend title 49, United States Code, to provide for aviation system enhancements during public health emergencies, and for other purposes.

H.R. 2734 – To improve the reproductive assistance provided by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to certain members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their spouses or partners, and for other purposes.

H.R. 2709 – To amend title 10, United States Code, to ensure that members of the Armed Forces and their families have access to the contraception they need in order to promote the health and readiness of all members of the Armed Forces, and for other purposes.

REP. MARK AMODEI

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 2719 – To amend title 49, United States Code, to make modifications to the passenger facility charge program administered by the Federal Aviation Administration, and for other purposes.

H.R. 2639 – To establish forest conservation practices through management, reforestation, and utilization which lead to the sequestration of greenhouse gases, and for other purposes.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 2817 – To amend the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 and the Head Start Act to promote child care and early learning, and for other purposes.

H.R. 2709 – To amend title 10, United States Code, to ensure that members of the Armed Forces and their families have access to the contraception they need in order to promote the health and readiness of all members of the Armed Forces, and for other purposes.

Indy DC Download: House passes pay equity and workplace safety legislation as Senate takes up bill to address Asian hate crimes

The U.S. Capitol

Back from its two-week recess, the House approved gender pay-equity and workplace-safety bills as the Senate began considering a measure to help address a recent rise in violent attacks against Asian-Americans.

Last week’s votes came as a group of 10 GOP senators began talks with 10 Senate Democrats on an infrastructure package—costing as much as $800 billion—that they hope could win 60 votes in the Senate in order to overcome a filibuster. It would be a counter-proposal to the $2 trillion package President Joe Biden recently released, which would be paid for by a tax increase on corporations. 

The Senate also continued to approve Biden’s nominations, including Wendy Sherman to be the number two at the State Department. Both Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) voted for Sherman.

Sherman, who was confirmed on a 56 to 42 vote, helped negotiate the 2015 agreement with Iran to curb the Islamic nation’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

Former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in 2018 because he said it did not address ballistic missile tests or Iran's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Biden has said he plans to return the nation to the deal, which along with Iran and the U.S., included China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Infrastructure

In order to pressure members of Congress to support Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan, the White House last week published grades, assigned by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), for infrastructure in all 50 states

Nevada, which ASCE last reviewed in 2018, received a C. That grade included 28 bridges and more than 1,000 miles of highways that were deemed to be in poor condition. 

In a call with reporters Monday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that Nevada's infrastructure was in relatively good shape compared to other states with larger, more dense populations. 

“If it's any consolation, that is actually one of the lowest numbers I've seen for any state,” Buttigieg said. “But that's not much comfort, if you're wondering whether a bridge in your community is going to be meeting the needs for the future.”

He noted that state and local governments maintain safety standards so there is no imminent danger, but said the backlog of maintenance that has built up over the years needs to be addressed. 

“You can't expect any one community to do this,” Buttigieg said. “There's got to be a federal goal. There's got to be a federal investment.”  

According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s (ARTBA) most recent “Bridge Report,” which was used by ASCE for its Nevada assessment, the 28 bridges represent only 1.4 percent of Nevada’s 2,056 bridges. That was the lowest percentage of any state in the ARTBA study.

Most of the bridges, 24, are located in the state’s 2nd congressional district, represented by Mark Amodei (R-NV), the report said. 

Amodei said he did not dispute that there are infrastructure needs in his district. But he did take issue with Biden’s proposal, which included other Biden agenda items that are not traditional infrastructure. 

“I'm all for projects,” Amodei said. “I won’t quibble with your facts on CD-2 and some stereotypical, classic infrastructure examples,” Amodei said in a brief interview Friday. “The problem is what they've laid out—there is no bill— but what they've laid out is a hell of a lot more programs than projects.”

As an example, he highlighted a provision in the Biden plan to provide $174 billion to incentivize the purchase of electric cars.

“Listen, is clean energy the current wave and the wave of the future? Absolutely,” Amodei said.

But why can't the market do that? I mean, it is doing it. Hell, there's an electric Ford Mustang already. Why do you need $174 billion taken away from projects for programs?”

The most traveled of the old bridges in Amodei’s district is the I-80 overpass built over the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, which has 52,500 daily crossings. That was followed by the Arlington Ave. bridge over the Truckee River in Reno, which has about 13,000 daily crossings.

Clark County had the 121st and 124th most crossed and structurally deficient bridges in the nation. They are I-515 over Desert Inn Road (SR590) which has 127,000 daily crossings, and I-515 over North Eastern Avenue with 122,400 crossings a day.

The White House also said of its bill that the more than 243,000 renters in Nevada spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, and that Biden’s plan to provide $200 billion to increase housing supply could help them.

The Biden plan would also provide $100 billion to increase broadband access. The White House said that 72 percent of Nevadans live in areas where there is only one internet provider, which typically leads to high costs for service, and 14 percent of state households do not have an internet subscription. 

Though Republicans, including Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), echoed Amodei's concerns over the broad nature of the package, one of the senators is working on a compromise.

Capito, one of the group, told CNBC last week that she'd like to see a bill in the neighborhood of between $600 billion and $800 billion, which would include traditional infrastructure and broadband.

Later she stressed to reporters in the Capitol that nothing has been settled, including how to pay for it.

“It’s just a ballpark figure,” she said. 

Her comments spurred Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who is close to Biden, to speculate that one possible path could be to pass a smaller bipartisan package and then pass the remainder of Biden's proposal, including home health aid and manufacturing, through the reconciliation process. Reconciliation allows the Senate to circumvent the filibuster and pass legislation affecting revenues and the deficit on a simple majority vote. That would allow Democrats, who control 50 votes in the chamber, to pass a measure with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. That’s how Democrats passed their $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, the American Rescue Plan, in March. 

“It's a strong approach that strikes me as a reasonable path forward that allows us to accomplish both a strong bipartisan infrastructure package, and the rest of the total agenda that the Biden administration has laid out,” Coons told reporters Thursday.

House and Senate votes

The House approved the Paycheck Fairness Act on a 217 to 210 vote. All of Nevada’s House Democrats voted for the bill, which includes provisions that would protect against retaliation for discussing salaries with colleagues and require employers to prove that pay disparities exist for legitimate, job-related reasons.

“Women in the U.S. make 82 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts – and the disparity is even greater for women of color,” Rep. Dina Titus said on Twitter before the bill’s approval. “In order to ensure a full economic recovery, we must empower women in the workplace. I'm proud to co-sponsor the #PaycheckFairnessAct.”

Only one Republican voted for the bill, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). 

Amodei said he opposed the bill because it would make it easier for lawyers to sue employers.  

“Nobody's opposed to equal pay,” Amodei said. “But the litigation all day, every day is not, I think, is not the way home on that.”

The House also approved legislation that would help stem workplace violence for nurses and other caregivers. 

The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to require employers in the health care and social service sectors to develop and implement a workplace violence prevention plan. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 73 percent of all violent incidents that happened in American workplaces happened to health care and social assistance employees. 

The House passed the measure on a 254 to 166 vote. All of Nevada's House Democrats voted for the bill.

Amodei opposed the bill. He said the measure could also lead to more litigation, that OSHA is already working on a rule to do this and the bill would short circuit that process. 

“Don’t you even want to see the work product?” Amodei asked.

“This just sounds more like talking points, or a political agenda than really helping people that find themselves the victims of violence,” Amodei continued. 

In the Senate, Democrats, including Cortez Masto and Rosen, voted to advance legislation to address the increase in Anti-Asian hate crimes during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Senate voted 49 to 45 to take up a bill. Introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HA), the measure would require the Department of Justice to designate a point person to expedite the review of COVID-19-related hate crimes. The point person would also support state and local law enforcement agencies to respond and coordinate with local and federal authorities to mitigate racially discriminatory language used to describe the pandemic.

The bill comes after a series of vicious attacks on members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, including the shooting of eight people in Atlanta, six of whom were Asian. 

Cortez Masto signed on to a statement released by a group of eight Democratic senators of color urging the Senate to pass the bill.

“Confronting this crisis and stopping this hatred demands a swift and coordinated federal response,” the senators said. “We need a designated official at the Department of Justice to oversee reported hate crime incidents, prioritize and expeditiously review the cases, and ensure that victims are protected and justice is served – now and in the future.”

Miscellany

Cortez Masto introduced legislation last week to require that franchisees be given full and accurate financial information from franchise corporations when franchisees seek loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA). 

“Franchise owners in Nevada and around the country have told me about how franchise corporations painted rosy pictures of the money these businesses could make—and how they later found out that they’d sunk their life savings into unprofitable stores,” Cortez Masto said in a release.

When SBA-backed franchisees fail, it is the taxpayers who ultimately take the loss.  

Her office released a report on the matter last week, which detailed the business practices of 10 franchise brands, including restaurant chain Burgerim, Complete Nutrition and Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) met with Biden at the White House last week along with other leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to discuss civil rights, voting rights and criminal justice. Horsford currently is the CBC’s first vice-chair, the CBC’s number-two leadership spot. 

Horsford told MSNBC that they discussed the need to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The House passed the bill last month and Democrats are negotiating with Sen. Tim Scott (D-SC), the only African-American Republican senator on a compromise bill. 

Horford also lamented the recent shooting of Daunte Wright, a Minnesota man shot by police during a traffic stop last week.

“This is trauma that our families experience every single day,” Horsford said. 

The CBC also pressed Biden to name Shalanda Young as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), according to The Washington Post. She currently serves as OMB deputy.

Horsford also serves as chair of the CBC First 100 Days Transition Task Force, which works with the Biden administration to place leaders of color in key positions within the federal service.

The CBC was told that Biden intends to name the first Black woman to the Supreme Court, should a seat become vacant, the Post reported. 

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) announced that Nevada would receive $360 million to help childcare providers operate safely and maintain their workforce during the pandemic. 

“With this funding, child care centers will have the resources they need to either stay open or reopen safely, and child care will be more affordable for Nevada families,” Lee said in a release.

The American Rescue Plan provided the funds. About $222.4 million came from the law's $24 billion child care stabilization fund. Those funds can be used to help child care providers reopen or stay open, provide safe learning environments, keep workers on payroll and provide mental health support for educators and children.

Another $138.7 million would help families afford child care and increase compensation for early childhood workers.

Also, Rosen held her first hearing of the newly created tourism subcommittee she leads. Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority president Steve Hill and MGM International Resort's Jorge Perez both testified on the need for aid to the tourism and travel industry.

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.1120 A bill to establish minimum standards of disclosure by franchises whose franchisees use loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.1195 A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend and modify the credit for alternative fuel vehicle refueling property.

S.1157 A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow workers an above-the-line deduction for union dues and expenses and to allow a miscellaneous itemized deduction for workers for all unreimbursed expenses incurred in the trade or business of being an employee.

S.1147 A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to permit certain retired members of the uniformed services who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special Compensation, and for other purposes.

S.1108 A bill to regulate large capacity ammunition feeding devices.

S.1099 A bill to amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to make permanent the protections under Medicaid for recipients of home and community-based services against spousal impoverishment.

S.1068 A bill to direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue an occupational safety and health standard to protect workers from heat-related injuries and illnesses.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation sponsored:

S.1193 A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to expand the allowable use criteria for new access points grants for community health centers.

S.1109 A bill to require the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, in consultation with the National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency, to establish a grant program to create or expand programs at minority-serving institutions and historically Black colleges and universities that promote minority business ownership and entrepreneurship, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.1195 A bill to allow Americans to earn paid sick time so that they can address their own health needs and the health needs of their families.

S.1183 A bill to allow veterans to use, possess, or transport medical marijuana and to discuss the use of medical marijuana with a physician of the Department of Veterans Affairs as authorized by a State or Indian Tribe, and for other purposes.

S.1178 A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow for a credit against tax for employers of reservists.

S.1170 A bill to amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to improve the efficiency of summer meals.

S.1156 A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for a refundable adoption tax credit.

S.1147 A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to permit certain retired members of the uniformed services who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special Compensation, and for other purposes.

S.1137 A bill to amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit gay and trans panic defenses.

S.1108 A bill to regulate large capacity ammunition feeding devices.

S.1097 A bill to establish a Federal rotational cyber workforce program for the Federal cyber workforce.

S.1083 A bill to provide for the restoration of legal rights for claimants under holocaust-era insurance policies.

REP. DINA TITUS

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 2569 To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for a presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents for veterans who served in close proximity to the Republic of Vietnam, and for other purposes.

H.R. 2510 To regulate large capacity ammunition feeding devices.

H.R. 2465 To allow Americans to earn paid sick time so that they can address their own health needs and the health needs of their families.

REP. MARK AMODEI

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 2491 To amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to enhance provisions related to wage discrimination, and for other purposes.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 2542 To provide protection for survivors of domestic violence or sexual violence under the Fair Housing Act.

H.R. 2465 To amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to enhance provisions related to wage discrimination, and for other purposes.