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.

Secretary Granholm on Nevada’s role in the energy transition, lithium mining, rooftop solar

Good morning, and welcome to the Indy Environment newsletter.

As always, we want to hear from readers. Let us know what you’re seeing on the ground and how policies are affecting you. Email me with any tips or suggestions at daniel@thenvindy.com

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Last Thursday, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm sat down for a roundtable with Gov. Steve Sisolak, Rep. Steven Horsford and other Nevada leaders. 

The roundtable was part of Granholm’s multi-state tour stumping for the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan and its efforts to speed up the energy transition. 

And if there was a theme for the day, it was the economy and jobs. 

Not long before the roundtable, Sisolak signed a massive energy infrastructure bill, SB448, at IBEW Local 357. The bill, dropped in the final weeks of the legislative session, focuses on NV Energy’s build-out of its Greenlink transmission line and the deployment of electric vehicles. 

Granholm touted the bill, sponsored by Sen. Chris Brooks (D-Las Vegas), who participated in the roundtable with other renewable advocates. NV Energy CEO Doug Cannon was also there. 

Other states Granholm has visited recently (Texas and West Virginia) have played central roles in producing fossil fuels: oil, gas and coal. But Nevada is in a different position. In Nevada, the fossil fuel industry is small compared to other states, where it has historically been a dominant and powerful political player. 

In Granholm’s remarks, she recognized what Nevada’s economic development planners have said for years: When it comes to energy, the opportunity for Nevada is not in fossil fuels, but as an exporter of renewable energy across the West and a key player in the battery supply chain.

From Granholm’s perspective, Nevada has everything “soup to nuts.” She pointed to the ample land for solar projects, the Tesla Gigafactory, geothermal capacity and deposits for critical minerals. 

“When I say ‘soup to nuts,’ Granholm said during an interview with The Nevada Independent on Friday, “that's really referring to the full supply chain of clean energy products that we should be building and manufacturing in this country, as well as installing and exporting.”

But doing that won’t necessarily be easy. New development in Nevada, from large-scale solar projects to mining, has, at times, faced opposition from Indigenous communities, conservation groups and local residents concerned with how projects could harm ecosystems and change the landscape.

In a brief interview Friday, as Granholm prepared to tour the Townsite solar project in Boulder City, she discussed some of the opportunities and challenges facing Nevada amid the push to place more renewables on public land and secure a domestic supply chain for the materials needed to produce electric cars.

On the need for domestic solar-panel production: Granholm stressed the importance of manufacturing solar panels in the United States, saying that “other countries have cornered the market on some of this, and we need to get it back.” She specifically singled out China, noting that President Biden had just delivered remarks concerning China’s use of forced labor.

“Nevada could be manufacturing solar panels, as well as installing them,” she said.

Land for utility-scale solar projects: Early into the interview, Granholm said that Nevada’s “comparative advantage is this massive amount of land that could be used to generate solar.” 

Nevada is one of the least densely populated states, and about 85 percent of the state’s land is managed by federal agencies, from the Department of the Defense (military bases) to the U.S. Forest Service (national forests). Most of the utility-scale solar would likely be sited on land managed by the Department of Interior, specifically the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. 

The bureau oversees about 65 percent of Nevada’s land — and they are often charged with permitting energy projects (solar, geothermal, wind, etc.). But the bureau must balance multiple (and often conflicting) activities: conservation, recreation, grazing, mining, etc.

Even with plans to prioritize energy development in low-impact areas, energy developers are still eyeing projects in sensitive areas. In Southern Nevada, projects have run into opposition over their impacts on imperiled species, such as the Mojave desert tortoise, recreation activities and sacred sites for Indigenous communities.

As a result, many environmental groups have called for better federal and state planning to direct projects into areas with fewer impacts. We asked Granholm about this and how she is working with the Department of Interior.

“I’m really enthusiastic because Secretary [Deb] Haaland and the president are really prioritizing renewable energy on public lands, and that’s onshore and offshore,” Granholm said. 

“Our team is actively working with her team to figure out how to do that,” she added. “What are the most optimal places we should be prioritizing? How do you streamline the permitting without jeopardizing the reviews that need to happen to ensure that you are protecting the resources?”

Granholm said lithium mining should have the support of Indigenous and local communities: The Energy Secretary’s visit came just days after the Biden administration released a report looking into the supply chain for electric vehicle batteries and other products needed to address climate change.

The report underscores the need for securing critical minerals both domestically and from allies. But as new mines are proposed in Nevada and across the American West, Indigenous leaders and conservation groups have raised serious concerns about how certain projects to extract key minerals, including copper and lithium, would irreparably harm the environment. 

When thinking about where to permit mines, Granholm stressed the need for community buy-in.

“The view of the administration is that mining that is done here — in the U.S. — must be done responsibly, sustainably, and with the buy-in of local and indigenous groups,” she said. 

Granholm said Indigenous communities who have been on the land for generations “have to be at the table” during mine planning. She said that companies could engage in partnerships, such as community development agreements, to direct benefits to Indigenous and local communities.

Granholm on the role of rooftop solar: NV Energy’s CEO was at the roundtable with Granholm on Thursday, and the Berkshire Hathaway-owned utility is playing a driving role in transitioning the state’s power sector away from fossil fuels. 

But what about renewable energy infrastructure that is not owned directly by the utility?

We asked Granholm about “distributed energy resources,” a very technical (and dry) phrase for electric infrastructure that is installed on-site (think rooftop solar), rather than by the utility. 

She said utility-scale and distributed generation are both “incredibly important pieces of the pie.”

Granholm noted that although the roundtable focused on NV Energy’s Greenlink transmission line (a utility-scale project), “there’s also a role for distributed transmission too — microgrids to help with resiliency — and certainly in more remote areas that are powered by solar.” 


Here’s what else I’m watching this week:

THE COLORADO RIVER

‘An earthquake in people’s sense of urgency:’ That’s a quote from The Arizona Republic’s piece about Lake Mead declining to its lowest level since the 1930s. “The lake's rapid decline has been outpacing projections from just a few months ago,” reporter Ian James wrote. 

The real-world effects of Lake Mead’s low elevation: Review-Journal reporter Blake Apgar writes that the Lake Mead boat launch area closed on Friday last week. 

Saving the Salton Sea: The Desert Sun’s Mark Olalde published an excellent, in-depth story on the proposals to fix the issues in the Salton Sea by importing water from the Sea of Cortez. 

DROUGHT HITS THE WEST

Wildlife managers drop water for bighorn sheep: Review-Journal science reporting fellow Stephanie Castillo writes about the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s efforts to replenish water sources for bighorn sheep amid severe drought conditions. “We have had to haul water on an emergency basis, but not anywhere near approaching this magnitude, this scale of severity,” said one wildlife biologist for the agency. 

Life on the edge in the Amargosa River Basin: The Amargosa River is a unique landscape that has carved out a biodiversity hotspot. But the climate change and groundwater overuse are adding new stresses to the area, as National Geographic’s Stefan Lovgren reports. 

These visuals, compiled by the New York Times, show just how bad the drought is. 

LITHIUM SUPPLY CHAIN 

Battery recycling firm is expanding: The Reno Gazette Journal’s Jason Hidalgo writes about Redwood Materials, a Nevada-based battery recycling firm that was started by a former Tesla executive. 

A Panasonic mining partnership: Neolith Energy, a venture from oil services company Schlumberger, is partnering with Panasonic on a lithium extraction project near Tonopah. 

Thacker Pass mine work delayed, via Reuters’ Ernest Scheyder. And over the weekend, more than a hundred demonstrators, including many Indigenous leaders and advocates, gathered in Reno to protest the mine (photos from the Reno Gazette Journal).

WATER AND LAND

Biden to reverse Trump’s Clean Water Act rollback: President Joe Biden’s EPA is planning to restore certain federal protections for streams and wetlands after the Trump administration weakened protections associated with the Clean Water Act, the New York Times’ Lisa Friedman reports.

Lawmakers want wild horse investigation, halt on adoptions, the Review-Journal’s Gary Martin reports.

Why does snow turn pink? The answer has to do with microalgae. But there is also an important feedback loop involving climate change — with implications for snowmelt. KUNR’s Noah Glick has more. 

Coming up: The Clark County Lands Bill is getting a hearing in Congress. 

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: 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".

Sources: Lombardo set to announce for governor

Undaunted by newly minted Republican Mayor John Lee’s announcement, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo has made the decision to run for governor, sources confirmed Thursday.

Lombardo will formally announce next month and has hired a trio of high-profile GOP operatives, including a former political director for Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee.

The campaign team will be led by Ryan Erwin, a well-respected consultant who oversaw Cresent Hardy’s shocking upset of Rep. Steven Horsford in 2014 and helped Joe Heck win a seat in Congress (and almost secure a U.S. Senate seat). Erwin was involved in efforts to pass Marsy’s Law here and elsewhere and recently was retained by Caitlyn Jenner’s campaign to oust California Gov. Gavin Newsom. I don’t know of a more even-keeled, thoughtful and straight-shooting consultant who has been involved in Nevada politics.

Erwin will be joined by his former partner, Mike Slanker, who has been a consultant to the likes of Brian Sandoval and Dean Heller and is a media expert whose ads have been known to cut (and cut deeply), and Chris Carr, an ex-Trump and RNC operative who will oversee the grassroots/ground game and is as well-regarded as anyone I know across partisan and geographic lines.

It’s a formidable team enhanced by ex-Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, who was interested in running for governor but has agreed to chair Lombardo’s campaign. Hutchison is a formidable fundraiser; his PAC helped the GOP pick up legislative seats last year.

I am reliably told that some gaming companies have informed Lombardo they will give him substantial support, although some will have to play both sides because Gov. Steve Sisolak has such power over their enterprises. It will be interesting to see, especially after a legislative session controlled by Democrats and one that has intermittently infuriated the Strip, whether any companies give only to Lombardo. (This would surprise me.)

The industry’s campaign contributions could well hinge on how the session ends and the resolution of a so-called right to return bill that is the Culinary union’s main objective and has caused a serious rift with and within the industry. 

Lombardo would have to be seen as a favorite in the primary with this kind of firepower and Lee's recent entry into the Republican party. The North Las Vegas mayor also has baggage, including a raft of votes as a Democratic legislator. But Lombardo’s two terms as sheriff notwithstanding, the sheriff’s ability to perform statewide and handle non-law enforcement issues remain uncertain. And he will have to deal with his own record as sheriff, too.

Filing does not open until next March, and I am still not persuaded that candidates who announce this early will actually file. And I am not convinced that Lee, who has floated more trial balloons than anyone in Nevada history before they lost ballast, will sign on the dotted line next year. At least, that is, for governor.

Sisolak is seen as vulnerable by the GOP here and nationally because of criticism he absorbed during the pandemic for health care protocols that were deleterious for the economy. But Democrats are banking on a rebounding economy to put some wind at Sisolak’s back, and a potential GOP primary is not optimal for Republicans. And who knows whether a Trumpian contender (who has not recently switched parties) might get in, making it even more interesting.

Lombardo’s decision, though, ensures this is going to be a very interesting year in Nevada politics, which, as one who has followed it for three and a half decades, almost goes without saying.

Cortez Masto and Titus push back on state party chair Whitmer’s statement on Israel

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) joined two other Nevada congressional Democrats in disavowing a statement issued by Nevada State Democratic Party chair Judith Whitmer criticizing Israel over its bombing of Gaza in response to rocket attacks by militant groups.

“The world cannot stand by as we witness atrocities and human rights violations being committed against the Palestinians,” Whitmer said last week

“Palestinians have a right to live in peace. No caveats,” Whitmer continued.

The comment drew criticism from Democrats in Nevada’s congressional delegation. 

“Foreign policy should be addressed by elected officials, not by state party figures,” Cortez Masto’s office said when asked about Whitmer’s statement. 

Titus voiced a similar sentiment when asked about the statement.

“Usually the party is there to support the delegation or the candidates, not to take an independent position,” Titus said.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) declined to comment. 

Their comments followed a strong response last week from Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)  and Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV).

The state party did not immediately reply to requests for comment. 

Issued Friday, Whitmer’s Israel comments were criticized for being weighed too heavily in favor of the Palestinians, including by the Anti-Defamation League

“The ADL strongly condemns the inappropriate and completely one-sided statement made by the Nevada State Democratic Party Chair, Judith Whitmer,” the ADL said. “Israel has the right to defend itself against nearly 2000 rockets and missiles fired by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza into Israeli cities and towns.”

Cortez Masto's comment comes as she is gearing up for what is expected to be a tough re-election fight. Former President Donald Trump narrowly lost the state—by a little more than two percentage points—to President Joe Biden in 2020. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the Senate GOP's campaign arm, sees Masto’s seat as a crucial opportunity to regain the majority in the evenly divided chamber. 

Whitmer was elected party chair in March, the leader of a group of Democratic Socialist candidates who took over the party's leadership. Their election led to the mass resignation of party staff. Whitmer backed progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for president over Biden in the nominating contest. 

The NRSC sees an opportunity with Whitmer's election to tie Cortez Masto to the Democratic Socialist leadership of the party.

In April, Cortez Masto sought to put some space between her and the party leadership while predicting election victories up and down the ticket. 

She declined to elaborate Wednesday beyond the statement provided by her office.

But Titus said that she was not surprised by Whitmer's action, noting that the new chair had made no secret of her progressive positions. 

“She'd been organizing that group in the party since Bernie lost, and maybe took some people by surprise that she was able to take over the party, but she didn't make any bones about the way she was going to push it left,” Titus said.

Titus also said that Democrats should be ready for the socialist attacks this cycle. She noted that North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee used the term “socialist” three times in his recent announcement that he’s running for governor as a Republican since switching parties last month.

She also said that the test of any party apparatus is its ability to raise money, enabling candidates to run strong get-out-the-vote operations that win races.

“One of the concerns is are they going to be able to raise money,” Titus said. “It takes money to do a ground game and keep the machine going.” 

“And so I think the tell of the tape will be if they do that,” Titus continued. “They did well in the first round. We'll see what happens next.” 

The party raised nearly $453,000 in March, including more than $370,000 from small-dollar donors, according to the party’s disclosure filed last month with the Federal Election Commission

All Democrats in the delegation sought to strike a balance between underscoring Israel's right to defend itself and signaling support for the Palestinians, condemning Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group coordinating attacks on the Jewish state, and urging for a cessation of the conflict. 

Their comments come as progressive Democrats have called for Biden to take a stronger stance against Israel, which is conducting airstrikes that have killed civilians, and show more support for the Palestinians. 

“I think the United States needs to take responsibility for the violence that we are supporting,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez told reporters last week.

On Wednesday, Biden changed his tone after a fourth call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The President conveyed to the Prime Minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” the White House said. 

Party treasurer Howard Beckerman issued his resignation over Whitmer’s Israel statement in a letter dated Sunday. 

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.

Indy DC Download: Construction of Las Vegas to L.A. fast train expected to begin in the next 12 months

Construction on the high-speed train to connect Las Vegas with Los Angeles could begin "in the next 12 months or so," Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Phillip Washington told Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) at a congressional hearing last week.

That time frame opens up the possibility of a delay beyond Brightline’s prediction in January that the project would start in the second quarter of this year. Brightline is the Florida-based company developing the project.

The rail hearing came as little else happened in the nation’s capital last week with no roll call votes held in the House or Senate. But the House did hold hearings remotely. 

Titus participated in six hearings last week, including one for the Homeland Security Committee’s Oversight, Management and Accountability Subcommittee on factors pushing people to migrate to the U.S. from Central America.

Other delegation members were also out and about, including Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), who spoke to the Vegas Chamber Monday about a new program that provides aid to restaurants. 

Titus, Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV), Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) all joined First Lady Jill Biden, who visited Las Vegas last week for an event. Biden also presented the 2021 national teacher of the year, Las Vegas' Juliana Urtubey, with flowers. 

Train

The high-speed rail hearing was convened Thursday by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, of which Titus is a member.

Brightline Chief Executive Officer Michael Reininger appeared before the subcommittee but was not asked about a more specific timeframe for beginning construction. 

Reininger did note that Brightline “is in the midst of negotiations of construction contracts to be able to begin” work on the Las Vegas to Los Angeles project.

“And in the course of those negotiations, our preferred contractor is also in the midst of discussions with labor around a project labor agreement that would be put in place,” Reininger continued. “Our understanding is from both sides that those discussions are going very, very well. We're very supportive of those discussions, and anxious for that to come to an amicable conclusion.”

Titus has been a vocal supporter of the Brightline West project and asked Reininger what the committee could do to help. Reininger called for raising the cap on private activity bonds (PABs), a type of municipal debt used to develop private-sector projects, to $30 billion. Congress caps their use to $15 billion nationally, which makes it competitive to receive PAB financing.

He also called for changing the rules on certain rail funding programs to make it easier for private rail projects to participate. He cited the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan program. The RRIF loan program denotes high-speed rail projects as start-ups with no credit history and demands high premiums, which remove the benefits of getting a low-interest loan.

These provisions could end up in the proposed $2 trillion infrastructure package known as the American Jobs Plan. A group of Senate Republicans and Democrats are working on a compromise measure after the GOP recently presented a $600 billion counter offer.

Titus said she envisions the project transforming Las Vegas into an affordable exurb for the pricey Los Angeles metro area.

“I see it not just as a tourist train, but as a business travel train and even some people may commute, live here for the tax purposes, and commute to work somewhere in California,” Titus said.

Washington agreed that it would open up affordable housing possibilities for Californians that do not currently exist.

“If you can get from Vegas to Los Angeles in two and a half hours or something like that, that is incredible,” Washington said. “They can go to Las Vegas to work or they can go to Los Angeles to work, and still have affordable housing. So I think it's a project of regional and national significance just because of the economic benefit to people that otherwise would not have that i.e. low income folks.”

Projected ridership for the rail line is 10.8 million people a year, Washington added.

Border

The hearing on migration factors comes as the southern border has seen a spike in migrants. Border crossings in April are expected to be about 170,000, similar to March, and are close to a 20-year high. 

At the hearing, Titus discussed the cascade of negative effects that would cause more people to migrate to the U.S. illegally if the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs were ended. TPS allows people from countries plagued by wars or disasters to stay in the U.S. DACA protects immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children from deportation and allows them to work. 

“I have a number of people from this area in my district, many of them are TPS holders, especially from El Salvador and Honduras,” Titus said.

Dan Restrepo, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, said that sending them home would end remittances, a scenario in which immigrants in the U.S. send money back to their home country. Some countries rely on remittances to prop up their economies. Remittances, for example, to El Salvador hit a record high of $5.92 billion last year, which accounted for 23 percent of El Salvador’s gross domestic product and benefited about 360,000 households.

Sending TPS and DACA holders back to their home countries would also displace lower-skilled workers who would feel pressure to migrate. 

Restrepo called it a “lose, lose, lose” scenario.

“You'd cut a remittance flow that has allowed people to stay in place; you'd be displacing a migration-vulnerable segment of the population,” Restrepo said. “And...we would lose here in the United States with the folks who are already members of our community.”

Titus also noted that food insecurity spurred by climate change has also been a significant factor in pushing people to migrate.

“We've certainly seen how it exacerbates the problems of poverty in this Northern Triangle,” Titus said. “I think the statistics from the UN World Food Program showed that food insecurity, just in 2020, increased from 1.6—almost doubled to 3.3 million people.” 

To address the issue, Shannon O'Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations said the U.S. could provide food in the short-term and work to help farmers react to the climate conditions by changing crops in neighboring countries and improving markets for those products.

Miscellaneous 

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV), a member of the House Appropriations Committee's Energy and Water Subcommittee, attended a hearing on the Department of Energy's (DOE) budget. 

The hearing has historically been a platform for fighting over funding for Yucca Mountain, the designated location for a national nuclear repository. But this year, with President Joe Biden opposed to the project, Lee was the only one to raise the issue directly.

“Yucca Mountain has been a failure of both policy and science for decades now with millions of dollars wasted and nothing to show for it, so I'm greatly encouraged that this administration has committed to developing an alternative,” Lee said.

Lee asked Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm how the department would implement a consent-based siting policy to build a temporary nuclear waste repository. 

“The department is actively developing a strategic approach to moving forward with that consent-based cited federal interim storage facility, which is what we are authorized to be able to do,” Granholm said.

She said DOE could issue a request for information or establish a funding mechanism for interested communities, organizations or tribal governments to explore the idea of agreeing to have a repository within their borders.

“The department hopes to announce the next steps with this process in the coming months,” Granholm said.

Lee also said that she is launching a nuclear waste caucus with Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), whose district includes Oak Ridge, which was headquarters for the Manhattan Project.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) last week highlighted the launch of the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund created by the American Rescue Plan enacted in March.

Under the program, restaurants and other eligible hospitality businesses, including caterers, bars, bakeries, brewpubs, wineries and inns, which were forced to close to slow the spread of the coronavirus, can apply for funding from the program.

Horsford touted the program in his address to the Vegas Chamber. 

“Basically they take your 2019 revenue, and your 2020 revenue, obviously, a lot of restaurants, had to close due to the COVID restrictions that were placed on them,'' Horsford said. “This fund allows people to apply for, I believe it's up to $10 million, in order to help them overcome some of the loss that they incurred. It covers the expenses for rent, payroll, operational expenses including the facilities, maybe some of the improvements that had to be made during the COVID restriction.”

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.

REP. SUSIE LEE

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 2986 – To discourage speculative oil and gas leasing and to promote enhanced multiple use management of public land and National Forest System land, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 2999 – To award grants for the recruitment, retention, and advancement of direct care workers.