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April 19, 2014

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The Policy Racket

Heller and Kirk in an amendment-off over Yucca mountain

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Dean Heller

Republican Sens. Dean Heller and Mark Kirk have got themselves into a bona fide amendment-off over Yucca mountain, but their squabble may be destined to stay on the sidelines of the Senate floor.

It all started earlier this month, when Kirk, from Illinois, announced he’d be sponsoring an amendment to the Energy and Water appropriations bill to prevent any federal funds from being used to shut down the Yucca project — which would effectively keep the development and siting of the nuclear waste repository open and humming along.

It’s not that Kirk intends to succeed, not right now at least. For him, this is about planning for the future.

“As soon as Reid is out of office, we’ll win,” Kirk told the Sun last week, envisioning a Republican takeover of the Senate that would put Nevada Sen. Harry Reid out of his influential majority leadership “about 14 months from now.”

But for Heller, Kirk’s planned stunt could also have future consequences.

Heller and Kirk conversed in the last week about the latter’s Yucca amendment, but it appears the junior-most Senator on Capitol Hill wasn’t able to dissuade Kirk from his cause.

So on Tuesday, as the Energy and Water bill became the present business on the Senate agenda, Heller offered a counter-amendment: one to guarantee no new funds are made available to go toward the Yucca project.

There’s only two issues with that. First: there’s no guarantee that his bill will get floor time. Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told the Sun Tuesday afternoon he hadn’t yet made any decisions about whether or not he would promote the Yucca amendments — Reid is allowing an open amendment process, but has asked McConnell that they voluntarily limit the amendments presented to a total of ten.

Second issue: Kirk’s amendment is highly, highly unlikely to get the 60 votes it would need to clear a filibuster, and absent that, there’s no problem: the underlying bill doesn’t actually have any Yucca funding in it.

For Heller, it’s insurance.

“This amendment adds an extra layer of protection from any Congressional efforts to re-open what I already consider a closed issue,” he said in the statement announcing his amendment. “I will continue to work with other members of the Nevada delegation to make sure that Yucca mountain is not used as a nuclear waste dump.”

But Heller’s amendment may be political insurance as well: not to block against his main opponent in the Republican Senate Caucus, but to block against his main opponent on the 2012 Senate campaign trail, vocal anti-Yucca Rep. Shelley Berkley.

“A lot of this is that Heller’s just trying to innoculate himself in the Senate run, given what Amodei is saying [about Yucca] — I don’t think he wants to be lumped in with some of the other Republicans in the delegation, given his lack of name recognition down here,” said David Damore, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “It’s largely a defense measure.”

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  1. I applaud Heller's stance. But just on this one issue. Because all indications show he is fighting for his political life to keep his Senate job when the next election comes.

    I asked before and I'll ask this again...

    Why is it that the only elected officials fighting to try to get Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) to happen, both from within Nevada and outside of Nevada, are ALL from the Republican Party?

    Because they want to make money off of it.

    The only thing Nevada will get out of this is short term money, the promise of jobs that won't happen (because they'll bus in their own experts to YMP), and a legacy that Nevada will never ever get out of...which is storing the most dangerous substance known to mankind...FOREVER.

    If this were to happen, our children's children's children's children inherit our bad decision. And they would forever curse forebearers and spit on ancestors' graves for thrusting this unfair and downright dangerous burden in their hands; a burden they had absolutely no say about.

    There is a hypothesis that Nevada will make money in re-processing. It's simply not feasible. It's a pipedream. Only something thrown out there to make Nevada do something against it's best wishes.

    In France, they have tried nuclear waste re-processing. And they found out three things.

    They determined it is expensive to do. Not at all cost effective. The ends don't justify the profit of the end product.

    Secondly, it's time consuming to do. If Nevada accepted the nation's nuclear garbage, we wouldn't ever keep up with it and get rid of it. It would lay there and rot...FOREVER.

    And lastly, the science about re-processing nuclear waste is all talk. It is not at all perfected. The research is simply not there. And it is not ever known when it will in fact be a certified fact. It is a wish. It is basically right now a fairy tale told by Republicans.

    Thank God we have have the President and Senator Reid that fight for us. Because they know we don't want this stuff.

    Another question that begs asking is this: All these learned scientists, experts, lawyers and politicians all tell us this is a great thing, then why aren't other States clamoring for it?

    The answer is evident. It's a bad deal. And other States don't give a flying crap about Nevada. Except they want to get rid of their nuclear waste and turn Southern Nevada into a toilet.

    Nevada don't want this crap. No means no. And it STILL means no.

    The funny thing about all this is that the Republican Party, especially here in Nevada due to this YMP debacle, have taken steps to ensure voters will slap them out of power. When you have Heck and Amodei all beating the drum that YMP should happen, this ensures their complete political destruction. Suicide politically by their own hands.