Las Vegas Sun

July 30, 2015

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WHERE I STAND:

Let’s clear up a few things about the ‘nuclear option’

Unclear option.

Who remembers anagrams? Those are words and phrases that share the same letters. In this case, I have made an anagram of unclear option.

The new words are “nuclear option” and — even though it’s hard for me to understand why — they are being conjoined in reference to the future of Nevadans and Yucca Mountain.

Because, make no mistake, the desire by the nuclear power industry to dump tens of thousands of tons of the deadliest radioactive garbage known to man 90 miles from Las Vegas has grave implications for the future of every person living in Clark County and every business looking for a future here.

If you think the recession was bad, just imagine what a high-level nuclear waste accident will do to the tourist industry — and it will happen because that’s what accidents do!

Whatever your thoughts about President Barack Obama — obviously Nevadans think highly of him since they re-elected him by a wide margin — when it comes to Yucca Mountain, the man has kept his word. He closed Yucca Mountain just like he said he would.

Unfortunately, in the world of political realities, the overwhelmingly deep pockets of the nuclear power industry are paying big bucks to re-open Yucca. Nevadans are forced to live and re-live what amounts to an awful zombie movie. No matter how often we kill it, it keeps coming back.

How this story ends remains unclear because Nevada’s congressional delegation, which used to be united against Yucca Mountain, is no longer the shield we need to protect us. Some congressmen are either wavering or have gone to the other side.

The really good news is that Nevadans have Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. That means we have a fighting chance to win this war.

•••

That brings me to the second “nuclear option:” Reid’s insistence that the American people are entitled to a government that works every day on their behalf.

It’s no secret that we don’t have a Congress capable of getting that work done.

Obama’s nominees to lead a number of executive branch agencies and commissions are being held up for Senate confirmation because of one political game or another being played by Republicans. For mostly bad and silly reasons, they are stopping government in its tracks.

Hence the nuclear option — the threat to end all comity, collegiality and cooperation that currently exists between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. Like we have any of that now!

•••

So, how did these two issues — restarting Yucca Mountain and grinding the government to a halt — get thrown together to create what I believe is a muddled — call it unclear — option?

Enter Nevada’s other senator, Dean Heller.

Not too long ago, Heller mused out loud that allowing the Senate to act by majority rule (that is the plan Reid has, how novel!) would allow those who want to do bad things to Nevada — shove nuclear waste down our tourist-based throats — to get away with their evil plan.

What Heller did, of course, was to try to have it both ways — confer cover to his Republican colleagues over the filibuster option while confusing his constituents by appearing to support Nevada regarding Yucca Mountain.

The fact is that Reid wants to limit 50-plus-1 majority votes to those where presidential appointees need to be confirmed so the executive branch of government can work. That is what the American voters expect.

When it comes to passing legislation, let the filibuster games continue ad nauseam until the voters decide they want a change. After all, there is some good reason to believe that we already have enough laws; some good, some bad, some in need of fixing. So who needs more? Even I might consider filibustering any more laws, especially the ones that originate in the House of Representatives or Texas.

•••

The point of all this is that, as has been the case for too many years, what politicians are doing to us remains unclear to most voters. That’s because they try to keep us confused; it benefits them.

It’s clear that Congress doesn’t work and voters want something done. And government doesn’t work so Reid is trying to get something done.

A proper and constructive role for Nevada’s junior senator would be to help his Nevada colleague keep Yucca Mountain dead and to speak out against the efforts of his GOP colleagues who believe nuclear and unclear are the same word.

Nevadans would be well-served by that kind of leadership. And that shouldn’t be an option.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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