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April 16, 2014

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Who among Nevada’s delegation backed, opposed funding bill?

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., gestures during a news conference with, from left, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., after passing a bill to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 in Washington.

For some in the Nevada delegation — like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who negotiated the deal to end the government shutdown — the vote Wednesday night was an easy one.

For others, however, the decision on whether to back the compromise that lifted the country’s debt limit and extended government spending levels until Jan. 15 was fraught with challenges, forcing lawmakers to choose between the least offensive of two unpalatable options.

Now that the deal is done and passed, let’s take a look at how the Nevada delegation voted — and whether they fulfilled expectations, or surprised us instead.

    • House Dems: Did Steven Horsford and Dina Titus back their party?

      Reps. Steven Horsford and Dina Titus didn’t take any unexpected stands Wednesday night, pledging early on to vote with their party and support the compromise legislation that Reid and McConnell concluded Wednesday night.

      That doesn’t necessarily mean they were happy with the outcome.

      “While I am glad our country averted a fiscal crisis, Congress has wasted weeks sidestepping a disaster of its own creation,” Horsford said. “America teetered on the brink because House Republicans held the well-being of the country hostage for the sake of ideology.”

      “Today I voted to reopen the government, put people back to work and protect our country from an unprecedented financial crisis,” Titus said in a statement released after the vote. “This bill is not perfect, but it ends the harmful brinksmanship that held our government hostage for almost three weeks.”

      Titus and Horsford were always likely to support the legislation, but there was the chance they could splinter off — as Horsford did on the eve of the shutdown, when he voted with Republicans to demand Congress end federal subsidies for lawmakers’ health insurance as a condition of continuing the federal budget. He did it to show solidarity with his constituents, he said, many of whom weren’t able to access similar subsidies on the health care exchanges because they belonged to self-funded Taft-Hartley plans.

      Horsford told the Sun on Tuesday he would continue to agitate for changes to the health care law to better accommodate subsidies for Taft-Hartley plans.

      Otherwise, the bill to fund the government, lift the debt limit and preserve Obamacare was for Titus and Horsford, an easy vote.

      In fact, there were some sweeteners in the bill for both lawmakers.

      The bill included extra funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs to clear a backlog of benefits claims that has been especially ponderous in Nevada — something Titus has been clamoring for. Meanwhile, Horsford can also point to significantly increased funding to fight wildfires, which affect the public lands in his district.

    • Did Dean Heller break his streak?

      Since 2011, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., has established a pattern of voting against compromise bills that coupled the debt limit with the budget and sequestration cuts long before Wednesday’s vote.

      He did not break that pattern Wednesday night. Heller voted against not only the bill to restore federal funding and lift the debt limit, but also against a preliminary procedural measure, despite telling the Sun on Tuesday he would not filibuster the bill.

      He was one of only 18 to vote against the measure — a minority not just in the Senate, but among Senate Republicans.

      “This proposal is a step backward, not forward,” he tweeted before the bill, in his only statement on the vote.

    • What the heck did Heck do?

      Throughout the government shutdown, U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., held the party line, insisting that it was up to Democrats to compromise by curtailing some parts of Obamacare in exchange for a continuation of the budget and the government’s borrowing authority.

      But when push came to shove, he was not willing to risk default to make that point.

      “The healthcare law must be repealed, repaired, and replaced...but not at the expense of a prolonged government shutdown,” Heck said Wednesday night. The government has been shut down since Oct. 1.

      The progression is in many ways, a classic Heck move.

      Heck came to Congress in 2011, which is the year that high-stakes fiscal negotiations started to become the norm. He has been asked to vote for budgets on the brink of government shutdowns. He has been called upon to extend the debt ceiling in emergency situations, and to back taxes and spending cuts packages when he doesn’t like the terms.

      In each of those cases, Heck has campaigned hard against the Democrats — and then voted for the final compromise, even when most Republicans aren’t willing to similarly reach across the aisle.

      “This bipartisan bill paves the way for us to reopen the government and address our long-term spending and debt issues,” Heck said in his lengthy statement released after the vote.

      But, Heck warned, Congress shouldn’t count on him to be such a team player forever.

      “Government by crisis is not an effective way to govern,” he said in the statement. “I am hopeful that we can reach a responsible, long-term budgetary agreement. Anything less ... is unacceptable and I will no longer support band-aid approaches to these serious problems.”

    • Did Amodei toe the Tea Party line?

      Like Heller, Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., hasn’t been shy in the past about taking no votes when everyone else seems to be voting yes. And on Wednesday night, he wasn’t apologetic about siding with the more conservative wing of the Republican Party, which includes the Tea Party types who claimed that they weren’t afraid of the consequences of default.

      Amodei isn’t one who denies the significance of default (and neither is Heller, for that matter). But fear of what might occur if the government fully hit the debt ceiling was not enough to draw him to the center on a vote that he was confident would pass whether or not he was on board.

      Instead, he pointed a finger at Democrats in the Senate, White House, and House of Representatives — as well as the national media — for ganging up against what he thought was a reasonable, compromising Republican position.

      “My conscience is clear with respect to an all-out effort in a four against one fight,” Amodei said in the statement.

      Amodei also indirectly suggested that Republicans who did decide to vote for the bipartisan compromise were hypocrites.

      “During two campaigns, I told Nevadans I would give my full attention to such issues as reining in runaway federal spending, debt and the harmful aspects of the Affordable Care Act,” he said in a statement. “Unlike many in this town, I will not test your memories and hope you have forgotten. I will continue to pursue necessary goals. Nothing in this legislation changes the real threats to our country’s economy.”

    • Did Reid’s game of hardball pay off?

      Apparently, yes.

      With less than two hours left before the midnight deadline, the House of Representatives voted to approve the deal that he struck with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. As a result, any risk of defaulting on the national debt has been averted until February and the government will reopen without Democrats yielding any major concessions on Obamacare.

      “We’ve been able to come together for a lot of different reasons,” Reid told reporters after the Senate’s vote, giving credit to McConnell, his chief negotiating partner, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and the dozen other Republican and Democratic lawmakers who banded together to work out the details on the bill in the last few days.

      “My caucus has been lock-strong together,” Reid added. “We’ve been a real team.”

      Democrats refused to give into Republican demands that Congress defund significant parts of Obamacare in exchange for keeping money flowing to the federal government, and did not budge, even in the face of a government shutdown.

      Polls favored Democrats. And as time wore on, Republicans — even those who voted against the compromise Wednesday — admitted that they were losing ground.

      “Democrats have the best hand today on what direction they want to go,” Heller admitted to reporters Tuesday.

      The final agreement extended the budget through January and the debt limit until early February, with only slight changes to Obamacare — namely, a requirement that individuals seeking insurance subsidies on the exchanges go through an income-verification procedure.

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