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December 18, 2014

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Politics:

Washington memo: Rep. Steven Horsford pulls support for NSA bill

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Steve Marcus

Rep. Steven Horsford responds to a reporter’s question following a tour of the Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center, also known as the Fusion Center, at Metro Police headquarters Thursday, May 2, 2013.

Amber Phillips, the Sun's Washington correspondent, wraps up the week in politics with Nevada's Congressional delegation.

WASHINGTON -- Congress just wrapped up an epic nine-week stint of business. Nevada’s lawmakers are already on planes headed home for a week of hob-knobbing.

Here’s your Friday round up of what your legislators in Congress worked on this week:

Stop spying on us

While the Senate squabbled over parliamentary procedure, the House of Representatives had a productive week — even if every member of the Nevada delegation wasn’t happy with the outcomes.

On Thursday, House leaders pushed through a bill aimed at curbing the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of our phone calls. Rep. Steven Horsford, a Democrat representing the northern Las Vegas valley and rural areas beyond, was originally a co-sponsor of the bill, which had wide support from libertarians to liberals alike.

That is until he saw the changes House Republican leaders and Obama administration officials made to the bill. Horsford said the changes watered the bill down with language that was too broad and that the NSA will inevitably exploit. He angrily withdrew his support.

“I would not want to see this bill become law the way it was passed,” he said.

The bill still passed the House by wide margins, but its chances in the Senate aren’t clear. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he’d let his colleagues take a look at it.

Congress “mad as hell” on veterans affairs scandal

There was one bill that passed the House this week with every Nevada lawmaker’s support: legislation that would allow the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to more easily fire officials. The proposal was already being discussed when news broke of mistreatment and cover ups at VA hospitals. So, the House leadership fast-tracked it.

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., who is in the military and represents Henderson, co-sponsored the bill. He called its passage a victory.

“Our veterans gave us their best and it is time they get the best from the VA in return,” he said in a statement.

Its fate in the Senate is also unknown.

Sen. Heller debates the VA scandal on CNN

There wasn’t legislation in the Senate on the VA, but Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., appeared on CNN’s political debate show “Crossfire” on Wednesday to debate one of his Democratic counterparts about what Congress should do.

Heller said he wasn’t satisfied with President Barack Obama’s response and that the massive bureaucracy clearly has major management problems. Still, he stopped short of calling for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation or any major changes.

“Nobody’s trying to dismantle the VA at this point,” he said.

Titus tries to bring a veterans cemetery to Las Vegas

Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat who represents Las Vegas and is also active on veterans affairs, introduced a bill this week to bring a national veterans cemetery to southern Nevada.

There’s a backlog of cities that want these sorts of things, and her proposal would move the Las Vegas area up toward the top of the list. It’s not clear what the bill’s chances are in either chamber, and she told the Las Vegas Review Journal she expects push back from the VA.

“But the VA doesn’t have a whole lot of credibility these days with its policies or its numbers or its oversight,” she said.

Amodei gets a victory

Rep. Mark Amodei, a Republican who represents Reno and rural northern Nevada, got Congress to pass one of his bills this week.

He placed an amendment in a bill to fund our military that allows 400 acres of federal land on the Fallon Naval Air Station to be used for Navy family housing. His office said the bill would help 200 Naval families get homes but its fate also hangs in the balance in the Senate.

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