Monday, March 12, 2012 | 11:50 a.m.
WASHINGTON - You can tell a lawmaker is in a close race when her campaign starts claiming credit for legislation she didn’t write.
That’s what’s happening today with Rep. Shelley Berkley, who is running for Senate against Sen. Dean Heller, as she trots out Mayor Carolyn Goodman and other Las Vegas figures to praise what the campaign is calling her proposed expansion of the visa waiver program.
An expansion of the Visa Waiver Program would make it easier for tourists from more countries to come to the United States.
But the measure the campaign is trumpeting as “Berkley’s proposed expansion” and “Berkley’s legislation” isn’t hers: Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois, wrote the bill.
The legislation (H.R. 3855), according to Quigley, seeks to “modernize” the “outdated” Visa Waiver Program that lets citizens of certain countries come to the United States for up to 90 days visa-free. So far, 36 countries have earned this distinction; by changing the way eligibility is determined, the legislation would likely expand that pool.
It’s an initiative Quigley has attempted to get through Congress before, and one Berkley has long supported. But she never wrote the legislation - only signed on as a co-sponsor.
Last month, Berkley spoke on the House floor about her support for legislation expanding the Visa Waiver program, though she didn’t mention the bill specifically.
“Increasing foreign travel through the Visa Waiver Program will ensure that Nevada’s cities remain among the top tourist destinations in the world,” she said.
“The answer for tourism-dependent states like Nevada is simple: It will put people back to work,” Berkley said, as she encouraged members of the House to “join me in creating, making job creation our top priority.”
It's fairly common practice for lawmakers who sign on to the bill to take some credit, at least for sponsoring and promoting the legislation. But according to the main online database of congressional bills, Berkley signed on to this year’s bill just last Friday -- the last to sign on among the 35 co-sponsors to the bill, which was filed Jan. 31. Nevada Republican Rep. Joe Heck signed onto the legislation in early February.
Berkley campaign spokesman Eric Koch said the recorded late registration was due to a “mess up in Thomas” -- www.thomas.gov is Congress’s chief online record of legislative activity. Koch confirmed that Quigley’s H.R. 3855 was the legislation she would be promoting at her event and dismissed any suggestion that the campaign was overplaying Berkley’s role in crafting the legislation.
“She’s a cosponsor and she’s promoting it,” Koch said.