Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Rep. Shelley Berkley, in remarks Wednesday to Sun editors after Northern Nevada’s largest newspaper endorsed her competitor in the race for the U.S. Senate seat, positioned herself as a representative for all of the state.
“I don’t think there’s any issue that would affect the people of Northern Nevada that I haven’t worked on for the last 14 years with the rest of the Nevada delegation,” Berkley said. “One of the great things about being a member of a small delegation is that it doesn’t matter what party you’re in and it doesn’t matter what district you represent. We have a tradition of working together when it comes to Nevada issues.”
The Reno Gazette-Journal over the weekend endorsed Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who was appointed to the seat last year and is in his first Senate election, calling him the “better candidate.” The editorial, light on specifics, said Heller “has demonstrated that he does understand the issues of importance to his constituents,” “can work well across the aisle,” and that the RGJ editorial board “believes that the state is best served by a split congressional delegation, with a member of each part in the Senate.”
Berkley disagrees — and to prove her charge that Heller could not ably work across the aisle, recalled tension between Heller and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid over efforts to round up Republican support for online poker.
“It’s not about working with Harry Reid … it’s working on his own side of the aisle to deliver the votes that are necessary to pass online gaming,” Berkley said. “It would be a shame and a tremendous loss for Nevada if we don’t (pass an online poker bill by the end of 2012), but it’s going to depend on my opponent doing his job, and he hasn’t done it.”
Heller and his staffers have charged Reid and Berkley for politicizing an important Nevada issue while Heller has been working to collect the 15 Republican votes Reid asked him to earlier this year. Last month, campaign director Mac Abrams called Heller “the most relevant person in this process.”
Berkley also took Heller to task for supporting a Republican-backed budget that would reconfigure Medicare, turning the program into a subsidy that Democrats have charged is a voucher program for anyone under age 55.
“That’s not Medicare,” Berkley said. “It’s some version of health care for older Americans, but it’s not Medicare.”
Heller, who has not responded to invitations to address the Sun’s editorial board, has said he was proud of his two votes for the budget in question, commonly referred to as the “Ryan budget” after the congressman and now-vice presidential candidate who wrote it. He has also argued that the changes to Medicare within it are necessary to the long-term sustainability of the program, and do not upset the fundamental object and purpose of the Medicare program.
Berkley listed her positions on energy development (she’s in favor of investing in renewables), small business (she wants to keep their taxes low) and tourism promotion (she wants more visa waivers and travel tax credits) as her biggest selling points for improving the economy in Nevada.
When asked about taxes — an enormous issue for the lame duck and likely the next Congress — she said keeping taxes low for middle-income families and small businesses was “the most important thing.”
Berkley also said she would work to extend the sales tax deduction that allows Nevadans to write down local sales taxes in lieu of income taxes and push legislation she has written to encourage companies to repatriate jobs with a tax deduction.
Berkley said she had not given much thought to proposals to cap tax deductions, however. President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney have both floated the idea of capping deductions as a way of increasing net government revenues. The president’s proposal would tie the limit on deductions to the tax filer’s overall tax rate, while Romney would establish a flat dollar figure ceiling on deductions.
“I haven’t studied that issue,” Berkley said. “And should it come up, before I vote for it I would need to know more about it.”
On immigration, Berkley repeated that she would not vote in favor of a compromise bill that did not include a pathway to citizenship for certain undocumented immigrants.
On Iran, she would not commit to how she might vote, leaving open the distinct possibility that if sanctions failed, she would vote to authorize a military invasion to prevent Iran from finalizing development of a nuclear bomb.
“At the end of the day I think a nuclear Iran is far more dangerous than a world without a nuclear Iran,” Berkley said.