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November 18, 2017

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Amodei casts Nevada’s only vote against fiscal cliff deal



Republican Mark Amodei speaks at a victory party in Reno on Tuesday after defeating Democrat Kate Marshall in a special election for Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District. Amodei’s daughters Erin, left, and Ryanne were among the supporters on hand.

Fiscal Cliff

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., right, leaves a Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House leadership says he opposes a Senate-passed measure to avert the so-called fiscal cliff. Launch slideshow »

Rep. Mark Amodei was the only member of the Nevada delegation to vote against the "fiscal cliff" deal Tuesday night.

It was a decision he made hours before, even though he knew the bill was all but assured to pass.

"I'm bummed out because I'm feeling pretty uneffective," Amodei told the Sun Tuesday evening. "It's a pretty humbling day for the new guy."

Amodei's not that new anymore in Congress. He's been around for 16 months, arriving shortly after Congress struck the debt ceiling deal that put many parts of the fiscal cliff in place.

In that time, he's seen Congress come to the brink of failure more than a few times on issues concerning tax rates, spending cuts, and the national debt. Like most lawmakers, he was hoping that this time, there would be a resolution that would end those repeat crises.

The fiscal cliff deal is anything but. Though it does extend Bush era tax rate cuts permanently on incomes up to $400,000 ($450,000 for couples filing jointly), and extends a range of other tax provisions that expired in 2012 for various intervals of time, it sets up a fight over spending cuts and borrowing authority just two months down the road, when the delay on so-called "sequestration" cuts comes to term.

"Everything is a cliff. ... So the next one is going to be the debt ceiling. And we've been there before," Amodei said. "What is the solution, hope that something changes?"

But the seemingly cyclical nature of deal-making really isn't what drove him to vote against the bill, he admitted.

It was fear of what his voters might say if he voted yes.

"For the people that I represent, for these folks in a district where Sharron Angle beat Harry Reid by 19,000 votes?" Amodei said. "To go back to them and say 'we have not taken this opportunity to do anything on spending or debt' — that is just at odds with what I represented to people I would try to do."

Amodei represents the northern part of Nevada, including most of the Nevada rural areas, which tend to be more conservative than other parts of the state. And Amodei says that geography is what made this vote different for him verses the other Nevada Republicans.

"Dean voted for it, I think Joe's going to vote for it, and I'm OK with that," Amodei said a few hours before the House vote. "But you know, their districts are urban. ... I don't think I can go home and look my folks in the eye on that bill."

The urban areas of Nevada tend to be more bipartisan and Democrat-leaning than the rural areas. Amodei's district does incorporate the urban areas of Reno and Carson City, but the rural areas of Nevada are a much larger percentage of his district than any other.

Amodei’s congressional district is also the only one in Nevada that has never been represented in Congress by a Democrat, which for a Republican congressman, raises comparatively stronger fears about the threat of primary verses general election challenges.

Still, even as he explained the differences he perceived between himself and other Nevada Republicans, Amodei seemed to be almost apologizing for the vote he had already determined he would take early on Tuesday afternoon.

"If there was anything for me to latch onto, in terms of spending or debt, than I would have done that," he explained. "I mean, I was going to vote for Plan B!"

Amodei is referencing the bill House Speaker John Boehner almost brought up last Friday, which would have extended tax rates up to $1 million but no further, and in fact, not offset them with any spending cuts at all.

In the end, Boehner couldn't whip 218 Republican votes for the measure — the number needed for a majority in the House — and dropped it before it came to the floor.

On Tuesday, Boehner ultimately did not heed calls from his members to try to do the same on an amendment to the fiscal cliff deal that would have plugged it without about $300 billion of spending cuts — a change that would have killed the deal for the 112th Congress, as well as squandered the overwhelming 89 to 8 vote support it had already secured in the Senate earlier on Tuesday.

Amodei had been hoping he'd have a chance to vote on that amendment before making a final call on the fiscal cliff bill, but it never happened.

He ended up supporting the decision not to bring up the amendment with a "yes" vote on the rule that cemented that approach, but voted "no" on the measure itself.

He was in good company, among Republicans at least: 151 Republicans voted against the fiscal cliff bill, while only 85 voted in favor of it. 172 Democrats helped carry the fiscal cliff deal over the finish line.

Politically, that made Amodei's no vote an easier one to take, as a Republican.

Rep. Joe Heck, who was one of the lawmakers voting for the deal, waited until the vote count had already passed 218 before casting his "yes" vote along with the minority of Republicans — a vote made slightly safer in the eyes of those in his party, perhaps, by the fact that it wasn't decisive.

Meanwhile Amodei's "no" was one of the earliest votes cast.

"I'm appreciative of some of the tax work that's been included to make some things permanent, that's good stuff. ... I'm not afraid to vote for some [tax] revenues," Amodei explained. "But when it comes right down to it, I'm going to go on my take, based on the people that gave me the job."

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