Las Vegas Sun

March 19, 2019

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Washington memo: Harry Reid kills Yucca again, Joe Heck earns a promotion

Yucca Mountain File

Las Vegas Sun

This is a tunnel seen during a public open house of Yucca Mountain on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2001.

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

WASHINGTON — After a tense two weeks in Washington, D.C., Congress wrapped up its business until the Nov. 4 elections.

Lawmakers debated the U.S. role to fight terrorism in the Middle East and passed a temporary budget during this brief session squeezed between the August recess and the election break.

Nevada’s lawmakers also worked on veterans issues, job discrimination legislation and lands bills. Here’s a wrap-up of their two weeks in Washington:

Reid kills Yucca dead

Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, took yet another step to bury the idea of Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear waste dump. The Democrat made sure the Senate made time to approve two officials friendly to his cause to the five-board Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is supposed to evaluate Yucca as a storage site.

Reid isn’t shy about sharing his machinations to kill Yucca — his staff tweeted this Associated Press story that details all of his recent ones.

Heller keeps his beard, hosts charity event

Likely to the chagrin of his wife, Sen. Dean Heller’s sesquicentennial beard stayed. He didn't shave despite being confronted with razors this week when he and Reid co-hosted a charity event that made kits of recycled soap and other toiletries for people in need.

He also introduced legislation that aims to modernize when police can access information Americans store online. And he took a photo with Miss USA, Nina Sanchez of Nevada, who was on Capitol Hill this week.

Titus rouses seniors and focuses on veterans

Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat representing Las Vegas, continued her work on veterans issues. The House and Senate passed an initiative Titus championed that gives a cost of living increase to veterans and their surviving spouses who get government compensation.

On her last day before the break, Titus joined Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a rally for entitlement programs to excite the Democratic base before November.

Amodei gets a long-awaited win

Rep. Mark Amodei’s week started off with a victory when the House passed a lands package he and Rep. Steven Horsford have been lobbying for this entire year.

The House then passed a bill Amodei co-sponsored to give Congress some oversight over the Federal Reserve, an independent federal agency that governs monetary policy. The initiative is a landmark one for libertarian-leaning lawmakers such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Both bills have an uncertain future in the Senate.

Oh, and he graciously agreed to take a photo with a Republican staffer’s pug, Theodore Ruffsevelt.

While Heck gets a Senate-approved promotion

Whether or not he wanted it, Rep. Joe Heck, a Republican representing Boulder City and Henderson, was in the spotlight this week when the Senate approved the Iraq War veteran’s promotion to brigadier general in the Army Reserve. He is one of only a handful of members of Congress to hold the title, according to Steve Tetreault of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The news warranted a shout-out from Heck’s opponent in November, Democrat Erin Bilbray.

The next day, Heck questioned Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel about the president’s strategy to fight terrorists in the Middle East. Heck said he doesn’t support arming Syrian rebels, a key part of the president’s plan that Congress approved this week.

Horsford pushes the Democratic agenda

Rep. Steven Horsford, a Democrat representing North Las Vegas and the rural areas north of it, joined with Titus in a long-shot effort to pass stalled job-discrimination legislation.

They signed onto a tricky parliamentary procedure known as a discharge petition. If a majority of lawmakers in the House, 218, sign onto it, they can force Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to bring up the bill for a vote. (Discharge petitions are rarely victorious, though. Even if all House Democrats signed on, they’d need 19 Republicans to join them.) The Senate last year passed legislation that would make it illegal to discriminate based on gender or sexual orientation in the workplace.

On the week of the U.S. Air Force’s 60th anniversary, Horsford also celebrated the branch’s decision that the phrase “so help me God” is optional when reciting a re-enlistment oath. The push to do so began when an airman from Creech Air Force Base in Horsford’s district was denied re-enlistment when he refused to say the phrase.

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