Friday, April 26, 2019 | 1:02 p.m.
For some people, Nevada Rep. Susie Lee said, the opportunity to drive on repaved highways, cross repaired bridges and fly out of modernized airports isn’t worth the political implications of a major infrastructure bill.
“I’ve been told, ‘You don’t want to give Donald Trump a win on this,’” Lee, a Democrat, told an audience this morning at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas.
But even though the passage of a major bill would give Trump a stump point for the 2020 election, Lee said, the need for infrastructure spending outweighs partisan politics.
“This isn’t a Republican-Democrat thing. This is an American people issue,” she said.
Amid news that congressional Democratic leaders were scheduled to meet with Trump next week to discuss an infrastructure bill, Lee said she believed the issue was one where the parties could work together.
Toward that end, Lee joined the House problem solvers caucus, a group of about 50 representatives equally split between Republicans and Democrats. The caucus operates on a “Noah’s Ark rule” in which prospective members must be accompanied by a partner from the other party to enter the group.
Speaking to local business, political and community leaders during a breakfast meeting of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, Lee said her infrastructure-related priorities included landing funding for construction of Interstate 11 between Phoenix and Las Vegas. Nevada completed a 15-mile section of the highway last year, but the 280-mile stretch in Arizona has run into turbulence over environmental concerns.
“We need to work, obviously, with Arizona,” Lee said. “We’ve got to do a more regional approach.”
Lee was elected this past November to the 3rd District seat, which Jacky Rosen vacated to make her successful run for the Senate.
Before going to Congress, Lee had been a leading advocate for public education as the founder of After-School All-Stars and the president of Communities in Schools Nevada, both nonprofits that provide support for at-risk students.
Lee said she recently met with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and — not surprisingly, given her background — found the conversation “somewhat frustrating.”
She lamented that the Trump administration was rolling back protections for college students against predatory lending and was particularly disappointed that the administration was pushing a federal tax credit to support school choice.
“Why don’t we just try this grand experiment and actually fully fund public education before we start talking about taking funding out of public education and putting it into private?” she said.
Among other topics, Lee said she supported vocational education and apprenticeship programs and was standing firmly against resurrection of the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository project.
“We know that Yucca Mountain is bad for our safety, bad for our environment, but most important, bad for our economy,” she said.