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D.C. Download: Cortez Masto, Rosen share spring priorities

With spending now complete, the senators are focusing on potential areas for bipartisanship and key Nevada-centric issues.
Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum

After taking a two week break, Congress is coming back Monday with an eye toward bipartisan accomplishments. It’s a tall order to pass meaningful legislation when a massive presidential election is looming, but with national security funding, bill expirations and disaster relief on the table, congressional leaders are hoping to overcome the molasses that Congress typically finds itself in every four years.

The News of the Week: Senate’s upcoming agenda

In a “Dear Colleague” letter Friday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) laid out the bills he wants to tackle once the Senate returns, now that the long FY24 spending saga has been resolved. 

First and foremost is to keep the pressure on the House to pass a national security supplemental providing aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, a tricky political situation that will involve finding compromise between GOP members apoplectic about the prospect of sending another dollar to Ukraine and increasing skepticism among Democrats about Israel’s war tactics given the high civilian death toll in Gaza and the recent killing of aid workers.

The Senate already passed a bill pairing those national security priorities, so in the upper chamber, Schumer listed finding a path forward on reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, the deal that would expand the child tax credit, taking on TikTok, rail safety, clawing back bank executive pay, addressing fentanyl, funding internet affordability and safeguarding cannabis banking as bipartisan initiatives he wants to focus on.

The Nevada Angle

Some of Schumer’s priorities overlap with Nevada’s senators’ desires for the next few months — but they also have bills targeting Nevada-specific initiatives they want to see get passed.

For the big-picture legislation, both senators mentioned that they want to see the bipartisan tax bill negotiated by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) pass. I provided a primer on that bill — which would expand the child tax credit and low-income housing tax credit in exchange for the restoration of three Trump-era business tax credits — in a prior newsletter, but since it passed the House with the support of all four Nevadans, it’s been stuck in negotiations in the Senate.

Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) want the deal to pass, but Senate Republicans look poised to kill it, despite interest from a handful, regarding concerns about the provisions, reticence to give President Joe Biden any perceived victory before the election and under the premise that they could get a more Republican-friendly deal if they win the White House this fall.

A Rosen spokesperson also mentioned that she’s focused on the cannabis banking bill, which has buy-in from Republicans as well, and the next defense bill, which she will help craft as a member of the Armed Services Committee.

But both senators also have several legislative interests that pertain specifically to Nevada, following the model of legendary former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who always worked on an array of Nevada bills and funding no matter the size of the big-ticket items he was negotiating.

Cortez Masto’s office said she has two big items she wants to accomplish this year for Nevada’s tribes and environment. The first is the Badges for Native Communities Act, a bill she introduced last year with Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) as part of her efforts to tackle the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis. The bill would improve data sharing and coordination between states, increase tribal input on MMIW investigations and commission new reports to better understand tribal law enforcement needs.

The second is the reauthorization of the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, a law that has existed since 2000 and provides hundreds of millions of dollars for environmental projects on both sides of Lake Tahoe. Expiring Sept. 30, the bill, which would authorize funding for another 10 years, does not approve any new federal funds, but rather allows already-appropriated money to keep flowing to Tahoe. It is supported by the entire Nevada delegation.

Rosen, meanwhile, is focused on a few issue areas that pertain to Nevada, according to a spokesperson in her office. She wants to champion bills that lower housing costs, increase workforce development opportunities for people without college degrees, provide funding for Nevada servicemembers and veterans in the upcoming defense bill and ensure the House passes a police funding bill she supported.

On housing, Rosen and Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) introduced the HOME Act in their respective chambers. The act would empower the federal government to investigate corporate investors’ price gouging in the housing market and fine investors found to be accumulating housing stock at certain rates. 

The Impact

Any big-ticket bipartisan items that pass would buck conventional wisdom that Congress can’t achieve anything in the run-up to an election — so don’t hold your breath on any of the larger deals, such as the tax bill. 

Rosen’s priorities also reflect messages she wants to hit on the campaign trail. Housing will be a particular area of interest, given President Joe Biden’s foray into the issue in Las Vegas and the dire state of the affordable housing crisis in Nevada.

Around the Capitol

Gassing up Biden’s oil and gas ruleCortez Masto, Rosen and Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) joined a letter with 17 other Democrats in both chambers to urge the Biden administration to finalize a rule that would instruct the Department of the Interior to focus its oil and gas leasing away from public lands that have little potential for production — such as Nevada, which has speculative oil leasing despite almost no oil reserves.

The rule would also increase minimum bonding rates so that companies pay a larger share of well cleanup, prohibits noncompetitive leasing and realigns land rental rates with inflation.

The letter’s signers were a mix of pragmatic Western Democrats, such as the Nevadans, and some of the most outspoken members on climate, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).

🚌Maryland Parkway makeover — The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada received the largest federal transit investment in its history Monday, with $149 million coming to expand transit service along the Maryland Parkway.

The funding, which comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will go toward new transit options along the corridor, including widening sidewalks, building new lanes for bikes and buses and making improvements along existing transit stations.

⏲️CCM/Rosen tell USCIS to hurry up — Both Nevada senators signed a letter to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) director expressing concern about the long processing times DACA recipients, or Dreamers, are experiencing.

USCIS data shows that processing times this year are at their longest since 2017. Senators asked USCIS to change its procedures to speed up DACA processing and change its dating procedures to ensure Dreamers do not end up with unlawful presence status while waiting on the delay.

What I’m Reading

The Hill: Cook Political Report shifts Nevada Senate race toward Republicans

Yet more evidence that in the Senate race, #WeMatter.

The Nevada Independent: Lombardo endorses Susie Lee’s lands proposal in rare support for Democrat-led initiative

Lee asked, Lombardo answered.

The Daily Beast: Dems trapped between Israel and Gaza on the campaign trail

Rosen is one of several Senate Democratic incumbents whose events have been interrupted by pro-Palestinian protestors.

Staffing Announcements

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