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D.C. Download: Horsford key in police brutality talks with Biden after Tyre Nichols' death

Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum

After a slow start to the congressional session, committee assignments have been finalized – and the Nevada delegation is well-represented across both chambers. Meanwhile, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) is leading the Congressional Black Caucus in renewed efforts to take on police brutality after the killing of Tyre Nichols.

Horsford takes police brutality fight to the Biden administration

Horsford’s tenure as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is barely one month old. But already he has found himself in the solemn position many past chairs have faced – convening a meeting with the president to discuss a brutal police killing of a Black man. 

Tyre Nichols, 29, was pulled over for a traffic stop in Memphis and beaten to death by five officers. In a statement, Horsford offered his condolences to Nichols’ family and called for Congress to act.

“We will never achieve true justice for Mr. Nichols — or the countless other Black and brown people killed unjustly by police — until we dramatically reimagine public safety,” he wrote.

Horsford, along with Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Reps. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Joe Neguse (D-CO) met with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday to discuss executive and legislative solutions to the persistent problem of police brutality.

At the meeting, Horsford noted that the Biden administration has been aligned with the CBC in calls for police reform. Biden supported the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would have created more federal oversight and accountability of local police departments, mandated the use of body and dashboard cameras, restricted qualified immunity that limits the ability for police to be sued for officers, prohibited the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants and raised the threshold for when it is permissible to use of deadly force. 

The bill passed the House in 2020 and 2021, but the Senate was unable to come to a deal that received the blessing of Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the chamber’s only Black Republican, and never came to the floor.

In a brief interview Tuesday, Horsford said he hoped Biden would use the presidential bully pulpit to garner the necessary support to find a bipartisan compromise.

“Just like we've done on the Safer Communities Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill, the CHIPS and Science bill, we can get big things done around here, despite the dysfunction of some of my colleagues [on] the other side,” Horsford said. “There are times when we come together, and that generally involves the president and all of us working to put partisanship aside.”

At the meeting, Horsford praised Biden as a leader on criminal justice reform, citing executive action he has taken. In a 2022 executive order, Biden implemented many provisions of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act for federal law enforcement agents, and restricted the sale of military equipment to police departments. 

But because most police officers operate at the local or state level, and directives can be undone by a Republican president, congressional action is needed to make reforms permanent and take on challenges such as qualified immunity, Horsford said.

Scott has put the brakes on the existing reform package, saying Democrats’ prior bill was a “nonstarter.” Instead he wants to focus on increasing police funding and training. And given that he is mulling a 2024 presidential run, Scott may be less inclined to pursue a deal that could be unpopular with the Republican base. 

It leaves Horsford and the CBC in an unenviable spot – wanting to demonstrate that justice can be achieved for victims of police brutality but knowing buy-in from Republicans will be necessary. Horsford acknowledged the difficulty Thursday after the meeting. 

“This is going to require all of us, including Republicans, to get across the finish line,” he told reporters.

The Nevadan is bringing Nichols’ parents as his guests to the State of the Union, and wants Biden to use the speech to call for congressional action on police brutality.

Harris did just that at Nichols’ funeral, calling the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act “non-negotiable.” Biden, for his part, said he would commit to trying. After congratulating Horsford – and joking he was elected CBC chair so early in his career “despite the fact that I was for him” – the president said he was open to CBC suggestions.

“My hope is this dark memory spurs some action that we’ve all been fighting for,” he told Horsford and his colleagues. “We’ve got to stay at it, as long as it takes.”

Committee assignments finalized for 118th Congress 

After being hampered by a long Senate break and the protracted speaker’s fight, Nevada’s congressional delegation finally has been named to committees.

In the Senate, Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Jacky Rosen’s (D-NV) committee calendars will look fairly similar to last session. Cortez Masto will serve on the same four committees she has over the last two years – Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Energy and Natural Resources (ENR); Finance; and Indian Affairs. 

Having been elected to a second term, Cortez Masto has accrued greater seniority on the committees. She will retain her chair position of the ENR’s Public Lands, Forest, and Mining subcommittee, and much of her committee work will likely turn to implementation as the Senate oversees how federal agencies are using the money appropriated through bills such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. 

At an ENR hearing this week, for example, she questioned Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk about how Nevada can take advantage of new grants being made available for lithium battery supply chains and ensuring no federal energy funds go to Chinese companies.

Rosen, meanwhile, no longer has the distinction of being the senator who sits on the most committees. She will continue to serve on Armed Services; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC), and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Last session, she also served on the Special Committee on Aging, and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

From those perches, Rosen will participate in the homeland security committee’s upcoming look at high-level officials’ handling of classified documents, the Small Business Committee’s probe into Paycheck Protection Program fraud and the annual defense authorization negotiations that take place on the Armed Services Committee. Rosen will return as chair of the Commerce Committee’s Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion subcommittee, where she can look into the implementation of her bill to add a dedicated tourism undersecretary in the Department of Commerce.

In a statement to The Nevada Independent, Rosen said she plans to use her homeland security position to look into immigration fixes and home in on governmental waste, fraud, and abuse, while on Small Business, she hopes to improve Nevadans’ access to federal resources. And on Commerce, Rosen wants to focus on one of her favorite topics – improving broadband.

“My focus will be on championing policies to support Nevada’s tourism economy, workers, and the businesses at the heart of these key industries,” she said. “I’ll also be looking at actions that Congress can take to promote scientific and technological innovation, as well as continue to support affordable high-speed internet and better infrastructure for our state.”

The two senators have combined influence over committee work on items relevant to Nevada, including its large veteran population, the tourism industry and mining. The state lacks representation, however, on two panels that will be in the spotlight this year – Agriculture, as Congress negotiates a new Farm Bill, and Appropriations, where much of the debt ceiling fight will occur.

In the House, Nevada’s four representatives have a significant profile in economic issues. Reps. Mark Amodei (R-NV) and Susie Lee (D-NV) each have a single committee assignment — on the powerful Appropriations Committee, where annual spending bills are drafted, marked up and passed. Between Amodei and Lee, Nevada is represented on five of Appropriations’ 12 subcommittees.

Amodei will be the cardinal – or appropriations chair – for the Legislative Branch subcommittee. He said in an interview he plans to hold as many hearings as possible to review the various budgets in his purview – from the Capitol Police to the Government Accountability Office. His goal is to run an efficient but thorough budgeting process, from the big-name agencies to the small stuff, such as elevator and light bulb problems.

“I'm still excited to hear from the printer and the folks who just keep the place run[ning],” Amodei said. “I'm looking forward to that.”

Amodei acknowledged it’s a “conservative time” for the federal budgeting process while pledging to “be as careful with federal dollars as possible.” Still, he said much of the major legislative branch spending, from the Capitol Police to security for congressional leadership, especially in light of the attack on former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul, is important to maintain.

He will also serve on the Financial Services and General Government and Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies subcommittees. He plans to use his spot on the latter subcommittee to take up Nevada lands bills.

Lee, meanwhile, will serve on the Energy and Water Development and the Military Construction, Veterans’ Affairs, and Related Agencies subcommittees. She previously served with Amodei on the Interior subcommittee, but lost that spot because of committee ratios changing with Republican control of the chamber and her relative lack of seniority among Appropriations Democrats.

On Energy and Water Development, Lee said her first priority is to stand against any new attempts to fund the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. (Neither the Biden nor Trump administrations moved forward with the site.) She also plans to look at renewable energy and drought funding.

“Those are my big issues on that committee – just making sure we're positioning Nevada, especially in light of all the money that is coming through the infrastructure bill,” Lee said in an interview.

On Military Construction, Lee said she anticipates “big fights” over the Veterans’ Health Administration. Her priorities on that subcommittee are to protect veterans’ health care benefits and conduct oversight on military investments in the South Pacific.

Rep. Steven Horsford’s (D-NV) committee assignments also have an economic bent. After losing his spot on the coveted Ways & Means Committee because Democrats lost seats on the panel, he will join the Financial Services Committee and the Armed Services Committee.

On Financial Services, he has been named to the Oversight and Investigations and the Housing and Insurance subcommittees. The Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority welcomed the appointment.

“Having a voice for these [affordable housing] programs through Congressman Horsford, with his historical advocacy for affordable housing, will help us create even more pathways to homeownership,” the housing authority’s executive director, Lewis Jordan, said in a statement.

On Armed Services, Horsford will serve on the Military Personnel and Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittees.

Finally, Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), the “dean” of the delegation as its longest-serving member, has the most House committee assignments and, like Amodei, will lead a subcommittee.

Now beginning her sixth term, the seniority Titus has accrued allowed her to maintain her three committee assignments despite being in the minority party. She will continue on the Transportation and Infrastructure, Foreign Affairs, and Homeland Security committees. 

Titus will serve as the ranking member of the Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management subcommittee, which she chaired last session. The panel oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency and disaster preparedness and response. The subcommittee chair will be Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), leader of the far-right House Freedom Caucus.

“Investing in our infrastructure impacts not only the local economy of Nevada’s First District, but – with Las Vegas’ deep and vibrant ties to the tourism and hospitality sectors – industries across the U.S. and communities around the world,” Titus said in a statement. “As ranking member of the Economic Development Subcommittee, I look forward to advocating for District 1’s continued economic security and resiliency.”

Titus also will serve on the Aviation and Highways and Transit subcommittees. Her subcommittee assignments on Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security have not been announced.

Around the Capitol

  • Rosen was part of a small group of Senate Democrats who met with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to discuss bringing a cannabis package – including the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow banks to finance cannabis businesses without penalty – to the floor this session. Given Nevada’s sizable cannabis industry and bipartisan interest in the bill, cannabis banking is an issue Rosen could deliver on as she enters the election cycle.
  • Cortez Masto sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Agriculture calling on the Biden administration to investigate rising egg prices, including “potential unlawful price manipulation.” It’s the latest action the newly re-elected senator has taken on calling out corporations’ role in rising costs. She previously introduced the Fair and Transparent Gas Prices Act, which would authorize the FTC to investigate oil companies’ price gouging and make consumer protection recommendations.
  • Cortez Masto joined a Schumer-led news conference Thursday that criticized House Republicans for their debt ceiling agenda and detailed the potentially harmful consequences for Nevada’s Medicare and Social Security recipients, veterans, and active-duty military if the country defaults.
  • For Gun Violence Survivors’ Week, Titus has been a leader in re-introducing several Democratic gun control bills. (I’ll have more on this in a forthcoming story next week.)
  • Lee was named Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, along with Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL). “As women in Congress, there is so much more that unites us than divides us,” Lee said in a statement. “I greatly look forward to working across the aisle for the good of the American people."

Notable and Quotable

“I urge my colleagues in the House that want to play games to think about being pragmatic — novel concept here in Congress.”

Legislative Tracker


Legislation co-sponsored:

S.Res.19 – A resolution recognizing the importance of establishing a national "Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution".

S.129 – A bill to ensure due process protections of individuals in the United States against unlawful detention based solely on a protected characteristic.

S.137 – A bill to award posthumously a Congressional Gold Medal to Fred Korematsu, in recognition of his contributions to civil rights, his loyalty and patriotism to the United States and his dedication to justice and equality.

S. 139 – A bill to combat organized crime involving the illegal acquisition of retail goods for the purpose of selling those illegally obtained goods through physical and online retail marketplaces.

S. 157 – A bill to prevent the misuse of drones and for other purposes.

S. 161 – A bill to extend the Federal Pell Grant eligibility of certain short-term programs.

S.Res.21 – A resolution supporting the observation of National Trafficking and Modern Slavery Prevention Month from Jan. 1, 2023, to Feb. 1, 2023, to raise awareness of, and opposition to, human trafficking and modern slavery.


Legislation co-sponsored:

S.206 – A bill to require the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to regularly review and update policies and manuals related to inspections at ports of entry.

S.219 – A bill to provide that Members of Congress may not receive pay after Oct. 1 of any fiscal year in which Congress has not approved a concurrent resolution on the budget and passed the regular appropriations bills.


Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 582 – Credit Union Board Modernization Act

H.R. 617 – To amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to deem foods containing xylitol as misbranded unless the label or labeling of such foods contains a warning specifying the toxic effects of xylitol for dogs if ingested, and for other purposes.

H.R. 625 – To regulate large capacity ammunition feeding devices.

H.J.Res.25 – Removing the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

H.R. 644 – To protect borrowers of federal student loans during the transition period following the end of the COVID-19 student loan repayment pause, and for other purposes.

H.R. 660 – To amend chapter 44 of title 18, United States Code, to require the safe storage of firearms, and for other purposes.

H.Res.86 – Condemning the Burmese military for perpetrating gross violations of human rights as part of its brutal campaign to suppress the democratic aspirations of the people of Burma, two years after the coup d'etat on Feb. 1, 2021.

H.R. 694 – To amend the Family and Medical Leave Act to expand employees eligible for leave and employers subject to leave requirements, and for other purposes.

H.R. 698 – To regulate assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, and for other purposes.

H.R. 715 – To require a background check for every firearm sale.

H.R.716 – To provide for cost-of-living increases for certain federal benefits programs based on increases in the Consumer Price Index for the elderly.

H.R. 726 – To amend the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act to direct the Secretary of the Interior to implement fertility controls to manage populations of wild free-roaming horses and burros, and to encourage training opportunities for military veterans to assist in range management activities, and for other purposes.

H.R. 727 – To establish a National Council on African American History and Culture within the National Endowment for the Humanities, and for other purposes.


Legislation co-sponsored:

H.J.Res.25 – Removing the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

H.R. 660 – To amend chapter 44 of title 18, United States Code, to require the safe storage of firearms, and for other purposes.

H.R. 698 – To regulate assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, and for other purposes.

H.R. 715 – To require a background check for every firearm sale.


Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 702 – To protect consumers from price-gouging of residential rental and sale prices, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 653 – To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to award grants to eligible entities to establish, expand, or support school-based mentoring programs to assist at-risk middle school students with the transition from middle school to high school.

H.R. 660 – To amend chapter 44 of title 18, United States Code, to require the safe storage of firearms, and for other purposes.

H.R. 698 – To regulate assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, and for other purposes.

H.R. 727 – To establish a National Council on African American History and Culture within the National Endowment for the Humanities, and for other purposes.

The Week Ahead

Biden will deliver the State of the Union on Tuesday, and committees will organize and begin holding hearings.


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