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D.C. Download: Nevada Democrats back Julie Su; will she be the next Labor Secretary?

Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum
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U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto, left, and Jacky Rosen, right, greet each other during Nevada Day festivities in Carson City on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent).

The Biden administration’s nomination for Labor Secretary remains held up, much to the chagrin of Nevada’s senators and organized labor presence, while Nevada’s House Democrats are trying to force a vote on gun control measures. 

Julie Su’s nomination fight

President Joe Biden first nominated Julie Su, the previously confirmed deputy secretary of labor and California’s top labor official, in February to be the next head of the Department of Labor, to the excitement of Nevada’s two pro-labor senators.

But in the months since, key Senate Democrats have refused to indicate if they support her, keeping Su’s nomination on ice even as she has led the department as “acting” secretary and brokered an agreement between West Coast dockworkers and their employers.

Both Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) were early supporters of Su, recommending her to be Biden’s pick and praising her pro-union bona fides and her ability to represent Nevada’s growing Asian American and Pacific Islander community. But a familiar group of holdouts — Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Jon Tester (D-MT) — have yet to say if they support Su.

In an interview, Rosen, who met with Su in April, praised her work with apprenticeship programs across the country, many of which allow apprentices to begin earning wages while being trained on the job in fields such as cybersecurity. Rosen said Nevada has over 90 of such apprenticeship programs. 

Though the junior senator — facing a competitive re-election bid in 2024 — occasionally bucks party leadership alongside the four holdouts, she declined to say whether she was involved in efforts to change their minds.

“I know people have other reservations, but I've been impressed about some of the ways she's thinking outside of the box to build up our workforce and make it accessible and easy for people to get trained,” Rosen said.

Cortez Masto has been similarly outspoken on Su, calling her a “fierce champion for unions.”

Derek Mazzeo, the political director of the Southwest Mountain States Regional Council of Carpenters, said the union’s relationship with Su dates back to her days as California’s labor chief, and commended her as a champion for workers. The national United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America sent a letter to all senators backing Su, citing her experience tackling wage theft, tax fraud and worker misclassification.

Mazzeo said his efforts are focused on convincing holdouts in other Western states that Su is worthy of a confirmation vote. 

“She shows a deep understanding and passion for protecting workers, but she’s [also] shown how she understands how, when you allow businesses to cheat, you’re not protecting businesses,” Mazzeo said. “Being pro-worker is also being pro-business.”

His line of thinking is in direct response to the corporate forces that have marshaled their resources to oppose Su’s nomination, arguing she mismanaged pandemic aid to workers in California, opening it up to fraud, and claims that she is anti-business given her stance on classifying gig workers as employers rather than contractors.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) likely will not schedule a vote until he has 50 votes locked up, meaning he needs to find additional supporters, either among the Democratic holdouts or among moderate Republicans. 

House Dems take new tack on gun control

With Republicans holding the majority in the House, Democrats are getting creative with efforts to force a vote on gun control.

As the leader of the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) controls what legislation comes to the floor. But the discharge petition — a procedural tool that can force a floor vote if a majority of legislators sign onto it — is a workaround that members of the minority party can use to get around (in this case) McCarthy’s opposition to gun control measures.

Reps. Dina Titus (D-NV), Susie Lee (D-NV) and Steven Horsford (D-NV) were all early signatories onto three discharge petitions to force the House to vote on measures to ban assault weapons, implement background checks on most gun sales and closing the so-called “Charleston loophole,” which permits gun sales to move forward even if a background check is still being processed. 

All three measures previously passed the House when it was under Democratic control, but died in the Senate. 

Horsford, who lost his father to gun violence when he was a teenager, said the urgency of the issue requires action, even when Democrats are in the minority.

“We cannot wait for another tragedy to strike,” he said in a statement.

Titus, who represents the district where the 1 October mass shooting occurred in 2017, took to the House floor to criticize a House Republican bill to loosen regulations on the use of pistol braces.

Titus referred to Republican rationale of supporting veterans’ interest as justification for opposing gun control measures as “putting lipstick on a pig.”

In a Twitter video, Lee also spoke out, saying she was proud of Democrats for taking leadership on the issue. But she acknowledged that the discharge petition strategy will not work unless Democrats can find five Republicans to join them in forcing floor votes.

“I hope that some Republicans join us to get this legislation passed to show the American people that we believe gun violence is an epidemic in this country, and one that Congress must take action on,” she said.

Each of the three also used floor speeches recognizing the Vegas Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup victory to reference the 2017 mass shooting, given that the team played its first-ever home game just days after what is still the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

2024 Watch

Flippo’s photo faux pas

In a since-deleted tweet, David Flippo, a Republican running to challenge Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) in Nevada’s Fourth District, made a pretty standard conservative appeal in criticizing the state of the Southern border.

A tweet by David Flippo that reads: "We can't stand by and watch as our southern border crisis worsens. We must take action now to protect our country and ensure a brighter future."

A photo of a makeshift tent appears underneath the tweet that reads "This is not a village in a 3rd world country, this is the US border! Lt Col David Flippo for Congress."

“This is not a village in a 3rd world country, this is the US Border!” read the text of a photo overlaid over an image of a makeshift tent.

But as it turns out, a reverse image search shows the photo Flippo used actually shows a village in Africa — specifically, Botswana, per a report from Politico’s Daniel Lippman.

A spokesperson from the Flippo campaign said the image came from searching “US border camp” and “Mexican refugee camp” in the graphic design platform Canva. But clicking the photo within the platform provides users with a caption: “African refugee camp in the bush, clothes let to dry in the hot sun.”

In a statement, Horsford did not address Flippo directly, but noted he visited the border last year.

“When I visited the border in October, I heard directly from those who know best what is needed - from investment in border patrol agents and technology to seize and confiscate guns and drugs at the border and ports of entry to keep people in Nevada and the US safe,” he said.

Just Checking In

Broadband

Rosen held an event in Las Vegas on Friday with Biden administration Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu to celebrate a $43.5 million grant to improve broadband connectivity and high-speed internet access across the state. 

The grant comes from the Middle Mile Infrastructure Grant Program, a segment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) Rosen helped write. It will benefit Clark, Lincoln, Elko and White Pine counties and create a fiber-optic network alongside U.S. Highway 93 through the eastern part of the state.

The total cost of the project is about $87 million, with the federal government committing to fund half of it. The expanded network is intended to support internet connections for “last mile” residential areas, or the final piece of a telecommunications chain to end users, a service area which typically has limited bandwidth and predominantly affects rural users. By creating a new middle mile network, those last-mile connections should become more resilient.

Rosen’s office estimates that 21,000 locations in eastern Nevada will see their internet connectivity improved after the project is completed. And the focus on middle mile connectivity aims to create service connections between the largest, fastest networks and “anchor institutions” such as schools or libraries, which can then extend to residences.

The announcement represents a victory lap for Rosen, who was deeply involved in the construction of the broadband portions of BIL. 

“Thanks to my Middle Mile Broadband Deployment Act, access to the internet is becoming a reality for more hardworking Nevada families,” she said in a statement.

While the Friday event is in Rosen’s capacity as a senator, the White House — by sending one of its favorite messaging surrogates in Landrieu — is giving Rosen a tacit boost in her 2024 re-election campaign, and perhaps providing a preview of what the junior senator will emphasize on the trail.

Tribal Nations

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court held up the Indian Child Welfare Act as legally valid, permitting the use of race in Native adoptions to give Native families preference and keep children in their tribal nations.

The ruling was celebrated by Cortez Masto, a member of the Indian Affairs Committee.

“This decision is critical for Tribal sovereignty and will help protect Native American children in Nevada and across the country,” Cortez Masto said in a statement. “I’m pleased to see this law upheld, and I will continue working to protect Native communities.”

Gov. Joe Lombardo signed a bill from Assemblywoman Shea Backus (D-Las Vegas) earlier this week codifying ICWA as state law.

The case was the latest in a series of announcements for tribal nations in Nevada this week; legislation co-sponsored by Cortez Masto to investigate the use of Native American boarding schools and acknowledge the harm done to Native children advanced through committee, and the Department of Transportation awarded nearly $12 million in funding to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe to build “Indian Route 35” and ease traffic along tribal corridors.

Horizon Lateral water pipeline

Cortez Masto, with the backing of the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), introduced a bill that would permit the Horizon Lateral water pipeline to be constructed through the federally owned Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area.

Horizon Lateral, a proposed line to carry water through the southern end of the Las Vegas Valley and serve the city of Henderson, is a planned SNWA project that requires federal authorization given the agency’s preferred route through Bureau of Land Management lands.

The SNWA says this route would be less disruptive to residents and businesses in Henderson. Adding this second pipeline will ensure the entire system, which delivers about 40 percent of the drinking water in Southern Nevada, is more reliable and can serve as a fallback if repairs or outages occur on the existing South Valley Lateral pipeline.

“Innovative projects like the Horizon Lateral pipeline could protect water access for more than a million Nevadans and ensure Las Vegas has sustainable, reliable water infrastructure,” Cortez Masto said in a statement. “This legislation will increase the capacity of our entire water system in the valley while protecting our unique ecosystems and the residents and businesses in Henderson.”

But the proposed legislation wasn’t cheered by everyone. Conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Great Basin Water Network, slammed the legislation as ignoring the cultural and conservation significance of Sloan Canyon in favor of sprawl.

Patrick Donnelly, the Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a release that Sloan Canyon received federal protection in 2002 because of its historic petroglyphs and its importance as a home for bighorn sheep. Donnelly also noted that the original protection of Sloan Canyon came via the 2002 Clark County lands bill, in which new conservation areas were created in exchange for the conveyance of public lands to municipalities.

“This bill is an attack on the integrity of our protected public lands,” Donnelly said. “It’s outrageous that land protected as mitigation for sprawl would be sacrificed 20 years later for a pipeline to fuel future sprawl.”

Around the Capitol

  • Lee led 10 House colleagues in a letter urging President Biden to name a permanent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration head, citing high death tolls on roads in Nevada over the last few years.
  • Rosen chaired a hearing in her tourism subcommittee on implementation of the Travel & Tourism Act she co-authored last year, which passed as part of the omnibus appropriations bill.
  • The TransWest Express transmission line, which will run from Wyoming to Southern Nevada and bolster transmission capacity across the West, has its groundbreaking next week, with multiple Cabinet secretaries set to attend.
  • DeSantis Watch, a project from an anti-DeSantis PAC, is running 15-second digital ads in English and Spanish across Nevada in advance of the Florida governor’s appearance at the Basque Fry.
  • Rosen re-introduced the HERO Act, which provides mental health resources to first responders.
  • Partisan battles are heating up in the House Appropriations Committee, where a right-wing rebellion forced McCarthy and key Republican leaders to direct appropriators to write bills to fiscal year 2022 funding toplines, rather than the 2023 fiscal year levels that McCarthy and Biden just agreed to in the debt limit battle. I’ll have more reporting on this as these fights go on — especially if they trigger a government shutdown — but one sign of how frayed it’s become is that Lee, who typically likes opportunities to engage in bipartisanship, slammed Republicans’ bill in a subcommittee meeting. At a markup of the Military Construction & Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, an exasperated Lee called Republicans’ plan an “absurd, extreme grab bag” and accused them of pursuing partisan wins over properly funding military housing.

Notable and Quotable

“The entire Golden Knights organization and its fans have proven that Las Vegas is a hockey town, despite Nate Silver’s April 22, 2015, article entitled, “Las Vegas is a terrible place for an NHL team.”

  • Rep. Dina Titus’ resolution honoring the Golden Knights, and throwing some shade at statistician Nate Silver.

Legislative Tracker

CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO

Legislation sponsored:

S.2042 — A bill to amend the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area Act to adjust the boundary of the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.1948 — A bill to direct the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to provide grants to air pollution control agencies to implement a cleaner air space program, and for other purposes.

S.1959 — A bill to amend title 28, United States Code, to prohibit the exclusion of individuals from service on a federal jury on account of sexual orientation or gender identity.

S.1992 — A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to expand the earned income and child tax credits, and for other purposes.

S.1999 — A bill to protect an individual's ability to access contraceptives and to engage in contraception and to protect a health care provider's ability to provide contraceptives, contraception, and information related to contraception.

S.2007 — A bill to amend the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to require the submission by issuers of data relating to diversity, and for other purposes.

S.2024 — A bill to provide for the establishment of an education program to expand abortion care training and access.

JACKY ROSEN

Legislation sponsored:

S.1925 — A bill to require the secretary of Health and Human Services to improve the detection, prevention and treatment of mental health issues among public safety officers, and for other purposes.

S.Res.247 — A resolution designating June 2023 as National Cybersecurity Education Month.

S.2014 — A bill to ensure that certain members of the Armed Forces who served in female cultural support teams receive proper credit for such service, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.1946 — A bill to amend title 49, United States Code, to allow the owner or operator of a small hub airport that is reclassified as a medium hub airport to elect to be treated as a small hub airport, and for other purposes.

S.1992 — A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to expand the earned income and child tax credits, and for other purposes.

S.1999 — A bill to protect an individual's ability to access contraceptives and to engage in contraception and to protect a health care provider's ability to provide contraceptives, contraception, and information related to contraception.

S.2016 — A bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to expand access to telehealth services, and for other purposes.

DINA TITUS

Legislation sponsored:

H.R.4050 — To protect human rights and enhance opportunities for LGBTQI people around the world, and for other purposes.

H.Res.511 — Congratulating the Vegas Golden Knights for winning the 2023 Stanley Cup Finals.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.Res.498 — Recognizing June 28, 2023, as the 125th anniversary of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine and commending its work to improve the health of the people of the United States.

H.R.4010 — To require $20 notes to include a portrait of Harriet Tubman, and for other purposes.

H.R.4060 — To amend the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 to repeal the sunset of the work requirement exemption applicable to homeless individuals, veterans and foster care individuals for the purpose of determining eligibility to receive supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.

H.R.4068 — To prohibit the use of M-44 devices, commonly known as "cyanide bombs," on public land, and for other purposes

H.R.4076 — To authorize funding for a bilateral cooperative program with Israel for the development of health technologies.

H.R.4077 — To direct the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to provide grants to air pollution control agencies to implement a cleaner air space program, and for other purposes.

H.Res.510 — Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Greece.

H.R.4121 — To protect an individual's ability to access contraceptives and to engage in contraception and to protect a health care provider's ability to provide contraceptives, contraception, and information related to contraception.

H.Res.516 — Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Secretary of Defense should review section 504 of title 10, United States Code, for purposes related to enlisting certain aliens in the Armed Forces.

H.R.4153 — To amend the Older Americans Act of 1965 to authorize a national network of statewide senior legal hotlines, and for other purposes.

H.R.4166 — To authorize contributions to the United Nations Population Fund, and for other purposes.

H.R.4170 — To amend the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 to provide certain benefits to noncitizens, and for other purposes.

H.R.4172 — To establish a United States Commission on Hate Crimes to study and make recommendations on the prevention of the commission of hate crimes, and for other purposes.

H.R.4184 — To repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, and provide for the discoverability and admissibility of gun trace information in civil proceedings.

MARK AMODEI

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.Res.511 — Congratulating the Vegas Golden Knights for winning the 2023 Stanley Cup Finals.

H.R.4137 — To require certain flags of the United States to be made in the United States, and for other purposes.

SUSIE LEE

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.Res.498 — Recognizing June 28, 2023, as the 125th anniversary of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine and commending its work to improve the health of the people of the United States.

H.Res.499 — Expressing support for the designation of June 12, 2023, as "Women Veterans Appreciation Day."

H.R.4050 — To protect human rights and enhance opportunities for LGBTQI people around the world, and for other purposes.

H.Res.511 — Congratulating the Vegas Golden Knights for winning the 2023 Stanley Cup Finals.

STEVEN HORSFORD

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.Res.505 — Recognizing June 19, 2023, as this year's observance of the historical significance of Juneteenth Independence Day.

H.Res.511 — Congratulating the Vegas Golden Knights for winning the 2023 Stanley Cup Finals.

H.R.4121 — To protect an individual's ability to access contraceptives and to engage in contraception and to protect a health care provider's ability to provide contraceptives, contraception, and information related to contraception.

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