Over the past two years, Republican Sen. Dean Heller has publicly urged his fellow senators and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to work “full time, 24/7” to advance President Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s agenda in the U.S. Senate.
“I am ready and willing to work day and night, weekends and holidays to do what Nevadans sent me to Washington, D.C., to accomplish,” he said in a floor speech last November. “As the Leader mentioned last week, we should work through the week of Thanksgiving. Hardworking Americans don’t go home until their work is complete, and neither should we.”
But that enthusiasm hasn’t translated to Heller’s role chairing two Senate subcommittees, which have yet to meet over the last year and a half since Heller was appointed to lead them and touted his ability in news releases to help Nevada through those roles.
A review of committee calendars for both the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure and the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance, and Investment — both of which are chaired by Heller — have not met since he was named chairman in January and February 2017.
The lack of meetings extends beyond Heller’s tenure — the last recorded meeting for the securities subcommittee was held in April 2015, and the last public hearing of the energy subcommittee held was in December 2012.
Subcommittees are a key component of the legislative workflow in Congress. Most congressional business is done through the work of committees — the Senate has 21 standing and non-standing committees, with a total of 67 affiliated subcommittees designed to cover specific policy areas. Often, the chairs of committees can refer proposed legislation to the chairs of subcommittees that specialize in that policy area, but in many cases keep legislation to the full committee.
Although Heller’s office did not return a request for comment from The Nevada Independent, representatives for the two committees said the lack of meetings wasn’t strange because subcommittees were taking on a reduced rule under their current leadership structure in the Senate.
Mandi Critchfield, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, said committee chairman Sen. Mike Crapo had arranged it so bills are heard on a full committee level, rather than doled out to individual subcommittees. She said of the five subcommittees, only two had held hearings during the most recent session of Congress, and that Heller is an “active, effective subcommittee chairman.”
“As one of the subcommittee chairman, Senator Heller has been actively engaged and successful in advancing a number of bipartisan bills through the committee, many of which have been or will be signed into law,” she wrote in an email.
A similar structure is in place for the Senate Finance Committee, which spokeswoman Katie Niederee said was structured to deal with bills at the full committee level, not the subcommittee level. She said Heller had played an “active” and “engaged” role in committee affairs, noting his advocacy for an expanded child tax credit as part of the Republican tax bill passed last year.
Heller’s office proudly touted the subcommittee assignments in press releases announcing the appointments back in 2017, promising to push for housing finance reform and “strong” oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as part of his chairmanship of the “impactful” securities subcommittee.
“Serving as chairman of this subcommittee allows me to promote economic policies that will spur economic growth and job creation in Nevada,” he said at the time. “I will also have strong oversight on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to directly address housing concerns facing the state.”
He similarly promoted his energy subcommittee chairmanship status in a February news release, saying he would use the role to “advance policies that promote infrastructure, like Interstate 11, bolster domestic energy and mineral development, and facilitate innovation in the high-tech job sector.”
Heller sits on four standing committees, and is a member of 10 additional subcommittees including the two that he chairs.