All eyes were on the Senate Judiciary Committee this week as they grilled President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Meanwhile, House Republicans sought to tamp down statements from President Donald Trump that he may shutdown the government over a lack of border wall funding.
Though neither of Nevada’s senators are on the panel questioning Judge Kavanaugh, the issue of public lands in the Western U.S. was broached by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Iowa and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona.
All three talked about how states in the West, where the federal government owns a considerable amount of land in—about 80 percent in Nevada—face unique challenges in the protection of an environment that makes the area such a desirable place to live, while also seeking to preserve the rights of residents to use the land and make a living.
“There’s a conflict there; I don’t believe it’s an irreparable conflict, in fact, I believe a strong economy and a strong environment can be achieved,” Crapo told Kavanaugh on Thursday. “I am not asking you to make any commitments about anything except I would like you to acknowledge to me…that you understand that we have some incredibly different types of issues in the west that relate to the differences in land ownership.”
“Absolutely senator, I understand that,” Kavanaugh replied.
Though Kavanaugh is expected to be confirmed, in part because Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell last year, using Senate rules, changed the threshold to overcome a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee to a simple majority from 60 votes, Democrats, including Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, this week sought to impugn the process.
Cortez Masto helped spearhead a letter sent to White House Counsel Don McGahan asking for the release of documents to the public from the nominee’s full career, including his tenure as staff secretary under President George W. Bush. Republicans had withheld those records, arguing that they are not relevant to what kind of judge he would be. “The rush and secrecy has left us to wonder what the White House is withholding from the American people. It should make the documents available for review,” the letter said.
Cortez Masto believes the confirmation process should be delayed until Kavanaugh’s full record is made public, though she said she remains undecided on his nomination. She is in the process of trying to set up a meeting with Kavanaugh in the coming weeks “to directly ask him questions on his views related to Roe v. Wade and a host of issues of concern to Nevadans,” said Cortez Masto spokesperson Monica Garcia.
Republican Sen. Dean Heller has signaled his support for Kavanaugh.
On the Senate floor, the chamber cleared three other nominees last week. Nevada’s senators voted for all, except for one which Cortez Masto, along with most Democrats, opposed. The Senate next week is expected to consider bipartisan legislation to tackle the opioid crisis.
Heller accompanied Vice President Mike Pence at an event on Friday. Pence called Heller a “tenacious champion” for the military and veterans at a speech in front of servicemembers and veterans at Nellis Air Force Base.
In the House, Republican leaders tried to downplay Trump’s threats to shut down the government if he does not get funding for the wall he wants to build along the Mexican border. Funding to keep the federal government operating will be cut off on Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, if Congress cannot approve legislation that the president will sign to keep the dollars flowing. A shutdown could hurt Republicans like Heller, who is in a tough race against Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen.
“We have a very good agreement and understanding that we’re going to get our government funded,” Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Thursday,
Among the bills considered by the House last week was legislation that would expedite approvals for small-scale exports and imports of liquefied natural gas. The chamber approved legislation with most Democrats opposing the bill, including Rosen and Rep. Ruben Kihuen. Republican Rep. Mark Amodei voted for the measure.
Rep. Dina Titus missed votes last week. Her office said she had a “minor medical procedure” which caused her absence. Despite that, the House approved two bills, by voice vote, that included provisions that she championed. One bill to promote international exchanges on best election practices included Titus’s provision that ensures a newly created State Department exchange program on election procedures includes practices related to access to polling places, voter education information and voting mechanisms for persons with disabilities.
Most members of the delegation chimed in last week after Heller issued a strongly worded press release Thursday pushing back against a Department of Energy proposal to store weapons-grade plutonium at the Nevada National Security Site.
“DOE should not move forward with its proposal to store weapons-grade plutonium in Nevada before fully evaluating the health, safety, and environmental impact that it would have on our state,” Heller said in his statement.
Rosen and Kihuen wrote to Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Friday to argue that the “project could be detrimental to our national security and military readiness,” given its proximity to the Nevada Test and Training Range, which provides the largest air and ground military training space in the contiguous U.S. without interference from commercial aircraft.
For a full rundown of the measures the delegates supported or opposed this week, check out The Nevada Independent’s congressional vote tracker and other information below.
SEN. DEAN HELLER
S. 3412 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend the employer credit for paid family and medical leave, and for other purposes.
SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO
S. 3408 – A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to direct the Secretary of Education to award grants for teaching English learners to institutions of higher education.
REP. DINA TITUS
H.R. 6720 – To prohibit the slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption, and for other purposes.
REP. JACKY ROSEN
H.R. 5977 – The Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness Act
H.R. 5761 – The Ending Maternal Mortality Act
REP. RUBEN KIHUEN
H.R. 6711 – To provide an allowance to offices of Members of the House of Representatives which shall be available for the compensation of interns, and for other purposes.
From the Editor