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Indy DC Download: Amodei concerned about immigrant surge; Senate OKs temporary funding

Humberto Sanchez
Humberto Sanchez
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East front of the U.S. Capitol.

The Senate approved a stopgap spending bill keeping the federal government open for another three weeks as congressional talks continue on a deal to enact all 12 annual spending bills as part of a single package.

Senate action on the so-called continuing resolution (CR) came the same week Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) joined a group of his fellow Republican appropriators calling for more information on reports that a surge of undocumented immigrants have been let into the country.

Meanwhile, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) criticized her Republican colleagues on the Senate Banking Committee. GOP members of the panel blocked a slate of nominees to the Federal Reserve from advancing to the Senate floor, including Chairman Jerome Powell, by boycotting the meeting and denying the committee a quorum.

Also this week, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) unveiled legislation to repeal tariffs on solar panels, which she said threaten more than 6,000 jobs in Nevada.

President Joe Biden signed the CR into law Friday after it passed the Senate 66 to 27. Cortez Masto voted for the funding measure, but Rosen missed the last two votes Thursday. She had to prepare for “a routine, previously scheduled medical procedure” her office said. They noted that she remained in D.C. and would have voted for it, though the result was never really in doubt.

Action on the CR came after the Senate approved three nominations, including Robert Califf, to lead the Food and Drug Administration. Califf was confirmed on a 50 to 46 vote, with both Cortez Masto and Rosen approving the nomination. Six Republicans also backed Califf and five Democrats opposed him.

The Senate had planned to consider the bipartisan postal reform bill passed by the House. But Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) Monday blocked a plan to bring the measure quickly to the floor. He is concerned that the bill, which would require future postal worker retirees to enroll in Medicare, could threaten Medicare solvency. 

Currently, about a quarter of Medicare-eligible postal retirees do not enroll and remain on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which provides insurance to about 8 million federal and postal workers, retirees and their families.  

The House is on its President’s Day recess. The Senate is also out next week.

Surge at the border

Amodei signed a letter dated Monday from all of the GOP members of the House Appropriations Committee asking Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to investigate reports of illegal immigrants being released within the U.S.

“Northern Nevadans are rightfully concerned about the reports of illegal immigrants being released into our communities at taxpayer expense and deserve answers that will shed light on the long-term impact of these actions,” Amodei said in a press release.

The letter comes as The New York Times reported that immigration officials have been overwhelmed by an increasing number of undocumented immigrants seeking asylum after arriving at the southern border since last year and have allowed in about 94,000 under an expedited “catch and release” process. 

The process did not set court dates for the immigrants. Instead, they were asked to register with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials within 60 days, the Times said. But local ICE offices could not provide appointments, leaving them to keep reaching out to ICE to start their court cases. 

According to Fox News, DHS reported 153,941 migrant encounters last month, almost double the 78,414 reported for January 2021 and more than quadruple the 36,585 for January 2020. DHS also reported that 62,573 migrants were released into the U.S. last month. That’s almost as many as were let in from August through October last year, according to Fox.

With control over the DHS’ budget, Amodei said he and his colleagues “expect a swift and comprehensive numerical breakdown from the DHS directly addressing these concerns in order for us to take appropriate action to protect taxpayer dollars and keep families safe.”

Fed nominees

Cortez Masto said she was “disappointed” in her Republican colleagues on the Banking Committee, who refused to show up Tuesday to cast their votes on nominees to the Federal Reserve over concerns they had with one of the five nominees being considered.

“They can be here to vote ‘no,’” Cortez Masto said. “All we are trying to do is move them out of committee.” 

The panel met Tuesday to consider the nominations of Powell for a second term as Fed chairman, Lael Brainard as vice chair and economists Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson to join the board of governors.

But the 12 GOP members of the committee declined to attend and denied the panel a quorum, a stalling tactic aimed at preventing the panel from advancing the nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin, Biden's pick to be the Fed's top banking regulator. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), the committee’s ranking member, said he wants her to answer more questions about her time working for a Colorado-based payment processing company, Reserve Trust. Toomey wants to know if Raskin, who previously served on the Fed, lobbied her former Fed colleagues to access Fed clearing, payment and settlement services, typically used by banks.

There are currently three vacancies on the seven-member Federal Reserve board of governors. Cortez Masto argued that a full Fed board is needed to help fight inflation, one of the main functions of the Fed.  

“I hear every day about the impact of high prices in my state, from everyone,” Cortez Masto said.

Solar tariffs

Rosen introduced a bill that would repeal so-called section 201 tariffs on solar panels. 

Tariffs are used to give a price advantage to domestically produced goods over similar goods that are imported, and they raise revenues for governments. 

“Solar tariffs are hurting America’s clean energy economy by raising prices for American families and costing us jobs in this key industry, while failing to incentivize domestic manufacturing,” Rosen said. 

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the U.S. solar industry has lost almost 13,000 jobs since the tariffs were imposed in 2018, and another roughly 20,000 projected new solar jobs never realized. Most workers in the domestic solar industry, about 90 percent, work in non-manufacturing jobs – such as installation, maintenance, operations, distribution and development – and rely on the availability of affordable solar panels. Nevada has the largest solar economy and the most solar jobs per capita in the country. 

The bill would also create a Department of Energy program to enhance domestic production and manufacturing of solar panels and other solar energy components.

Her bill comes after President Joe Biden recently extended the tariffs for four years. However, he exempted two-sided panels, known as bifacial solar panels, which produce power from both sides and are best suited for larger utility-scale projects.  

Miscellany

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would provide $17 million to protect Lake Tahoe from invasive species and $50 million to promote sagebrush ecosystem conservation across the West. The funds, to be disbursed over five years, come from the bipartisan infrastructure law enacted last year.

“This new funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help protect Lake Tahoe from invasive species and sagebrush ecosystems from ongoing threats like drought and wildfire,” Rosen said in a release.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) unveiled legislation designating Avi Kwa Ame as a national monument. The bill would permanently protect nearly 450,000 acres of biologically diverse and culturally significant lands within the Mojave Desert. 

Avi Kwa Ame is the Mojave name for “Spirit Mountain” and a spiritual center for Yuman-speaking tribes along the Colorado River.

Titus and Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) wrote to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland recommending the creation of the new national monument. 

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. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation sponsored:

S.3608 – A bill to amend subchapter III of chapter 99 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States to repeal increases in duties and a tariff-rate quota on certain crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and to require the Secretary of Energy to establish and carry out a program to support and incentivize manufacturing of solar energy components in the United States, and for other purposes.

S.3658 – A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for interest-free deferment on student loans for borrowers serving in a medical or dental internship or residency program.

REP. DINA TITUS

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 6751 – To establish the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in the State of Nevada, and for other purposes.

This article was updated on Feb. 19, 2022, at 8:20 a.m. to note that Sen. Jacky Rosen's medical procedure took place in Washington. D.C.

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