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East front U.S. Capitol Nov. 16, 2018. (Humberto Sanchez/The Nevada Independent)

Back from their August recess, the Democratic-controlled House last week approved three bills to ban offshore oil and gas exploration off the nation’s eastern and western coasts, off the coast of Florida and in Alaska’s Arctic wildlife refuge, all which split the Nevada delegation along party lines.

Passage of the oil and gas drilling measures came as the GOP-run Senate approved its 150th judge, which Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsay Graham called “a historic milestone.”

Judges

The feat was touted in a tweet and press release from President Donald Trump and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, respectively. At the beginning of Trump’s term, the two set out to fill a huge number of empty federal judicial posts, many with conservatives who can hold the job for the rest of their lives and issue rulings on the constitutionality of administration policies. 

“These conservative judicial appointments will impact our nation for years to come,” Graham continued, with a nod to their accomplishment.

Those judges include two Supreme Court judges, 43 appeals court judges and 105 district court judges. 

The Senate hit the milestone on Wednesday when it confirmed six judges, including two—Mary McElroy to be a district judge in Rhode Island and Stephanie Gallagher to be a district judge in Maryland—who were first nominated by President Barack Obama and re-nominated by President Donald Trump. Those two judges were approved by voice vote.

Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen voted in favor of three of the four judges who received roll call votes Wednesday. They split their votes on Steven Grimberg, who was tapped to fill a seat in the Northern District of Georgia. Cortez Masto voted with 18 Democrats who opposed the nomination. Rosen voted with the 75 members, including 22 Democrats, who supported the confirmation. 

According to her office, “Senator Cortez Masto voted against the Grimberg nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia due to his long professional history as a member of several partisan organizations, including the Federalist Society and the Republican National Lawyers Association.” 

Drilling ban

The House spent the week passing three bills designed to check Trump’s plan to expand offshore drilling, unveiled in early 2018. 

Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act of 2019, which would ban drilling in the Gulf of Mexico near Florida, was approved 248 to 180. The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, which would prohibit drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, passed 238 to 189. A bill to prevent drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, passed 225 to 193. 

All of Nevada’s House Democrats voted for the bills, which are unlikely to be taken up by the Senate, where Republicans hold the majority and control the agenda. The White House has also threatened to veto the measures.

Rep. Mark Amodei, a Republican, called the bills “misguided attempts that will restrict energy development throughout federal lands and off our coasts, while threatening our energy security and increased revenues for States, tribes, local communities, and conservation efforts.” 

Off the floor

Members of the delegation celebrated Senate Appropriations Committee approval last week of legislation funding the Department of Energy’s annual budget, which included no funds to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

Cortez Masto and Rosen have been on guard in case an amendment was filed to have the bill provide funding, similar to what was offered in the House and narrowly defeated earlier this year.

The bill also includes language that would allow for the DOE to create a pilot program for temporary storage of nuclear waste. 

Titus has argued that approval of temporary storage facilities could dispel some of the pressure on Nevada to build Yucca because it provides a place to send some of waste from the 121 sites in 39 states around the country where nuclear waste is currently kept. 

The measure drew praise from the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, which was in Washington for its annual visit with lawmakers. 

Meanwhile, Rep. Steven Horsford announced that the Congressional Black Caucus’s Census 2020 Task Force, which he leads, will issue two reports, including one to be released before the census assessing what steps the administration should take to maximize the count. The other will analyze proposals that should be enacted before the 2030 census.

Horsford met with Census Director Steven Dillingham met this week.

“This Administration has taken action specifically coordinated to discourage and frighten people away from participating in the 2020 census,” Horsford said in a release. “Addressing our concerns with Director Dillingham is an opportunity to stand up for our constituents and historically undercounted communities.” 

The House Judiciary Committee last week approved legislation, which Titus helped introduce, that would ban ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.

Titus called the move a “historic step forward.” 

Passage of the measures come after a mass shooting in Gilroy, California, in late July that was followed by shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in early August, all involving high-capacity magazines or rifles that use them. 

But action in the Senate is unlikely. McConnell has said he would only bring up legislation that Trump would sign and he has not as yet signaled that he backs the measures.  

For a full rundown of the measures the delegation supported or opposed this week, check out The Nevada Independent’s congressional vote tracker and other information below.

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