With the election over, Congress was back for a few days this week with the Senate advancing a bill reauthorizing the Coast Guard, while the House approved a bill to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list.
The congressional session after an election is known as a lame duck session because it requires the existing Congress, including members who were defeated, to finish work on legislation that must be addressed before the beginning of the next session in January.
Included on the lame-duck Congress’s to-do list is approving the remaining seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills. Lawmakers have through Dec. 7, which is when the existing stopgap funding measure expires, in order to avoid a partial government shutdown. The federal fiscal year ended Oct. 30.
Also on the list is passing a new farm bill, renewing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and extending a raft of tax breaks that expire at the end of the year. But action on those items won’t come until after next week. The Senate and House will be off the week of Thanksgiving.
Both Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto voted for the Coast Guard bill, which had been held up over concerns about the possibility of spreading invasive species in discharged ballast water used by boats for balance. They split on the nomination of Michelle Bowman to join the Federal Reserve Board with Heller supporting her nomination and Cortez Masto opposing.
Cortez Masto’s office said she was uncertain whether Bowman would push back against any effort by President Donald Trump to influence the board.
“Senator Cortez Masto had concerns about Ms. Bowman’s independence as well as the nominee’s ability to be a check on the Trump Administration’s continued political interference with the Federal Reserve,” her spokesman said. “The Senator felt the nominee lacked the strong supervisory experience and commitment to consumer protection necessary for service on the Board of the Federal Reserve.”
The votes came as Cortez Masto was appointed chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Thursday, making her the first Latina and only the second woman to head the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm.
In an interview with The Nevada Independent, she said she sees Democratic successes in Nevada as a model for reaching out to voters around the nation. “From the wins that we gained in 2016 to the wins we gained just now, there’s a blueprint,” she said.
Meanwhile, the state’s House delegation split along party lines on the bill that would remove gray wolves from the list of endangered species, which gives them and their habitat special protections.
Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat who often advocates for animal welfare in Congress, was critical of House Republicans for taking up the bill given the litany of must-pass measures Congress must consider before ending the session, including reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which uses money from offshore oil and gas leasing for public-lands conservation.
“With just weeks to go before this Congress adjourns we have many major issues pending; #VAWA, #LWCF, #FarmBill, keeping the federal government funded after Dec 7, but what are we doing this week on the floor? Voting on a bill to kill wolves. #GOPagenda,” Titus tweeted.
Fresh off her midterm victory against Heller, Rep. Jacky Rosen issued a release urging Nevadans to sign up for health care under the state’s exchange. She indicated that access to health care will be among her priorities in the Senate, which stands to reason, given that she campaigned heavily on the issue. “No issue is more important to families than protecting their access to health care. I’ll continue to do everything I can in Congress to defend protections for Nevadans with pre-existing conditions while working to lower health-care costs and stabilize our markets,” she said.
New Democratic members Susie Lee and Steven Horsford were also in D.C. this week for freshman orientation.
Horsford will replace Rep. Ruben Kihuen who decided not to seek re-election after being accused of sexual harassment by female colleagues. He maintains his innocence, but the House Ethics Committee Friday concluded that he violated House rules in a report that included a myriad of damning details in the case.
Kihuen apologized in a statement, but said he disagreed with parts of the report.
Lastly, Trump presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Miriam Adelson, wife of GOP megadonor and Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson. Together they gave more than $113 million to Republicans during the 2018 election cycle, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
“A medical doctor, Miriam has dedicated her life to fighting addiction,” Trump said at the ceremony.
Trump also praised their philanthropy and their support for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The medal is the nation’s highest civilian honor.
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. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO
S. 3624 – A bill to reduce the ability of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to engage in inappropriate civil immigration enforcement actions that harm unaccompanied alien children and to ensure the safety and welfare of unaccompanied alien children.
S. 3615 – A bill to prohibit forced arbitration in employment disputes, and for other purposes.