the nevada independent logo
East front of the U.S. Capitol June 8, 2018. Photo by Humberto Sanchez

The House passed a sweeping Democrat-drafted policing reform bill on a party-line vote last week after Senate Democrats blocked debate on a GOP policing proposal in hopes of forcing Republicans into talks on a compromise package. 

The stalemate leaves the future of federal legislation on policing in limbo as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he does not plan to take up the House bill.

The House and Senate proposals come in response to protests around the nation against police brutality and institutional racism. The protests were sparked by the killing of George Floyd late last month after he was arrested by Minneapolis police.

The votes also came as the Senate confirmed its 200th Trump judicial nominee and as the House failed to override a veto of Rep. Susie Lee’s resolution to keep a Department of Education (DOE) rule from going into effect. The rule would make it more difficult for borrowers who are defrauded by their school or harmed by their school’s closure to receive restitution. 

House Democrats also unveiled a health care package, which could come to the floor next week. The measure includes provisions designed to strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as expanding eligibility for an existing ACA tax credit to help cover monthly insurance premiums. The bill would also expand eligibility for an ACA subsidy designed to help cover out-of-pocket expenses from going to the doctor or being hospitalized. 

The proposal also included Democratic prescription drug legislation approved by the House in December that would overhaul drug pricing by mandating that Medicare directly negotiate the price of up to 250 prescription drugs, including insulin. Negotiation is banned under a 2003 law. The measure also would make the negotiated prices available to those with private insurance.

The health care measure is unlikely to be considered by the Senate where Republicans control the agenda.

Policing

The House approved its policing bill—the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act—Thursday on a 236 to 181 vote, with Nevada’s three House Democrats voting for the measure. 

Only three Republicans joined with Democrats in favor of the bill. They were Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Rep. Will Hurd of Texas and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan. 

In a speech on the House floor, Rep. Steven Horsford said that the measure comes at a time when “we need concrete federal reforms to address the root causes of these injustices.” 

“With the Justice in Policing Act, we can, like the Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘bend the arc of justice’ when all Americans will be treated with humanity and dignity by law enforcement,” Horsford said. “During this moment of national anguish, we must insist on bold change.”

Rep. Dina Titus cast a proxy vote in favor of the measure for Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, something House Democrats recently voted to allow because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Engel, who appears to have lost his Democratic primary race last week, is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on which Titus serves. 

The House bill would prohibit racial and religious profiling; ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants; end qualified immunity offered to police officers; and create a police misconduct registry to prevent problem officers who are fired or leave one agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability. The measure also would limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to local law enforcement agencies.

Like most other Republicans, Rep. Mark Amodei, the only Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, backs the House companion to the Senate measure introduced by Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Unlike the House measure, the Senate GOP proposal does not prohibit racial and religious profiling, and it does not end qualified immunity. While the House Democratic bill bans chokeholds, the Senate bill would incentivize a ban of chokeholds except in situations where deadly force is authorized.

The Senate proposal is also more focused on training, including having the Department of Justice develop guidelines on de-escalation and related policies. The bill also would encourage the greater use of body cameras, the collection of data on the use of force, as well as the creation of a database of disciplined officers to limit the rehiring of bad actors. 

Senate Democrats' vote against the bill came despite promises by Republican leaders that the Democrats would be allowed to offer 20 amendments during debate on the floor, according to Scott. 

Amodei argued that House Democratic leaders, who did not allow any amendments to the proposal, are seeking to use the issue for political purposes rather than working with Republicans on a bill that can pass the chamber.

“The Speaker has chosen to move a partisan messaging bill that fails to reflect the viewpoints of all stakeholders, creates the potential for unintended consequences, and will actually undermine the ability of law enforcement agencies to keep the communities they serve safe,” Amodei said in a release.

“Creating messaging opportunities for campaign advertising is the ultimate act of disrespect regarding issues in need of a solution,” he continued.

Scott’s bill was blocked by Democrats, including Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen, from being considered by the Senate. The measure failed on a party-line 55 to 45 vote, five votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster and advance the legislation.

In a statement after her vote, Cortez Masto echoed complaints from Democratic leaders that Scott’s bill does not do enough. She also cited the deaths of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, who was attacked in February while jogging in Georgia and Breonna Taylor who was mistakenly killed in March by Louisville, Kentucky police serving a no-knock warrant. 

“The tragic murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many other Black Americans are unconscionable and must be met with meaningful police reform,” Cortez Masto said. “The Senate should be reviewing every legislative solution, under the guidance of the Judiciary Committee, and bring a bipartisan proposal to the floor.” 

McConnell switched his vote to no, which, under Senate rules, allows him to be able to quickly bring up the legislation again. But it’s unclear when that would happen. The Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the annual defense policy bill next week.

Hearings

Members of the delegation also participated in congressional hearings last week, including Rep. Dina Titus, who appeared before the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday to request that no funds be used to restart nuclear testing in Nevada. 

Titus argued that previous tests during the Cold War “contributed to cancers and premature deaths of tens of thousands of Americans and our tribal brothers and sisters across the West and into the Plains States.” 

Her comments were sparked by a late May Washington Post article that reported Trump had discussed the possibility of resuming testing with White House officials as a way to pressure Russia and China to agree to discussions on a trilateral nuclear arms negotiation.

She contends that renewing testing would have the opposite effect.

“Being tough on Russia and China means ensuring that the global moratorium on explosive nuclear testing remains in place; not giving them a license to detonate,” Titus said.

Titus and Horsford introduced legislation earlier in June that would block the Trump Administration from using federal funds to restart explosive nuclear weapons testing. A Senate bill has been introduced by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

At a Ways and Means Committee hearing Thursday on COVID-19 and nursing homes, Horsford touted his bill to require the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to publish demographic information on COVID-19 infections and deaths in long-term care facilities. 

“A CMS report from early June found that almost one-third of Nevada nursing home residents who died after contracting COVID-19 had not been publicly reported,” Horsford said in his prepared remarks. And still about one-fourth of Nevada nursing homes are not regularly submitting COVID-19 data to federal officials.”

“This is unacceptable,” he continued. “To help address this issue, I introduced the Nursing Facility Quality Reporting Act of 2020.”

The bill was part of the Heroes Act, a $3 trillion Democrat-drafted pandemic-relied bill approved by the House in May, which will not be considered by the Senate. 

At a Senate Natural Resources Committee Wednesday on the effect of COVID-19 on the mineral supply chain, Cortez Masto raised concerns about the need to train the workforce needed for mineral extraction. 

She cited a 2019 hearing the committee held when Jonathan Evans, president of Lithium Americas, testified about a project at Thacker Pass in northern Humboldt County, about 60 miles from Winnemucca, where the company will extract lithium from sedimentary clay deposits close to the surface. Evans testified that he was concerned with the limited pool of workers to fill about 300 technical positions.

Mark Caffarey, president of Umicore, a Belgium-based material technology company, told the committee that more needs to be done to train the U.S. mining workforce, including allowing foreign workers to train U.S. workers, which is something Umicore does. 

“I think allowing foreigners from established companies to come and educate the local workforce for specific jobs is one, but definitely trying to encourage universities to bring out more technical-degreed personnel,” Caffarey said.

Lithium Americas is a Canadian-based company. The Thacker Pass project is run by Lithium Nevada, a subsidiary of Lithium Americas.

Miscellany 

The House failed to override a veto of Lee’s resolution to block the DOE borrowers’ rule. The vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to block the veto, which the president handed down in May.

Lee sought to tie her resolution to the unrest against systemic racism. On the House floor, she argued that overturning the veto of the measure would help take a step towards racial justice since “communities of color, minority and low-income students are preyed upon by predator, for-profit schools… because we, the federal government, did not do enough to prevent that fraud.”

The rule would require borrowers to file a complaint within three years, and show that they suffered financial damage from the fraud or closure. The rule would replace one more favorable to borrowers that was put in place under President Barack Obama. 

“Take a stand for the very communities that have been rising up in this country,” she continued. “You know these protests over the last several weeks, they are about police brutality, but they are about so much more. They are about decisions that we make in this body that continue to perpetuate inequality.”  

Lee’s resolution passed the House in January and was approved by the Senate in March.

Rosen and Cortez Masto introduced a bill Thursday that would hand over more than 250 acres of public lands controlled by the Bureau of Land Management to Carson City for public purposes and flood management.

“This legislation will provide Carson City with land that can be used to develop future residential areas and improve infrastructure and transportation projects, while also allowing for proceeds of land sales to go towards much-needed educational programs and conservation efforts to protect our outdoor spaces,” Rosen said in a release.

Lastly, Gov. Steve Sisolak and Attorney General Aaron Ford announced Friday that the state settled its suit with the Department of Energy to prevent any future shipments of weapons-grade plutonium to the state.

“This settlement is a significant victory in our State’s efforts to keep the weapons grade material out of our State," Sisolak said in a release.

The agency disclosed in January as part of a lawsuit filed by the state to prevent any plutonium shipment—after talks with the department yielded no resolution—that it had already shipped a half metric ton of plutonium to Nevada from the Savannah River site in South Carolina.

The settlement is based on an agreement struck by Cortez Masto in April 2019, for the agency to begin removing the plutonium by next year and to fully remove it by 2026.

The Energy Department has said it does not plan to move any more plutonium to Nevada and agreed to give 30-days notice of a change in plan, which is designed to give Ford time to file another lawsuit if needed.

SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO

Legislation co-sponsored:

S. 4087 – A bill to provide for the conveyance of certain Federal land in Carson City, Nevada, and for other purposes.

S. 4076 – A bill to remove Confederate names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia from assets of the Department of Defense.

S. 4043 – A bill to require the Secretary of Defense to develop a comprehensive database and repository on military aviators and conduct a study on such aviators to determine the incidence of cancer diagnosis and mortality among such aviators, and for other purposes.

S. 4033 – A bill to require States to establish contingency plans for the conduct of elections for Federal office in response to national disasters and emergencies, and for other purposes.

S. 4019 – A bill to amend title 5, United States Code, to designate Juneteenth National Independence Day as a legal public holiday.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation sponsored:

S. 4087 – A bill to provide for the conveyance of certain Federal land in Carson City, Nevada, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S. 4076 – A bill to remove Confederate names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia from assets of the Department of Defense.

S. 4043 – A bill to require the Secretary of Defense to develop a comprehensive database and repository on military aviators and conduct a study on such aviators to determine the incidence of cancer diagnosis and mortality among such aviators, and for other purposes.

S. 4033 – A bill to require States to establish contingency plans for the conduct of elections for Federal office in response to national disasters and emergencies, and for other purposes.

S. 4019 – A bill to amend title 5, United States Code, to designate Juneteenth National Independence Day as a legal public holiday.

REP. SUSIE LEE

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 7294 – To suspend Federal Perkins Loans repayments during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for other purposes.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 7291 – To nullify the effect of the recent executive order that requires Federal agencies to share citizenship data.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 7330 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency, and for other purposes.

NV Indy
2020 Election Center
Stories
Candidate Trackers
Endorsements, Ads, Policies, Visits
& More
visit now
Comment Policy (updated 10/4/19): Please keep your comments civil. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, use an excess of profanity, make verifiably false statements or are otherwise nasty.
loading...

podcast iconINDYMATTERS PODCAST

    correct us
    ideas & story tips

    podcast iconCAFECITO CON LUZ Y MICHELLE

      EN ESPAÑOL

        @TheNVIndy ON TWITTER

        polilit logo