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East front of the U.S. Capitol on July 13, 2017. (Humberto Sanchez/The Nevada Independent)

The day after delivering his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump weighed in on why he believed former Sen. Dean Heller lost his re-election bid, and the Senate took up a public lands bill that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Trump met Wednesday with a handful of regional news outlets, including The Nevada Independent, in the Oval Office Wednesday. He said that he believes Heller lost last year because of his resistance to Trump’s presidential bid.

“What happened with Dean Heller is I tried for him, but my base did not believe him,” Trump said, adding that is why he did not tap him to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “They wouldn’t go for him because Dean Heller was really hostile in my race” to win the Republican nomination and the race against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

In his annual State of the Union address, Trump sought to strike a unifying note to encourage Democrats to work with Republicans on important issues, such as border security. But the overture fell flat with Nevada’s Democrats, who questioned his sincerity after he cited a murder in Reno to bolster his argument to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

“I was disappointed that he is choosing to politicize a horrible, personal tragedy,” said Sen. Jacky Rosen after the speech.

Among the president’s guests at the address were Debra Bissell, Heather Armstrong and Madison Armstrong, the daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter, respectively, of Gerald and Sharon David, who were murdered in a Reno home last month.

Cortez Masto said that the decision to invite the Reno family was typical of Trump, who has striven to make the case that illegal immigrants commit a disproportionate amount of crime. “That’s actually not true, but he uses it all the time to inflame his base, to incite fear, to gain support for a wall that I think, and I think many others, would be a waste of resources,” she said.

According to a study by the Cato Institute of crimes committed in 2015 in Texas, a Republican state with a large undocumented population, there were 1,797 criminal convictions of natives for every 100,000 natives, 899 criminal convictions of illegal immigrants for every 100,000 illegal immigrants.

Rep. Dina Titus called the speech “long on promises and short on substance.” While she said she is prepared to work with president, she did not believe is was realistic given the difficulty the parties have had in the first two years of Trump’s term. “[T]he past two years have taught me that Trump’s promises are likely just smoke and mirrors,” Titus said.

Rep. Steven Horsford cited the Trump administration’s policy of family separation as what gave him pause about Trump’s bipartisan olive branch.

“It’s difficult to believe the President is committed to unity when he refuses to unite hundreds of children separated from their families,” Horsford said. “I’m open to finding common ground with the President and my congressional Republican colleagues. Let’s start by agreeing that separating children from their parents, initiating shutdowns that hurt our federal workers and our economy, and creating divisions based on race and religion is no way to lead our country.”

The family separation issue started in April, when the White House announced that it would prosecute all people who entered the country illegally, including those seeking asylum, in what the administration called a “zero tolerance” policy. The move resulted in children being separated from their parents in order to comply with a 1997 court ruling known as the Flores settlement that bars the government from jailing migrant children for more than 20 days.

The policy was ended by an executive order in June. But a report released last month by the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services said that “thousands” more children were separated than initially reported by the government.

Cortez Masto helped introduce legislation that would prohibit the separation of migrant children from their parents or legal guardians by immigration officials at ports of entry or within 100 miles of the border. She also co-sponsored a measure that would prohibit U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from using information gathered in the process of resettling unaccompanied immigrant children to take civil enforcement actions against prospective sponsors and all individuals who reside with them.

Rep. Susie Lee said that she is hopeful that Congress can work in a bipartisan way on big issues, but she also noted that she remains at odds with the White House over pre-existing conditions. “I will continue to oppose any measures that would weaken protections for patients with pre-existing conditions or otherwise harm Southern Nevada families,” she said in a release.

Although Trump supports requiring insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions, the Department of Justice has refused to defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which includes the pre-existing condition requirement, in a lawsuit in Texas. A judge recently ruled in favor of 20 Republican attorneys general who are challenging the ACA’s constitutionality in the Texas case after Congress removed the tax penalty associated with the law’s mandate to buy health insurance. The case, which threatens the protections for pre-existing conditions, is being appealed.

While the president decided not to choose Heller to head the Interior Department, he did announce last week that he plans to nominate acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

Cortez Masto—a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee—said she has “serious reservations” about Bernhardt and plans to carefully review his record.

“Acting Secretary Bernhardt’s history as a lobbyist with ties to fossil fuel companies raises serious questions about his commitment to honoring the mission of the Department of the Interior to conserve and manage the natural resources and cultural heritage of America, as well as protect and preserve Nevada’s public land,” she said.

Her comments came as the Senate is considering legislation that would permanently renew the authorization for the LWCF, which uses money from offshore oil and gas leasing for public-lands conservation.

The fund benefits western states such as Nevada, where more than 85 percent of the land is owned by the federal government. The bill also makes technical corrections affecting certain areas in Nevada, including a provision that provides a plot of federal land in Lincoln County to the county to be used as a landfill in order to discourage unauthorized dumping and trash disposal on environmentally-sensitive public land.

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
Legislation sponsored:
S. 410 – A bill to require the Comptroller General of the United States to carry out a study on how virtual currencies and online marketplaces are used to buy, sell, or facilitate the financing of goods or services associated with sex trafficking or drug trafficking, and for other purposes.
S. 331 – A bill to amend the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975 to modify the exemptions from certain disclosure requirements.
Legislation co-sponsored:
S. 409 – A bill to posthumously award a Congressional Gold Medal in commemoration of Aretha Franklin.
S. 388 –A bill to reduce the ability of the 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. 385 – A bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide increased labor law protections for agricultural workers, and for other purposes.
S. 368 – A bill to prohibit the application of certain restrictive eligibility requirements to foreign nongovernmental organizations with respect to the provision of assistance under part I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.
S. 367 – A bill to provide for the administration of certain national monuments, to establish a National Monument Enhancement Fund, and to establish certain wilderness areas in the States of New Mexico and Nevada.
S. 358 – A bill to amend title 13, United States Code, to require the Secretary of Commerce to provide advance notice to Congress before changing any questions on the decennial census, and for other purposes.
S. 326 – A bill to prohibit the use of amounts appropriated for military construction or the Army Corps of Engineers for the construction of barriers, land acquisition, or any other associated activities on the southern border without specific statutory authorization from Congress.
SEN. JACKY ROSEN
Legislation co-sponsored:
S. 368 – A bill to prohibit the application of certain restrictive eligibility requirements to foreign nongovernmental organizations with respect to the provision of assistance under part I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.
S. 367 – A bill to provide for the administration of certain national monuments, to establish a National Monument Enhancement Fund, and to establish certain wilderness areas in the States of New Mexico and Nevada.
S. 358 – A bill to amend title 13, United States Code, to require the Secretary of Commerce to provide advance notice to Congress before changing any questions on the decennial census, and for other purposes.
REP. DINA TITUS
Legislation sponsored:
H.R. 1042 – To amend the Animal Welfare Act to require that covered persons develop and implement emergency contingency plans.
H.R. 1030 – To amend title 38, United States Code, to amend the definition of the term "spouse" to recognize new State definitions of such term for the purpose of the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.
Legislation co-sponsored:
H.R. 1094 – To authorize the Secretary of Defense to make grants to support the study of world languages in elementary schools and secondary schools.
H.R. 1074 – To amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to expand coverage under the Act, to increase protections for whistleblowers, to increase penalties for high gravity violations, to adjust penalties for inflation, to provide rights for victims or their family members, and for other purposes.
H.R. 1055 – To prohibit the application of certain restrictive eligibility requirements to foreign nongovernmental organizations with respect to the provision of assistance under part I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.
H.R. 1050 – To provide for the administration of certain national monuments, to establish a National Monument Enhancement Fund, and to establish certain wilderness areas in the States of New Mexico and Nevada.
H.R. 1046 – To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate prices of prescription drugs furnished under part D of the Medicare program.
H.R. 1044 – To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants, to increase the per-country numerical limitation for family-sponsored immigrants, and for other purposes.
REP. SUSIE LEE
Legislation co-sponsored:
H.R. 1074 – To amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to expand coverage under the Act, to increase protections for whistleblowers, to increase penalties for high gravity violations, to adjust penalties for inflation, to provide rights for victims or their family members, and for other purposes.
H.R. 1050 – To provide for the administration of certain national monuments, to establish a National Monument Enhancement Fund, and to establish certain wilderness areas in the States of New Mexico and Nevada.
H.R. 1046 – To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate prices of prescription drugs furnished under part D of the Medicare program.
REP. STEVEN HORSFORD
Legislation sponsored:
H.R. 1016 – To amend title 31, United States Code, to reimburse employees of the Federal Government and the District of Columbia, Federal contractors, and the States for certain costs incurred as a result of a Government shutdown, and for other purposes.
Legislation co-sponsored:
H.R. 1050 – To provide for the administration of certain national monuments, to establish a National Monument Enhancement Fund, and to establish certain wilderness areas in the States of New Mexico and Nevada.
H.R. 1010 – To amend title 31, United States Code, to reimburse employees of the Federal Government and the District of Columbia, Federal contractors, and the States for certain costs incurred as a result of a Government shutdown, and for other purposes.
H.R. 1003 – To posthumously award a Congressional Gold Medal to Aretha Franklin in recognition of her contributions of outstanding artistic and historical significance to culture in the United States.

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