Prior to going on a weeklong recess, the Senate approved a $154 billion spending package for the Departments of Interior, Treasury, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency.
The bill—passed 92-6 with the votes of both Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat—included several priorities for the state.
Heller, who is in a tight race for re-election against Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, touted five provisions he got into the bill, including a proposal to increase funding for fighting wildfires on federal lands, increase funding for the Colorado River Salinity Control Program and language that would deny individuals who have been convicted of aggravated sexual assault, murder, human sex trafficking or crimes related to child pornography the opportunity for federal housing assistance.
Cortez Masto praised passage of the measure and lauded increased funding for unmanned aircraft systems research, funding for new studies on methods for ending youth homelessness, the allocation of federal dollars to build new air traffic control contract towers and investments in conservation programs and the National Park System.
Differences between the Senate version and the House version, which passed the lower chamber last month before members adjourned for the August recess, will have to be hammered out before a compromise bill can be approved by both houses and sent to the president for his signature.
But with President Donald Trump threatening over the last week to shut down the government in a gambit to get Congress to approve his immigration policies, including funding a $25 billion wall along the Southern border, it’s unclear whether the shutdown fight will take place before the midterm elections.
With Trump’s call for a shutdown over immigration, something Heller pleaded him not to do in May, the Nevada Republican signed onto a letter Wednesday with a bipartisan group of 14 senators urging the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to provide more information about migrant family reunification at the border. The information sought includes the number of families caught illegally crossing the border, the number of parents or legal guardians referred to DOJ for prosecution and the types of crimes for which they have been referred, and the number of children separated from their parents after entering the country without authorization, broken down by gender for ages 0 to 4 and 5 to 17.
On Thursday, Cortez Masto signed onto a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as part of a bipartisan group of 110 members of Congress asking to reinstate Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which is designed to help immigrants from countries destabilized by war or other disasters, for 400,000 Salvadorans, Hondurans and Haitians. The letter cites documents released by the state Department under the Freedom of Information Act that in which then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged that mass deportations could destabilize the region, trigger a new surge of unauthorized immigration, endanger our U.S. foreign policy goals, risk the safety of TPS beneficiaries and their U.S. citizen children and force the separation of families.
The Senate also last week approved the annual defense policy, which did not include $30 million to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. The House version included the funding, but the Senate version did not. In negotiations between the two chambers, the funds were left out of the final bill.
Both Heller and Cortez Masto supported the measure, which was approved 87-10. The two also voted for legislation approved by the Senate last week to keep the National Flood Insurance Program authorized through the upcoming hurricane season. The bill now goes to the president for his signature ensuring that the program remains authorized through the upcoming hurricane season.
Meanwhile, the state U.S. House members kept busy while in their districts, including Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat, who wrote to Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt urging him to use his office to file an immediate injunction halting the publication of blueprints for a gun that can be made on a 3D printer. Titus, a member of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, said
“Such 3D-printed firearms do not trigger metal detectors, lack serial numbers or other identifying marks, and have limited or no records of production, sale, and distribution.”
Rep. Mark Amodei, a Republican, sent out his latest e-newsletter Monday where he highlighted legislation passed by the House in recent weeks, including the flood insurance and defense authorization bills. He also lit into the Senate, which he said has not acted on more than 600-House passed pieces of legislation. “While it’s incredibly frustrating that the bulk of our agenda has been stalled because of the Senate’s inaction, the House will continue working hard to do its part, stay on schedule, and advance the people’s priorities,” Amodei said.
Rosen has been campaigning in Nevada on a number of issues including health care. On Wednesday she hosted a women’s health-care roundtable to talk about issues women face in accessing health care and concerns about threats to women’s reproductive rights.
Rep. Ruben Kihuen, a Democrat, weighed in on Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Wheeler’s proposal to weaken car fuel efficiency standards. “We’re heading towards what could be the most expensive summer for driving in years, but @EPAScottWheeler wants to gut the #CleanerCars standards that saves us money at the pump while also enhancing safety. Americans deserve #HigherStandards,” he tweeted.
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. DEAN HELLER
S. 3323 – A bill to amend the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to establish a Senior Investor Taskforce, and for other purposes.
S. 3302 – A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the non-applicability of non-Department of Veterans Affairs covenants not to compete to the appointment of physicians in the Veterans Health Administration, and for other purposes.
SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO
S. 3346 – A bill to establish the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth, and for other purposes.
S. 3327 – A bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to authorize the suspension of payments by Medicare prescription drug plans and MA-PD plans pending investigations of credible allegations of fraud by pharmacies.
S. 3321 – A bill to award Congressional Gold Medals to Katherine Johnson and Dr. Christine Darden and to posthumously award Congressional Gold Medals to Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson in recognition of their contributions to the success of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration during the Space Race.
S. 3314 – A bill to improve Federal data collection by requiring the collection of information on sexual orientation and gender identity in the decennial census and the American Community Survey.
From the Editor