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East front U.S. Capitol Nov. 28, 2018. (Humberto Sanchez/The Nevada Independent)

Senate Republicans dealt President Donald Trump a blow last week when they helped pass a resolution drafted by House Democrats blocking the president’s emergency declaration, which he used to reprogram previously appropriated funds for his border wall.

Passage of the resolution, which Trump vetoed Friday, came as the House unanimously approved a non-binding resolution expressing the sense of the House that Attorney General Robert Barr make public the report being drafted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.

The resolution overturning Trump’s emergency declaration passed the Senate 59 to 41, with both of Nevada’s Democratic senators supporting the measure and 12 Republicans voting with Democrats.

“The President’s declaration is nothing more than an abuse of his power and my colleagues in the Senate have spoken in a bipartisan vote to rebuke President Trump and condemn this political power grab and waste of billions in taxpayer dollars,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who opposes the wall as ineffective.

Republican objections included concerns that the move sets a bad precedent that would be used by a Democratic president to “declare emergencies to tear down the existing border wall, take away guns, stop oil exports, shut down offshore drilling and other leftwing enterprises—all without the approval of Congress,” said GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

Trump responded with the first veto of his presidency. “Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution and I have the duty to veto it and I’m very proud to veto it,” the president said surrounded by invited law enforcement agents, administration officials and supporters.

He called the resolution “reckless” and noted that Congress’ vote to deny the crisis on the southern border is a vote against reality. He also said the declaration is legal under the Constitution, citing 59 past emergency declarations that remain in effect.

Following Trump’s veto, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she will hold a vote upon returning from the congressional recess next week.

“On March 26, the House will once again act to protect our Constitution and our democracy from the President’s emergency declaration by holding a vote to override his veto,” Pelosi said in a release. “House Republicans will have to choose between their partisan hypocrisy and their sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution.”

Trump may have the upper hand on the matter over Congress because it will take a two-thirds vote in both chambers to override his veto. That hurdle will almost certainly not be cleared in either chamber.

Trump is expected to issue his second veto in connection with a resolution approved by the Senate last week that called for the withdrawal of U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen. The House is likely to pass the measure immediately after next week’s recess.

The resolution passed 54 to 46, with both Cortez Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen voting for the measure. Seven Republicans also joined with Democrats in favor of the resolution.

Emergency declaration

The emergency declaration allows Trump to access to $3.5 billion for the wall from previously appropriated military construction spending. Reprogramming those funds could potentially delay appropriated dollars for three projects in Nevada, including $59 million for construction at Creech Air Force Base, $5.9 million for Nellis Air Force Base, and $32 million for the National Guard readiness center in North Las Vegas, all in the Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, which is represented by Rep. Steven Horsford.

At a House Budget Committee hearing last week, White House Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russell Vought, questioned by Horsford, could not say if any of Nevada’s projects would be affected by the declaration.

“We have not identified the projects that would be eligible for a delay” in funding, Vought said.

Despite little chance of gaining enough GOP support to overturn a veto, Democrats intend to hold a vote on the issue every six months from when the emergency is declared on a resolution to determine whether the declaration should be terminated, as is permitted under the National Emergencies Act, according to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

The move allows Democrats to keep the issue in the news and attack the GOP over it. However, when asked what purpose repeated votes and vetoes would serve, Schumer said it was a matter of principle to defend the separation of powers between the Congress and the White House.

“We’ve got to defend it 10 times, even if they knock it down, in hopes of winning the 11th,” Schumer said.

The emergency declaration was sparked by Trump’s failed effort to have Congress appropriate $5.7 billion for the wall, a figure Democrats rebuffed in annual fiscal 2019 spending negotiations. The impasse led to a historically long, 35-day partial government shutdown. The government reopened after congressional Republicans and Democrats struck a deal that included just $1.37 billion for border security.

Trump has also said he will reprogram $2.5 billion from the Defense Department’s counternarcotics program and $600 million from the funds collected by the Treasury Department through asset forfeiture. All together, along with the $1.37 billion from the fiscal 2019 spending package, the president would then have about $8 billion to build a wall. But those funds are expected to be tied up by lawsuits that have been filed against the president’s declaration.

Mueller resolution

All of Nevada’s House lawmakers supported the Democrats’ resolution calling for making the Mueller report public, which passed 420 to 0.

“The House just unanimously passed a resolution calling for the public release of Robert Muller’s final report,” Rep. Dina Titus, an outspoken Trump critic, wrote on Twitter. “Donald Trump has called for ‘total transparency’ in this investigation. I’m sure he won’t regret it.”

During debate on the House floor, Republicans, such as Rep. Rob Woodall of Georgia, questioned the use of passing the legislation since Barr has said he would make the report public to the extent allowable under the law.

“I don’t know how you want to characterize the resolution today…whether you want to characterize it as an insistence of the House on how the administration should behave or just a big attaboy to our new attorney general to say ‘you’re doing a great job and we’re behind you 100 percent in what you already promised the American people you were going to do,’” Woodall said.

In the Senate, Schumer sought to have the Senate approve the House Mueller resolution, but was blocked by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Graham instead asked for consent to include language in the resolution to investigate Democrats during the 2016 presidential election, including the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. The FBI found that Clinton was negligent, but did not prosecute her for any crimes.

The Clinton case is an issue for many Republicans, in part, because it was led by former FBI Director James Comey, who also oversaw the Russia investigation. Trump ultimately fired Comey, which triggered the appointment of Mueller.

Yucca Mountain

At a budget hearing last week, OMB’s Vought indicated that the president remains open to talks with the Gov. Steve Sisolak, who oppose building a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

Horsford argued that in requesting $116 million to restart the licensing process for the project in the fiscal year 2020 budget blueprint that Trump is breaking a promise he made during a visit to Elko last year. “I think you should do things where people want them to happen, so I would be very inclined to be against it,” Trump told KRNV-News 4.

“He’s not breaking his promise, and he is very open to the conversation,” Vought said.

Sisolak has sought to meet with Trump to talk about Yucca and about a shipment of plutonium secretly sent to Nevada by the Department of Energy (DOE) that the state wants removed. The White House has indicated that it also wants to have discussions with the state, no date has been set for a summit.

Cortez Masto said last week that she would slow the nominations of any DOE nominees until the agency agrees not to send any more plutonium to Nevada, and provides a date for when the secret plutonium shipment will be removed from the state.

A trip to Yucca, led by Alexander, will not take place over the congressional recess next week, the Tennessee Republican and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said last week.

“We’re going to do that as soon as Sen. Feinstein and I, and [Energy] Secretary [Rick] Perry can make our schedules work,” Alexander said.

Feinstein said Wednesday that she also wants either, or both, of the Nevada senators to attend.

“I’d prefer to go with them,” she said, adding that she understands that they oppose the project.

Cortez Masto was expected to go on a trip that Alexander had planned earlier this month, with Perry and other lawmakers, but was canceled due to a scheduling conflict with Feinstein.

Alexander and Feinstein lead the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water Subcommittee, which oversees the budget for the Department of Energy (DOE).

Feinstein said she’s never been to the site and said that she definitely plans to go.

“It’ll get done,” she said of the visit. “I’ve never been. We’ll take a look at what it is and whether anything would come of it or not.”

DACA and TPS bill

Titus and Horsford were on hand for a press conference last week when House Democrats unveiled a bill to permanently legalize the status of those living in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) program.

“This bill is a step in the right direction,” said Donis Hernandez, a Las Vegas resident and member of the Comite TPS Nevada, in a release. “5,200 U.S.-born children in Nevada have parents who have TPS. I have a mixed-status family and for us is very important to understand the impact this bill proposal will have at home but we are happy to see our hard work is paying off and Congress is starting to listen.”

Hernandez took part in a march from the White House to the U.S. Capitol in February to raise awareness of the TPS and DACA issues.

Under the bill, those living in the U.S. as of 2016 under TPS would be eligible to apply for green cards and, after five years, would be eligible to apply for citizenship. That also applies to Liberians, who are living under protections from deportation under the Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED) program, which is set to expire for Liberians at the end of the month.

In order to apply for legal status, those who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors, known as DREAMers, whether or not they participated in DACA, would first have to apply for conditional residency, which lasts 10 years. However, DREAMers could apply for green cards if they earn a college degree, complete at least two years of postsecondary education, serve in the military for two years, or have been employed for at least three years. As permanent residents, they could then apply for citizenship after five years, like other green card holders.

DACA shields immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children from deportation and allows them to work. Trump sought to end the program, established by his predecessor in 2012. TPS is designed to help immigrants from countries destabilized by war or other disasters. Trump has announced plans to end the program for many immigrants. Trump’s effort to end DACA and TPS are being challenged in the courts.


Meanwhile, Rosen and Rep. Susie Lee helped introduce legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, jury service, public accommodations and the use of federal funds.

“Despite the progress we’ve made, members of the LGBTQ community are still not fully protected by our country’s current anti-discrimination laws,” Rosen said. “[T]his legislation will help close the legal loopholes that allow for discrimination.”

Lee said that “it is past time to protect every single American from discrimination, regardless of who they are or the person they love.”

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.

Legislation sponsored:
S. 801 – A bill to amend titles XVIII and XIX of the Social Security Act to provide the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission with access to certain drug payment information, including certain rebate information.
Legislation co-sponsored:
S. 840 – A bill to allow Americans to earn paid sick time so that they can address their own health needs and the health needs of their families.
S. 788 – A bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes.
S. 768 – A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for the refinancing of certain Federal student loans, and for other purposes.
S. 739 – A bill to protect the voting rights of Native American and Alaska Native voters.
S. 738 – A bill to require the Federal Communications Commission to make the provision of Wi-Fi access on school buses eligible for E-rate support.
S. 737 – A bill to direct the National Science Foundation to support STEM education research focused on early childhood.
Legislation sponsored:
S. 737 – A bill to direct the National Science Foundation to support STEM education research focused on early childhood.
Legislation co-sponsored:
S. 788 – A bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes.
S. 776 – A bill to amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act for purposes of making claims under such Act based on exposure to atmospheric nuclear testing, and for other purposes.
S. 758 – A bill to ensure affordable abortion coverage and care for every woman, and for other purposes.
S. 749 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to increase and make fully refundable the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, to increase the maximum amount excludable from gross income for employer-provided dependent care assistance, and for other purposes.
Legislation co-sponsored:
H.R. 1784 – To allow Americans to earn paid sick time so that they can address their own health needs and the health needs of their families.
H.R. 1754 – To improve the integrity and safety of horseracing by requiring a uniform anti-doping and medication control program to be developed and enforced by an independent Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority.
H.R. 1711 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for current year inclusion of net CFC tested income, and for other purposes.
H.R. 1707 – To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for the refinancing of certain Federal student loans, and for other purposes.
H.R. 1694 – To protect the voting rights of Native American and Alaska Native voters.
H.R. 1676 – To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to expand access to school-wide arts and music programs, and for other purposes.
Legislation co-sponsored:
H.R. 1692 – To ensure affordable abortion coverage and care for every woman, and for other purposes.

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