the nevada independent logo
The House side of the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 12, 2018. Photo by Humberto Sanchez

The House passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-aid package late Friday as Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) unveiled a series of hospitality and tourism industry tax breaks that they hope to include in the next stimulus bill.   

The pandemic relief measure now goes to the Senate, where it only needs a simple majority to be approved. House Democrats passed the bill under a procedure in the budget laws, known as the reconciliation process, which protects legislation that directly changes the level of spending or revenues from a filibuster in the Senate. 

Democrats hope to enact the aid bill before unemployment insurance benefits and other COVID-related relief expire in mid-March. The bill will likely be changed by the Senate and need to be approved again by the House before being sent to President Joe Biden for his signature.

“This pandemic requires an unprecedented response, just as it has created an unprecedented crisis, not just in healthcare but in our economy,” Horsford said in an interview last week. “And that is why the $1.9 trillion package is so important.”

Nevada has been plagued by a surge in unemployment spurred by the pandemic. In December, the Silver State posted the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, 9.2 percent. 

After a steady climb in the number of claims for those who continue to seek unemployment insurance benefits, last week saw a 7.3 percent decline from the previous week. “This is the first sizable decline in continued claims this year,” according to the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR).

The House action on the COVID bill came as the Senate worked its way through more nominations to join President Joe Biden’s cabinet, including Jennifer Granholm to be energy secretary and Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be America’s representative to the United Nations. Cortez Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) supported both nominations.

Pandemic relief

The House, controlled by Democrats, approved the bill on a 219 to 212 vote. All of Nevada’s House Democrats supported the COVID bill, known as the American Rescue Plan. No Republicans backed the measure, including Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV). 

“At the end of the day, nobody is against directing aid to individuals who truly need food nutrition assistance, financial support, and other types of aid, but the mechanism for legitimately identifying those people and sending targeted relief funding remains absent," Amodei said in a release.

Amodei sought to offer an amendment to open a Small Business Administration's (SBA) grant program to Nevada events deemed ineligible. But the House Rules Committee, which sets debate parameters, did not allow any amendments to be offered. Those events include the National Championship Air Races in Reno, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Burning Man, and Hot August Nights. His office said they generate more than $750 million each year for the state's economy. 

His amendment would have included language in the bill to make special events with a defined impact on a region eligible for funding under the SBA’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVO) program. SVO was established in December and provided $15 billion to certain venue operators adversely affected by the pandemic. 

A spokesman for Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) said that the amendment was denied over concerns about slowing passage of the bill. 

“The House advanced this bill after several days of debating amendments in public committee hearings and we are moving with the urgency that this crisis demands,” said Titus spokesman Kevin Gerson. “Introducing last-minute amendments threatens to delay getting this relief to people who need it immediately.”

“Our office is working directly with live venue operators in Las Vegas to ensure they receive the financial assistance they are eligible for,” Gerson continued, adding that the package “includes significant funding to support live entertainment venues and other similar industries that have disproportionately suffered throughout the pandemic.” 

A spokesperson for Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) said she would be open to backing such an effort in the future, but that the COVID aid package could not be slowed by addition of amendments. 

“Rep. Lee absolutely understands Rep. Amodei’s concerns and is open to future legislative solutions,” said Lee spokesperson Zoe Sheppard. “However, we cannot afford to delay this rescue package by adding additional amendments. We need to get relief to Nevadans, and we need to do it now.”

Republicans withheld support, in part, because of Democrats' use of the reconciliation process, which, with enough votes in the House and Senate to pass the bill, essentially cut the GOP out of the drafting process.

Overcoming a filibuster requires 60 votes, but with reconciliation, a bill can pass with 51 votes. Democrats control 50 votes in the Senate and Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to cast the tie-breaking vote.  

Republicans also argued that the bill is too costly and includes extraneous items unrelated to the pandemic.

“This is wildly more expensive than the country needs at this particular time because the vaccines are rolling out, shots are getting into arms, the economy is getting better and better,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Fox News Thursday.

Nevada’s House Democrats celebrated the passage and highlighted provisions to help the state. 

For example, under the bill, taxpayers making up to $75,000 would get a one-time $1,400 direct payment. The payments would ramp down for those making over $75,000 and cut off for individuals earning more than $100,000. Households making up to $150,000 would receive the full payment and phase out for couples with higher incomes and cut off for those making more than $200,000.

The $1,400 payment comes after a $600 payment provided in a law enacted in December and a $1,200 payment provided in a law passed in March. 

The measure also included a $400 a week supplementary payment for those collecting unemployment insurance benefits, a $100 increase from the $300 supplement approved in December in the $900 billion aid package. The $300 supplement is set to expire March 14. 

The package also included $350 billion for state, local and tribal and aid. At a Budget Committee markup of the bill last week, Horsford said Nevada lost three percent of its state and local government jobs.  An analysis by the liberal Center For American Progress put the figure at about 15,300 state and local government jobs lost.

The measure would also increase, for one year, the child tax credit to $3,000 per child for children over the age of six and up to 17 and create a new $3,600 per-child credit for those younger than age six. The credit, which maxes out at $2,000, would also be fully refundable under the House bill, meaning that if the filer’s tax liability is less than the amount of the credit, that difference would be paid to the filer in the form of a refund. Under current law, only $1,400 of the $2,000 credit is refundable. The bill directs the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to make advance payments of the credit in monthly installments beginning this July, rather than once a year.

Some have framed the child tax credit provision as universal basic income for children. Asked if he agreed with the analysis and whether it could hurt the bill with Republicans, who are wary of such social safety net programs, Horsford said he had not considered it.

“I don't know that my constituents care how it's messaged as much as they care when they're going to receive their $3,000 or $3,600 if they have a child under six."

When pressed about whether the bill would suffer from a lack of GOP support, Horsford said that the legislation supports every state in the union and that Republicans that do not back the bill do their constituents a disservice. He also noted that a recent poll showed that 76 percent support the package and nothing precluded Republicans from supporting the bill.

“I can't spend my time worrying about people on the other side who are invested in conspiracies and not governing,” Horsford said. “I just got to get the job done.”

Another provision would raise, for one year, the child and dependent care tax credit to $4,000 for one child and $8,000 for two from $1,050 and $2,100, respectively. The credit is designed to help offset the cost of care for a child or dependent to allow the taxpayer to work or seek work. 

Another $130 billion would go towards helping reopen K-12 schools.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Thursday night that the bill would include an increase in the minimum wage to $15. Her comments come after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the provision only incidentally affects spending and revenue and thus does not qualify to be included in a reconciliation bill. The provision will drop from the bill when the Senate considers it.

“The ruling from the Senate parliamentarian is disappointing,” Pelosi said in a statement. “House Democrats believe that the minimum wage hike is necessary. Therefore, this provision will remain in the American Rescue Plan on the Floor tomorrow.”

Senate Democrats, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) are considering including a 5 percent tax in the package that would apply to large corporations that do not raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour. The current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and was last boosted in 2009. 

Hospitality bill

Cortez Masto and Horsford unveiled their bill Thursday. Formally known as the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act, the measure includes a new tax credit that would let taxpayers write off the cost of attending or hosting a convention, business meeting or trade show between 2022 and 2024.

Horsford said they hope to get the measure included in the next stimulus package, possibly later this year.

“The American Rescue Plan comes first this Friday in the House, but the next step will be the recovery bill,” Horsford said. “And we're working to make sure that our bill, The Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act, which is a bipartisan bill that I've worked on with Sen. Cortez Masto, is included in that package.” 

Horsford said the measure was drafted with Nevada in mind.

“This bill is all about protecting Nevada's tourism-based economy, which has been one of the hardest hit, if not the hardest hit, since the pandemic,” Horsford said.” The hospitality and tourism industries employ nearly 30 percent of Southern Nevada's workforce.”

The bill would extend the Employee Retention Tax Credit through January 1. It currently expires in July. Horsford said that provision would help businesses like MGM Resorts—which announced last week that it would resume 24-hour operations at some of its facilities March 3—to bring back furloughed workers.

“So when MGM says they're going to go back to 24/7 operations, that's great,” Horsford said. “But there's still people who are furloughed, and this employee retention tax credit will help bring them back.” 

The bill also would restore, for two years, the tax deduction for meals and entertainment that was repealed to help pay for the 2017 tax cuts enacted under President Donald Trump. Before the repeal, a taxpayer could deduct 50 percent of entertainment, amusement, or recreation expenses incurred for activities related to trade or business. 

Also, the bill would establish a tax credit for restaurants or food service businesses to cover the cost of reopening or increasing service at an establishment forced to close down or scale back operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes any renovation, remediation, testing or labor cost needed to prevent the virus’s spread. The credit would be effective from the date of enactment through 2022.

Another tax credit would be created to encourage middle-class travel between 2021 and run through 2023. The credit would be worth 50 percent of qualified travel expenses up to a maximum of $1,500 per household plus $500 for each qualifying child. The credit begins phasing out for individuals making over $75,000 per year and $150,000 for married couples.

“Nevada’s families and businesses across the state have suffered long enough, and this legislation gives these industries the support and incentives they need to continue to safely and responsibly re-open,” Cortez Masto said in a release.

Miscellany

On Thursday, the House passed broad civil rights legislation that added protections for LGBTQ individuals in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The bill passed 224 to 206, with only three Republicans supporting the bill. 

Amodei opposed the bill, which he called “well intentioned” in a comment provided by his office. He believed the bill would be impossible to implement because it would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act by redefining ‘sex’ to include ‘gender identity’—a term with such a vague definition it left him “concerned that many portions of this bill might actually be unworkable.”

Lee said the historic bill would give LGBTQ people discrimination protection in employment, housing, and other core aspects of life. 

“No person should face discrimination at their job, on the bus, or when applying for housing or federal services because of who they are,” Lee said in a release.

It’s unclear when the Democratic-controlled Senate would take up the bill. Asked when the bill would be considered, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) would only say “at exactly the right time.”

Ten Senate Republicans would be needed to advance the bill. 

Titus announced she would resume her post as co-chair of both the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus and the Congressional Gaming Caucus for the two-year legislative session.

“These bipartisan groups in the House will lead the way on crafting federal policy to boost the economy in regions that have disproportionately suffered due to the pandemic,” Titus said.

The Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus includes more than 100 members and is co-chaired by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL). The Congressional Gaming Caucuses has more than 30 members and is co-chaired by Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA). 

Titus also announced last week that the Department of Homeland Security awarded Las Vegas  $5,2 million under the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI). The UASI Program helps high-threat, high-density urban areas implement antiterrorism measures. 

Rosen also praised the funding. “Continuing this funding will ensure that Las Vegas reopens and recovers stronger and better than ever when travel and tourism are safe again,” Rosen said.

Rosen also participated in several hearings last week, including one on the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol.

At the hearing, convened by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Rosen asked Robert Contee, acting D.C. chief of police, why the D.C. police and others were not better prepared for the riot given that the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Norfolk, Virginia office had shared information about a potential trouble with them on Jan. 5.

“What the FBI said ma’am, on Jan. 5, was in the form of an email,” Contee said. “I would certainly think that something as violent as an insurrection in the Capitol would warrant a phone call or something.”

He added that the information was also just raw, uncorroborated chatter.  

She put the same question to former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who said he never saw the FBI warning until the day before the hearing. Sund resigned immediately after the insurrection.

“I think we need to look at the whole entire intelligence community and the view they have on some of the domestic extremists and the effect that they have,” Sund told Rosen about the communication breakdown.

Rosen, who is started the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism in 2019, also underscored the riot's white supremacist and anti-Semitic elements. She said that rioters were associated with the "anti-Semitic QAnon conspiracy theory," "were waving Confederate flags" and hung a noose on the Capitol grounds.

“When the insurrectionists came to storm our Capitol on Jan. 6, they came armed not only with weapons, but also with hate,” Rosen said.

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.477 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to create a refundable tax credit for travel expenditures, and for other purposes.

S.384 – A bill to require the Administrator of the Small Business Administration to encourage entrepreneurship training in after school programs, and for other purposes.

S.356 – A bill to develop and improve the transportation workforce, and for other purposes.

S.342 – A bill to advance STEM education, provide for improved worker training, retention, and advancement, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.475 – A bill to amend title 5, United States Code, to designate Juneteenth National Independence Day as a legal public holiday.

S.465 – A bill to establish and support public awareness campaigns to address COVID-19-related health disparities and promote vaccination.

S.450 – A bill to award posthumously the Congressional Gold Medal to Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley.

S.443 – A bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to provide for additional disclosure requirements for corporations, labor organizations, Super PACs and other entities, and for other purposes.

S.441 – A bill to require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to promulgate a consumer product safety rule for free-standing clothing storage units to protect children from tip-over related death or injury, and for other purposes.

S.439 – A bill to amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to increase Federal support to State Medicaid programs during economic downturns, and for other purposes.

S.435 – A bill to extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000.

S.420 – A bill to amend the National Labor Relations Act, the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, and for other purposes.

S.407 – A bill to provide redress to the employees of Air America.

S.404 – A bill to provide funding for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation Act, and for other purposes.

S.394 – A bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require reporting to the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation of offers by foreign nationals to make prohibited contributions, donations, expenditures, or disbursements, and for other purposes.

S.393 – A bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes.

S.391 – A bill to amend title 18, United States Code, to reauthorize and expand the National Threat Assessment Center of the Department of Homeland Security.

S.382 – A bill to establish the Office of the Ombudsperson for Immigrant Children in Government Custody, and for other purposes.

S.374 – A bill to amend the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to require the submission by issuers of data relating to diversity, and for other purposes.

S.365 – A bill to amend title 18, United States Code, to require a provider of a report to the CyberTipline related to online sexual exploitation of children to preserve the contents of such report for 180 days, and for other purposes.

S.348 – A bill to provide an earned path to citizenship, to address the root causes of migration and responsibly manage the southern border, and to reform the immigrant visa system, and for other purposes.

S.344 – A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to provide for concurrent receipt of veterans' disability compensation and retirement pay for disability retirees with fewer than 20 years of service and a combat-related disability, and for other purposes.

S.333 – A bill to amend title XI and title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide funding for State strike teams, technical assistance, and infection control for resident and worker safety in skilled nursing facilities and nursing facilities, and for other purposes.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.479 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to reinstate advance refunding bonds.

S.475 – A bill to amend title 5, United States Code, to designate Juneteenth National Independence Day as a legal public holiday.

S.465 – A bill to establish and support public awareness campaigns to address COVID-19-related health disparities and promote vaccination.

S.464 – A bill to amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to require a group health plan or health insurance coverage offered in connection with such a plan to provide an exceptions process for any medication step therapy protocol, and for other purposes.

S.462 – A bill to provide emergency funding for caseworkers and child protective services.

S.450 – A bill to award posthumously the Congressional Gold Medal to Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley.

S.443 – A bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to provide for additional disclosure requirements for corporations, labor organizations, Super PACs and other entities, and for other purposes.

S.439 – A bill to amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to increase Federal support to State Medicaid programs during economic downturns, and for other purposes.

S.436 – A bill to provide Federal matching funding for State-level broadband programs.

S.435 – A bill to extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000.

S.424 – A bill to establish in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the Department of State a Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTQI Peoples, and for other purposes.

S.420 – A bill to amend the National Labor Relations Act, the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, and for other purposes.

S.419 – A bill to amend title 5, United States Code, to provide for a full annuity supplement for certain air traffic controllers.

S.407 – A bill to provide redress to the employees of Air America.

S.404 – A bill to provide funding for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation Act, and for other purposes.

S.395 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend certain tax credits related to electric cars, and for other purposes.

S.393 – A bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes.

S.382 – A bill to establish the Office of the Ombudsperson for Immigrant Children in Government Custody, and for other purposes.

S.348 – A bill to provide an earned path to citizenship, to address the root causes of migration and responsibly manage the southern border, and to reform the immigrant visa system, and for other purposes.

S.347 – A bill to improve the collection and review of maternal health data to address maternal mortality, serve maternal morbidity, and other adverse maternal health outcomes.

REP. DINA TITUS

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 1378 – To amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to protect civil rights and otherwise prevent meaningful harm to third parties, and for other purposes.

H.R. 1355 – To provide health care and benefits to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances while serving as members of the Armed Forces at Karshi Khanabad Air Base, Uzbekistan, and for other purposes.

H.R. 1353 – To amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to increase Federal support to State Medicaid programs during economic downturns, and for other purposes.

H.R. 1348 – To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Freedom Riders, collectively, in recognition of their unique contribution to Civil Rights, which inspired a revolutionary movement for equality in interstate travel.

H.R. 1334 – To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to provide for additional disclosure requirements for corporations, labor organizations, Super PACs and other entities, and for other purposes.

H.R. 1333 – To transfer and limit Executive Branch authority to suspend or restrict the entry of a class of aliens.

H.R. 1320 – To amend title 5, United States Code, to establish Juneteenth Independence Day as a Federal holiday, and for other purposes.

H.R. 1308 – To establish the National Office of New Americans, to reduce obstacles to United States citizenship, to support the integration of immigrants into the social, cultural, economic, and civic life of the United States, and for other purposes.

H.R. 1297 – To provide redress to the employees of Air America.

H.R. 1282 – To amend title 10, United States Code, to expand eligibility to certain military retirees for concurrent receipt of veterans' disability compensation and retired pay or combat-related special compensation, and for other purposes.

H.R. 1280 – George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021

H.R. 1256 – To direct the Secretary of the Interior to remove the bronze plaque and concrete block bearing the name of Francis Newlands from the grounds of the memorial fountain located at Chevy Chase Circle in the District of Columbia, and for other purposes.

H.R. 1226 – To establish a Next Generation Entrepreneurship Corps program within the Small Business Administration, and for other purposes.

REP. SUSIE LEE

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 1353 – To amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to increase Federal support to State Medicaid programs during economic downturns, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 1282 – To amend title 10, United States Code, to expand eligibility to certain military retirees for concurrent receipt of veterans' disability compensation and retired pay or combat-related special compensation, and for other purposes.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 1346 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to create a refundable tax credit for travel expenditures, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 1353 – To amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to increase Federal support to State Medicaid programs during economic downturns, and for other purposes.

H.R. 1347 – To amend section 242 of title 18, United States Code, to forbid the use of chokeholds by persons subject to that provision's prohibitions, and for other purposes.

H.R. 1320 – To amend title 5, United States Code, to establish Juneteenth Independence Day as a Federal holiday, and for other purposes.

H.R. 1280 – George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021

H.R. 1248 – To remove all statues of individuals who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America from display in the United States Capitol.

H.R. 1212 – To end preventable maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity in the United States and close disparities in maternal health outcomes, and for other purposes.

This story was updated on Feb. 27, 2021, at 7:20 a.m. to include a comment from Rep. Mark Amodei.

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.

What Happened Here: A six-part series on COVID-19 in Nevada

correct us
ideas & story tips