It happens like clockwork.
Candidates announce their bids for office. Then the attack ads follow in short order, unabashedly targeting their voting records and more.
We’re here to help. The Nevada Independent produces fact-checks for political advertisements and off-the-cuff remarks, but we also want to provide you direct information on the candidate’s records. Over the last few months, we’ve been rolling out “On the Record” pieces, our look at their voting history and stances on a broad array of subjects.
Now up: A side-by-side overview of the two candidates running for the U.S. Senate, Republican incumbent Dean Heller and his Democratic challenger Rep. Jacky Rosen. (For even more information on the candidates’ congressional records, explore the bills that Heller has sponsored here and Rosen has sponsored here.)
Heller opposes federal funding for any organization that provides abortion services, including Planned Parenthood. Last year, the Republican senator said at a town hall in Reno that he had “no problems with funding for Planned Parenthood” and that he would “protect” the organization. His spokeswoman later clarified that while he has no problems with many of the services the organization offers, he does not support federal funding for organizations that provide abortions.
Heller first campaigned as pro-choice when he ran for the Assembly in 1990. He told the Associated Press in 2011 that he previously had a “libertarian” view on abortion that changed when he got to Washington D.C. Heller is running with the support of National Right to Life.
Rosen opposes efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which Republicans have justified on the grounds that the organization provides abortion services, though the organization says that no federal funding goes toward paying for the procedures.
The Democratic congresswoman has said that “there’s no room for career politicians in Washington” to get in the middle of decisions a woman makes with her doctor. She also supports other services Planned Parenthood provides including birth control and cancer screenings. She is backed by NARAL Pro-Choice America, EMILY’s List and Planned Parenthood.
Heller has sponsored or co-sponsored a number of education-related bills over the years. As a member of the House, Heller twice sponsored the Parents’ Right to Know Improvement Act to require schools provide information to parents upon request about the professional qualifications of educators that work with disabled children. He also twice co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to require annual financial counseling to student loan borrowers and sponsored a bill to direct NASA to encourage women and girls to study STEM through several of its initiatives.
Almost all of the education-related bills Heller touts passing or championing on his website have to do with education for guardsmen, reservists and veterans except for the STOP School Violence Act, which funds security improvements and early intervention and prevention programs to stop school violence.
Last year, the Republican senator voted in favor of confirming Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, saying that she “understands the need to bring back education control to state and local boards.” He also supported an amendment to the tax reform bill last year to expand school choice by allowing families to use funds stored in higher education savings plans to pay for K-12 private school tuition and homeschool expenses.
Rosen, on her campaign website, said she supports paying teachers better, increasing funding to help public schools in Nevada, and rebuilding “crumbling or outdated” public schools serving low-income students. A former computer programmer, she is also a vocal proponent of STEM education. Two bills she sponsored to promote research into STEM education for young girls and require the National Science Foundation to consider age distribution when awarding grants for research studies passed the House as one combined measure in February.
She also signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill to permanently reauthorize funding programs for historically Black colleges and other institutions of higher education that serve minority students, legislation that prohibits discrimination against public school students on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and a proposal to deem some computer programming languages “critical foreign languages.”
Rosen supports reducing the cost of higher education programs including advanced skills training, apprenticeship programs, community colleges or four-year degree programs. She has said that she will work in the Senate to lower interest rates for student loans.
Heller’s campaign website describes him as an “unwavering advocate” for the Second Amendment, including opposition to “comprehensive gun control” and creation of a national gun registry.
He also supports requiring states to recognize concealed firearm permits to be recognized across all states, cosponsoring legislation in 2017, 2016 and 2012. The National Rifle Association, which endorsed Heller, calls national concealed carry reciprocity its “number one agenda item” in Congress.
He also voted against a major 2013 background checks bill sponsored by West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey that would have required checks on all public sales of guns. He also voted against amendments in 2013 that would ban semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
In November 2017, Heller became a cosponsor of a “Fix NICS” bill which aimed to beef up enforcement of existing background check law and raise penalties for agencies that fail to report relevant records. The bill was heard in March 2018, but hasn’t come up for a vote.
The Republican senator also voted in favor of rescinding a Social Security Administration rule adding people to a federal background check database if they cannot perform “gainful activity” because of mental impairment or if they need an appointed representative to manage them. The rollback of the rule passed 57-43 in the Senate and 235-180 in the House, with Rosen voting against it.
He’s also applauded efforts by the Trump administration to ban bump stocks, devices that mimic the fire of automatic weapons used to deadly effect in the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. Democratic groups have criticized Heller for not signing onto legislation that would outright ban use of the devices.
Rosen signed onto a bill three days after the mass shooting in Las Vegas that would have banned bump stock devices.
The Democratic congresswoman also voted against a House version of legislation creating national concealed carry permit reciprocity in December 2017, which was approved on a 231 to 198 margin. She also co-sponsored a bill in November 2017 expanding background checks on gun sales to cover private-party sales and transfers, but not transfers between family members.The bill has not moved forward, but Rosen signed onto a discharge petition for the bill in February that would bring it to the floor if it gains the signatures from a majority of House members.
Rosen has co-sponsored a bill banning assault weapons, H.R. 5087, and said in an email to The Nevada Independent earlier this year that she would support raising the minimum age to purchase semiautomatic assault weapons from 18 to 21.
She also supported a ballot measure expanding gun background checks in 2016, and is opposed to President Donald Trump’s idea of arming teachers as a way to stem school shootings.
Heller voted against the Affordable Care Act when he was serving in the House and also voted to repeal it in its entirety once the Republicans took control of Congress in 2011. Since then, he has expressed support for the federal health-care law’s protections for pre-existing conditions and a provision in the law Nevada took advantage of extending coverage through the state’s Medicaid program broadly to all low-income adults, those who make up to 138 percent of the poverty level.
In June 2017, Heller came out in opposition to the Senate’s first proposal to repeal and replace the ACA, saying it was “simply not the answer” and expressing concern about the legislation’s cuts to Medicaid expansion. However, a little less than a month later, Heller voted to advance the House’s repeal and replace bill to a debate.
Over a series of votes, Heller rejected both the Senate’s second iteration of a repeal and replace bill as well as a repeal-only bill but voted in favor of a so-called skinny repeal of the health-care law to strip away the ACA’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance; all of those proposals ultimately failed. In December, Congress ended up effectively zeroing out the individual mandate’s penalty as part of its tax reform bill. Heller also supported legislation that would have taken ACA dollars and allocated them to the states in the form of block grants, a bill that Heller said would enhance states’ ability to shape their own health-care systems but that Gov. Brian Sandoval said would create a “false choice.”
Heller sponsored legislation earlier this year to require health insurance companies to protect people with pre-existing conditions in the event that the protections are nullified as part of an ongoing court case in Texas. However, health-care experts noted that the legislation would not actually prevent insurance companies from excluding protection of the pre-existing condition itself.
Heller has been a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act’s so-called Cadillac tax, a 40 percent excise tax on employer plans exceeding $10,200 in premiums a year for individuals and $27,500 for families. The Culinary Union, whose members would be affected by the tax, has been outspoken in support of Heller’s efforts to repeal or delay implementation of the tax. In December, a Heller amendment was approved pushing the Cadillac tax’s start date from 2020 to 2022.
Heller was also an original co-sponsor of a bill to repeal payment caps on certain outpatient physical therapy and speech therapy services through Medicare and sponsored legislation to help new mothers struggling with postpartum depression.
Rosen, in an interview with The Nevada Independent, said that stabilizing the Affordable Care Act is the country’s most pressing need in health care. In July, she introduced a resolution to authorize the House’s general counsel to intervene in a federal lawsuit brought forward by several conservative states (not including Nevada) challenging the constitutionality of the ACA’s protections for pre-existing conditions. In a statement, Rosen called the lawsuit an “assault” on the country’s health-care system.
Rosen favors the creation of a nationwide public health insurance option (Medicaid buy-in) over a single-payer health-care system (Medicare for all), co-sponsoring legislation to create a public option last year. Rosen also co-sponsored a bill to fund so-called cost-sharing reductions that the Trump Administration stopped last year and backed a measure in the House to override the Trump Administration rule expanding the availability of so-called short-term limited duration plans.
The freshman congresswoman has also talked at some length about rising prescription drug costs, backing legislation to guarantee health insurers do not prohibit pharmacies from providing information about the cost of prescription drugs to enrollees, sponsoring a bill to cap monthly out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions for any group health plan or plan sold on the individual market and sending a letter to the White House with six other House members urging the creation of a bipartisan task force to investigate the rising costs of prescription drugs. She recently created a Palliative Care Task Force with Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-ME, to address the needs of those who are suffering from a serious illness but not yet sick enough to be in hospice care.
Rosen has said also that she will oppose any attempt to make cuts to Medicare, the federal health insurance system that provides care to the nation’s elderly.
Heller’s positions on immigration have shifted widely over his last decade in federal office.
As a congressman, he voted against a 2010 version of the DREAM Act, cosponsored a bill making English the official language of the United States and said he opposed “amnesty” and any “benefits for illegals.”
But he reversed track after moving to the Senate, and became one of 13 Republicans to vote in favor of a compromise immigration reform bill in 2013 that failed to pass the House. In 2015, he was the lone Republican senator to vote against opening debate on a bill that would dismantle DACA funding, and was one of 11 Republican senators to not sign onto a bill supporting Texas’ legal challenge to the program.
More recently, he said in a 2017 interview with NBC News that he supported existing protections for DACA recipients, and cosponsored the BRIDGE Act, (Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy), which would essentially codify the program in place for three years.
But in a series of votes on immigration bills held in February, Heller voted in favor of an immigration bill written by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and favored by Trump that garnered only 39 votes, with 60 opposed including 14 Republican senators. The bill would have granted legal status to 1.8 million undocumented people, allocated $25 million to a Mexican border wall, ended family-based visas or chain migration and significantly curtail the diversity lottery system for immigrants.
Heller also voted against a more moderate amendment offered by Arizona Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain and Delaware Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Coons that offered protections to young undocumented immigrants and included some funding for border security. He also voted against a compromise amendment by South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds and Maine Sen. Angus King that fell six votes short of the 60 needed to pass, with eight Republicans voting in favor.
Heller also wrote a letter to the Department of Justice asking it to stop the practice of separating children from their parents when they arrive at the border and introduced a bill in June that would end the practice and increase the number of immigration judges.
Rosen opposed the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA, signing on to a 2017 version of the DREAM Act and signing on to a discharge petition to bring the bill to the floor of the House. She’s also one of 48 bipartisan sponsors of the Uniting and Securing America Act, which would give young undocumented immigrants who have lived in the country for at least four years the right to gain legal status and an eventual path to citizenship, while increasing border security.
She also sponsored a bill in August allowing for DACA recipients to apply for conditional permanent status and a five-year pathway to citizenship. She’s also opposed to decisions by the Trump administration to end the Temporary Protected Status program for Salvadorans and other countries, including bringing a TPS recipient as her guest during Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address.
Rosen also voted against “Kate’s Law,” which would increase penalties on undocumented immigrants who illegally re-enter the country after being deported, and against a measure that would cut funding to cities that refuse to comply with federal immigration laws.
Heller was an adamant supporter of Republican-led efforts to overhaul the federal tax code in late 2017, including boasting on Twitter that he helped write it. He’s specifically highlighted the bill’s doubling of standard deduction on personal income taxes and a doubling of the child tax credit.
In addition to repealing the individual mandate requirement in the Affordable Care Act, the tax bill also lowered corporate taxes from 35 percent to 21 percent, lowered tax rates for individual filers and made it less beneficial to itemize deductions on tax returns. The federal Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill would add $1.89 trillion to the national debt over the next ten years.
Heller also voted against a $700 billion bailout bill as a member of the House in 2008, saying in a statement that he didn’t want to put Nevada taxpayers on the “hook for the foolish excesses of Wall Street.”
Rosen, along with every single House Democrat, voted against the tax bill in 2017. But she’s had to fend off criticism after appearing at an event that called for repealing the measure (although she herself did not specifically call for it to be repealed) and in September was one of three House Democrats to vote in favor of a measure making the income tax rates for individual and joint filers permanent, instead of expiring after 10 years.
Heller has typically steered clear of criticizing Trump for imposing billions of dollars worth of tariffs on Chinese goods, saying in a Fox News interview in June that he was giving the president a “wide berth” on the issue.
Heller has pushed back against one aspect of the administration’s trade policy, introducing legislation to repeal tariffs on solar panels in June.
Back in 2015, Heller also voted for legislation that would clear the way for former President Barack Obama’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. Rosen said she opposed the trade proposal in a 2016 interview.
Rosen also introduced a bill to repeal the tariffs prior to Heller’s bill. On her 2016 campaign website, she said she would demand China stop manipulating its currency and would oppose “bad trade deals.”
Since entering Congress, Heller has sponsored more than 60 veteran-related bills and co-sponsored roughly 200 more. Last year, a bill Heller sponsored to provide funding to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to continue the Veterans Choice Program, which allows veterans to receive care in the community rather than directly from the VA, was signed into law by the president.
Recently, the Republican senator has sponsored other veteran-focused legislation including a bill to support STEM education for veterans, legislation to require the Department of Veterans Affairs to notify state licensing boards when they discipline a medical employee, and a proposal to revise eligibility for post-9/11 educational assistance. Heller also advocated for the construction of a new VA Clinic in Pahrump, which opened in 2016 after a decade-long wait, and the renovation and expansion of the Reno VA Medical Center.
Heller currently sits on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and co-chairs the Senate VA Backlog Working Group.
Rosen, in her two years in Congress, has sponsored seven bills and co-sponsored nearly 70 other pieces of legislation relating to veterans. This year, she introduced bills to expand a tax credit to encourage business to hire student veterans, create a vocational education program for veterans looking for careers in the solar industry and extend programs to help homeless veterans.
Rosen currently sits on the House Armed Services Committee.
Heller opposes the construction of a long-term storage facility for high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. He has taken credit for stopping funding to revive the project over the last two years that President Donald Trump has been in office. It is expected that Republicans won’t try to advance the project in earnest until after the election in November to avoid complicating Heller’s re-election prospects.
Rosen opposes the construction of a long-term storage facility for high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. She has introduced legislation to prohibit the Secretary of Energy from taking any action to continue licensing, developing or constructing a nuclear waste repository at the site until a study is completed on the economic viability of alternative uses for the site.