In a few days Nevada’s Washington delegation will return to the swamp on the Potomac to face a number of major issues for the state and the West that failed to be taken care of in 2015, particularly in the massive, 2,000-page, $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, which three of the state’s six representatives voted against.
In an interview shortly after returning to Nevada, Rep. Mark Amodei explained his nay vote by blasting the spending bill not just for its excessive spending but for utterly ignoring numerous issues vital to the West. Among these are preventing sage grouse habitat from shutting down the rural economy, wildfire prevention, blocking the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed take over of water with its Waters of the U.S. plan, the Clean Power Plan that shuts down coal-fired power plants, retaining state control of fracking regulation, land use in general and more.
“Clearly the West as a region did not play into this,” said Republican Amodei, who represents Northern Nevada.
Amodei said all the efforts by Congress to push back against federal agencies trying to take over regulating fracking from the states were left out of the bill, which is detrimental to Nevada’s nascent oil and gas industry.
“Here’s one of the top line things,” the congressman added, “I’ve been back there for 51 months and one of the nice things is to be able to come back and say, ‘Listen, we reduced discretionary spending four years in a row. You know we cut that trillion dollar deficit in 2009 or whatever to a half a trillion, not that that’s good, but that’s at least moving the right direction.’ This bill for the first time in four years increases discretionary spending.”
He said House Speaker Paul Ryan told him he will try to work on some of these Western issues in the first quarter of 2016.
“I think what happened is, in the rush of the absolute focus to, quote, get a deal, because we can’t shut the government down, because it will be our (Republicans) fault. And they know that’s our attitude. They just sat there and go, ‘Well, we’re just going to take it to the point that you either have got to do what we say or shut the government down.’”
Rep. Joe Heck, a Republican who represents southern Clark County and is running for the Senate seat currently held by Harry Reid, called the bill an attack on our Western way of life.
“This bill contains sweeteners designed to give policy wins to just about everyone, but it completely ignores Executive branch attacks on our Western way of life,” Heck said in a statement explaining his nay vote. “My colleagues and I on the Western Caucus pushed to include language to prevent the EPA from changing the definition of navigable waters and to block Department of the Interior’s land use management plan for sage grouse habitat, both of which will have a profound effect on Nevada’s economy. Those provisions were left out of the bill.”
He went on to say, “During my time in the House the three items at the top of my priority list have been keeping America safe, reducing government spending, and getting Nevadans back to work. This bill falls short on all three. … And although Nevada’s economy has improved over recent years, I worry that tripling the number of H-2B visas for foreign workers will put Nevadans at a disadvantage.”
Congressman Cresent Hardy, who represents southern rural Nevada and northern Clark County, focused on the overall excessive spending as his reason for voting against the spending package.
“This bill pretends like we can continue to spend without consequence. While there are some good policy adjustments in this package, Congress has passed a sweeping 2,000 page, Frankenstein bill that impacts everything from the IRS to the FDA — in a single vote,” Republican Hardy said in a statement after the vote. “We owe it to the people of America to research these issues in more depth and stop borrowing from the future without asking questions.”
Hardy said it is time for a balanced budget amendment.
Democrat Reid, Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Democrat Rep. Dina Titus voted for the bill.
Our delegation must address these specific Western issues in 2016, as well as excess spending in general.
A version of this editorial appears this past week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.