Newspaper column: Trump is reshaping the federal judiciary — for the better

Thanks, Harry, because you exercised the “nuclear option” in 2013, ending the requirement that judges had to be confirmed by at least 60 senators instead of a simple majority, President Donald Trump has secured the appointments of about twice as many federal judges as each of his three predecessors — and most of them have been conservatives sworn to protect the fundamental liberties spelled out in the Constitution.

Of the 50 circuit court judges nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate, only 17 managed to garner the previously mandated 60 Senate votes. Among those was former Nevada Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke, who was confirmed by a vote of 51-44 with both of Nevada’s Democratic senators choosing politics over principles and voting “nay.”

In November 2013, then-Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada exercised the nuclear option, calling for changing the Senate rules by a simple majority vote. It passed, 52-48 with three Democrats voting against changing the rules.

President Barack Obama praised the action saying Republicans were blocking his nominees based on politics alone, not on the merits of the nominee, according to a Politico account at the time.

Then-Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky tried to recess the Senate for the day to block the vote. “The solution to this problem is an election,” he said. “The solution to this problem is at the ballot box. We look forward to having a great election on 2014.”

Republicans regained the majority in the Senate in 2014. In 2017, now-Majority Leader McConnell further changed the rules to allow confirmation of Supreme Court justices by a simple majority. Neil Gorsuch was confirmed by a 54-45 vote, and Brett Kavanaugh by 50-48.

In addition, the Senate has confirmed 133 of Trump’s federal district court nominees. While most of those garnered more than 60 recorded votes, many were confirmed by a voice vote.

In an editorial praising the caliber of the Trump judicial nominees, The Wall Street Journal noted, “The Trump-McConnell judiciary may be Harry’s finest achievement.”

The editorial noted that when Trump took office, Democratic appointees made up a majority on nine of the 13 circuit courts. Trump’s 2019 appointments flipped the majorities in the 2nd, 3rd and 11th Circuit Courts, meaning seven circuits now have a majority of Republican appointees.

In addition, the longtime uber-liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, to which VanDyke was appointed, now consists of 16 Democratic appointees and 13 Republican appointees. “Expect fewer headlines featuring nationwide injunctions out of San Francisco,” the editorial opined.

The Journal editorial predicts, “The new wave of conservative judges is more likely to protect such core liberties as religious freedom, political speech and assembly, gun and property rights. Many will also be more alert to violations of the Constitution’s separation of powers, including regulatory abuses. Yet there are varying opinions on criminal law, executive authority, and the scope of judicial restraint, among other issues.”

Reid is nothing if not consistent. In a recent op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune, Reid complained, “Senate Republicans have hijacked our Supreme Court. They stole a seat that should have been filled by President Obama in 2016 and they rushed to confirm Brett Kavanaugh last year despite ample evidence that he lied to Congress. The result is the Supreme Court is now a ticking time bomb, set to blow up any meaningful progressive reforms for decades to come.”

He concedes his own role in the outcome, saying, “Changing the rules to confirm Obama’s highly qualified judges was the right and necessary thing to do. If we had not done it, Donald Trump would have inherited more judicial vacancies than he already did, and then even more of his right-wing ideologues would be on the bench today eviscerating rights Americans have long held dear.”

Like the Second Amendment right to gun ownership? Or the First Amendment rights of free speech and exercise of religion? The rights delineated in the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth amendments?

A recent Washington Examiner editorial also notes what Reid has unintentionally wrought and concludes, “During his run for the presidency, Trump regularly and energetically promised to make a priority of putting well-credentialed conservatives of excellent character and scholarship on the federal bench. It is a promise he has kept, much to his credit and for the country’s greater good.”

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

When the morning paper agrees with Harry … something freezes over

My backup topic for items in this week’s rural newspapers turned out to be today’s editorial in the Las Vegas newspaper.

Though I settled on other topics, I had made a note that retired Nevada Sen. Harry Reid should get a tip o’ the hat for warning Democratic presidential candidates that Medicare for All and open borders are stances too radical for voters to accept. As my ol’ Pappy used to say: “Great minds travel in he same plane, but fools just think alike.”

The lede on today’s editorial reads:

If the Democratic Party keeps embracing the fringe left, Harry Reid might have to re-register as a Republican.

In a recent interview with Vice, the former Senate majority leader urged Democrats not to support “Medicare for All” and decriminalizing illegal border crossings. As recently as two years ago, those two radical ideas would have been seen as extreme among mainstream Democrats. Not now. Many of the party’s top presidential candidates have embraced both proposals.

Mr. Reid said “of course” pushing Medicare for All would make it more difficult for a Democrat to defeat President Donald Trump.

Though Reid has championed many liberal propositions over his lengthy stay in D. of C. — including the lamentable Obamacare — even he recognizes his party is listing too far to the left.

When was the last time Harry and the Las Vegas newspaper agreed on anything?

R-J file photo of Harry Reid.

 

Editorial: Former Nevada senator discovers national debt

Now safely ensconced in retirement for two years, former Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid has suddenly discovered the country is spending more money than it reaps in taxes, driving up the national debt.

“We have a president who seems not to care about the debt,” Reid told Sam Shad on the “Nevada Newsmakers” program late this past month, adding, “We are already past the tipping point.”

Reid said he likes Republican President Trump, who raised money for his election campaigns back when he was a registered Democrat, but does not think he has been a very good president. With the national debt now standing at $22.5 trillion, Reid called that “one of the biggest problems facing the country.”

Never mind that in 1982 when he was first elected to the House of Representatives the national debt was $1.1 trillion, 34 percent of the gross domestic product. In 1986, when he was elected to his first term in the Senate the debt was $2.1 trillion, 46 percent of GDP. When he retired in 2017, the debt was $20.2 trillion, 103 percent of GDP.

Reid now says the problem is that the rich don’t pay enough in taxes. It is not the spending.

This past week the Treasury Department reported that for the first nine months of this fiscal year, after the Trump tax cuts, revenues increased by 3 percent due to improved economic conditions, but federal spending increased by 7 percent, partly due to interest on the debt.

Speaking of spending, even though Social Security now accounts for nearly a quarter of federal outlays, it was Sen. Reid who in 2011 led a rally with supporters waving signs reading “Back Off Social Security.”

“It’s not just an exaggeration that Social Security is headed for bankruptcy. It is an outright lie,” Reid informed his cheering minions. “Leave Social Security alone. Back off Social Security. It hasn’t contributed a penny, I repeat, to the deficit and it is in great shape for the next many decades.”

In 2015, Reid championed a spending bill that grew the national debt to $20 trillion by ending so-called sequester cuts in spending.

But now the debt is a problem. “I hate to keep saying this but it is true: When I was first elected to the House of Representatives and to the Senate and for several years after I was elected to the Senate, the No. 1 issue of the Republican Party was to lower the debt,” Reid told Shad. “We had all kinds of legislation that was passed, sequestration was established, things of that nature. … But anymore, Republicans don’t seem to give a damn about what the debt is. And, frankly, I don’t hear the Democrats raising much hell about it either, and I think that’s a mistake. I think the debt is not sustainable.”

Even though revenues have increased recently, Reid’s answer to ongoing deficits and mounting debt is to tax the rich and ignore the profligate spending.

“The only way we can do this is we have to have more income,” Reid said. “And where is that income going to come from? It can only come from rich people. The middle class, they are not going to be paying amounts of money that make up for what rich people are making. The rich are gonna have to bear the burden and they should.”

We and others of our ilk have replied to this perennial Democratic solution of redistributionism by saying, “It’s the spending, stupid.”

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of 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.

Sam Shad and Harry Reid

Harry Reid suddenly discovers the federal debt

Harry never did a flip that he couldn’t flop.

Back in 2015 Nevada Democratic senior Sen. Harry Reid, having already announced his retirement, championed and regaled a spending bill that made no pretense of trying to rein in deficit spending that would soon balloon the federal debt past $20 trillion — a bill that  blew the top off budget caps and gave President Obama a blank check.

Reid was effusive in his praise of the bill:

The bipartisan budget agreement passed today will help prevent a government shutdown and avoid a disastrous default on our nation’s obligations. It also will prevent a drastic cut to Social Security disability benefits, and a massive increase in Medicare premiums. This agreement is not perfect, no legislation is, but it accomplishes two major priorities that Democrats have supported from the very beginning. The budget agreement promotes economic growth and job creation over the next two years by providing relief from the devastating sequester cuts. It also invests equally in both the middle class and the Pentagon.

Republican Sen. Dean Heller offered a different take, “This latest budget agreement is not a long term plan or solution the American people deserve. This plan will force Congress to revisit this same exact issue in a short amount of time. It’s past time Washington addresses the needs of the people of this nation instead of continuing to punt to the next big deadline.”

Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy, like Heller, noted that the bill simply kicks the can down the road. “Our nation’s financial security is nearing a breaking point that we ignore at the endangerment of our future. Today’s so-called ‘Bipartisan Budget Act’ breaks current spending caps by $80 billion and does nothing to rein in long-term spending. Washington needs to take a long look in the mirror and make some difficult decisions based in reality,” he said.

Republican Rep. Joe Heck said in his statement that “this budget bill suspends the debt limit, giving the President a blank check until 2017, without making the significant reforms necessary to reduce spending and address the major drivers of our nearly $18.5 trillion debt.”

But now that he has retired, according to an editorial in the Las Vegas newspaper, Reid is singing a different tune.

“This may sound weird coming from a Democrat,” the editorial quotes Reid as saying this past month at a UNLV symposium. “I think we’re at a tipping point … driving ourselves into bankruptcy,” adding that the federal deficit is “going to bury us.”

The editorial helpfully points out that when Reid was elected to Congress in 1982, the national debt stood at $1.14 trillion, 34 percent of gross domestic product. When he retired in 2016, the national debt was $20.2 trillion, 103 percent of GDP. It also noted that the chief drivers of the debt are entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which now amount to more than half of federal spending.

Back in 2011, Reid scoffed at the impact Social Security was having on the debt.

“It’s not just an exaggeration that Social Security is headed for bankruptcy. It is an outright lie. …” Reid proclaimed in speech. “Leave Social Security alone. Back off Social Security. It hasn’t contributed a penny, I repeat, to the deficit and it is in great shape for the next many decades.”

Speaking of flip-flops, this was the same Harry Reid who in 1990 called the spending of the Social Security trust fund money on day-to-day expenses embezzlement, “During the period of growth we have had … the growth has been from two sources: One, a large credit card with no limits on it, and, two, we have been stealing money from the Social Security recipients of this country. …

“Maybe what we should do in conjunction with the president to really carry this conspiracy to its appropriate end, is rather than having it called the Social Security trust fund, why do we not change it and call it the ‘Social Security slush fund?’”

Social Security is expected to run out of money in 2036 and Medicare by 2026. Now the deficit is a problem, Harry?

Harry Reid talks about the nation's debt at a recent UNLV program. (R-J pix)

 

Editorial: National Popular Vote bill would dilute Nevada voting power

Democratic lawmakers in Carson City are at it again, bound and determined to give your presidential ballots to the voters of California and New York.

Two years ago — after Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote by 304 to 227, though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.9 million individual votes — a bill was introduced that would have had Nevada join in something called the “Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote.”

Instead of awarding Nevada’s six electoral votes — one for each representative and senator in Congress — according to how Nevadans vote, those six electoral votes would be awarded to the president and vice president team that wins the popular vote nationally.

This essentially cuts the value of Nevada’s votes from six to four, since the votes nationwide would be proportional to population and exclude the power of our two senators, thus diluting our voting power.

Backers say the compact would become a reality if it is adopted by states possessing a combined 270 electoral votes, or a majority of the 538 electoral votes.

Fortunately, the bill went nowhere then.

But a group of Democratic lawmakers have dragged its carcass out of the slag heap and dumped it out as Assembly Bill 186. It is being discussed this week.

A similar bill was passed in Colorado this past week, giving the proposal 181 electoral votes, just 89 votes short of becoming binding.

The Founders established the nation on a federalist system, not a democracy. Certain enumerated powers were assigned to the federal government while the rest were reserved to the people and the sovereign states. The sovereignty of the states was so important that U.S. senators — until 1913’s 17th Amendment — were chosen by state Legislatures, not directly by the voters. That is also why the Electoral College was created to give added weight to smaller states.

Speaking of senators, one of the supporters of the National Popular Vote effort in 2017 was Nevada’s former senior Democratic Sen. Harry Reid.

“I believe that focusing on the Electoral College is important no matter how you do it, because what’s happened this decade, these last several elections, where we have clearly two elections, the Gore election and this election. In this election Hillary Clinton will wind up getting almost 3 million votes more than Trump. It’s time the system goes away. It is very undemocratic,” Reid said in an interview.

Pay no attention to the fact Reid served in the Senate for 30 years, where each state gets two votes no matter the size of its population. Most undemocratic.

A National Popular Vote bill did pass the Nevada Legislature back in 2009 on a strictly party line vote with 27 Democrats supporting it, all 14 Republicans opposing and one Democrat absent.

With Democrat majorities in both the state Senate and Assembly this year there is imminent danger that this constitutionally questionable usurpation of the power of Nevada voters could pass. We urge everyone to contact your lawmakers and express your ardent opposition to this atrocity.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of 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.

 

Editorial: Harry-the-pot calls Donald-the-kettle black

Former Nevada Democratic Sen. and Senate majority leader Harry Reid appears to be on what one might suspect is a farewell media tour. Though he never was too cozy with the media, Reid has in recent weeks, while being treated for pancreatic cancer, granted lengthy interviews with The New York Times Magazine, the Las Vegas public radio station and the editor of the contribution-funded news and commentary website The Nevada Independent.

While most of the buzz has been about his harsh criticism of President Trump, calling him amoral, he also has been downright unrepentant about his own deeds over the years that pushed the boundaries of propriety.

In the Times article he was quoted as saying, “Trump is an interesting person. He is not immoral but is amoral. Amoral is when you shoot someone in the head, it doesn’t make a difference. No conscience.”

Reid went on to say, “I think he is without question the worst president we’ve ever had. … We’ve had some bad ones, and there’s not even a close second to him. … He’ll lie. He’ll cheat. You can’t reason with him.”

Harry Reid (NYT pix)

In the radio interview he doubled down, saying, “What amoral means is this: immoral is you do things and you feel bad about it. … If you are amoral, you have no conscience,” adding, “I didn’t use the word as a throwaway word. I used the word because I meant it.”

The Nevada Indy editor described Reid as seeming “positively giddy that his use of the word ‘amoral’ to describe Trump … had generated so many Google searches for the definition — 4,300, he beamed.”

Without a hint of irony the magazine story recounted how Reid in 2012, with no proof to back it up, falsely claimed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had not paid any income taxes in a decade. He later told CNN by way of justification, “I don’t regret it at all. Romney didn’t win, did he?”

The Indy even quotes Reid as being boastful about using the power of his office to badger bankers into lending money for MGM Resorts to finish its stalled City Center project and intimidating hedge fund managers into pulling out of financing coal-fired power plants near Ely that cost hundreds of jobs.

“No one in their right mind would have done what I did ….” the 79-year-old Reid said. “No one would have done that … but it paid off.”

This was the same Reid who twisted arms at Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reverse a decision that was blocking visas for Chinese investors in a Las Vegas casino with ties to Reid’s son Rory.

And yes, the same Reid who in 1998 invested $400,000 in a parcel of land in Las Vegas, but transferred the land to another party three years later for the purchase price, according to records. Yet, when the land sold in 2004 he pocketed $1.1 million. Reid aides dismissed the earlier deal as a “technical” transfer.

Sometimes his efforts fell short. After Reid acquired 160 acres in Bullhead City, Ariz., the land was expected to increase in value after Reid passed a bill to spend $20 million to build a bridge over the Colorado River nearby, but the bridge was never built.

No need to mention one of Reid’s backers went to prison for illegally bundling contributions to Reid.

On the radio Reid also boasted about getting millions in funding to research unidentified flying objects.

“I think it is something we can’t ignore. I personally don’t know if there exist little green men places. I kind of doubt that, but I do believe the information we have indicates we should do a lot more study,” he said, without deigning to mention that much of the secret “research” money went to a Las Vegas crony and campaign contributor.

Reid has a well-earned reputation for being truculent, belligerent, rude, viciously vindictive, antagonistic and downright Machiavellian. His own former press aide once told a reporter Reid looks at a person’s vulnerabilities to “disarm, to endear, to threaten, but most of all to instill fear.”

Perhaps we can file this under the category: It takes one to know one.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of 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.

 

Newspaper column: Whither renewable power after wind farm rejected?

Wee Thump Joshua Tree Wilderness Area, with Crescent Peak in the background. (Basin and Range Watch pix)

The Bureau of Land Management has rejected a bid by a Swedish firm to construct a mammoth wind turbine project on the Nevada side of the border with California near Searchlight.

The Crescent Peak Wind Project was to have covered 32,000 acres of public land with as many as 220 wind turbines standing 400 to 600 feet tall and generating 500 megawatts of power. The proposed site is adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve and the Castle Mountain National Monument in California and the Wee Thump Joshua Tree Wilderness and the South McCullough Wilderness in Nevada.

While the vast majority of the arguments against the project were based on probable environmental and ecosystem damages, some of the reasons given by the Nevada office of the BLM for denial were actually ones about economics and, perhaps most importantly, air traffic safety.

While the land agency said the project did not conform with the area resource management plan, it also cited other concerns. “These issues include that access to the turbines would potentially affect the development of more than 300 mining claims; the turbines could interfere with radar at two regional air facilities — one military and one civilian; and impacts to the visual landscape,” said Nevada BLM in a statement obtained by Basin and Range Watch.

Such air facilities include McCarran International Airport, a gateway to Clark County’s profitable, job-generating gambling resorts, and Nellis Air Force Base, a key element in the nation’s air defense training that includes air combat and bombing practice ranges that cover a vast swath of central Nevada.

The original denial letter, from the assistant secretary of the Interior Department, also obtained by Basin and Range, mentioned the potential for “a significant threat to military operations” at China Lake Naval Air base 150 miles away in California.

If such turbines can’t be located within 150 miles of such air facilities, where in Nevada, with all its commercial and military aircraft activity, can they be sited?

Dr. Donald Deever of Searchlight warned of just this problem in his 43-page public comment submitted to the BLM in June. He wrote: “As further proof of the devastating frequencies emitted by industrial wind turbines, something that isn’t common knowledge is that in the early years of the first term of President Obama, a feasibility study was commissioned to look into the possibility of transforming the Nevada Testing Site into the world’s largest photovoltaic solar energy plant. Unfortunately, the proposed project was diverted by Senator Harry Reid, who replaced the idea of solar panels with industrial wind turbines. Although Congress approved the project, it was immediately shut down when government engineers and researchers at Area 51 let the President and Pentagon know that the frequencies emitted by industrial wind turbines would completely interfere with America’s advanced stealth technology tests. If the frequencies of industrial wind turbines could overwhelm the circuitry of our country’s most modern stealth circuitry, one can only imagine how much damage it can do to the even more delicate biological systems of all migrating birds, whom scientists now know rely on magnetic fields to accomplish their annual migrations.”

Such limitations on the siting of wind farms near air traffic corridors might have an impact on the implementation of Question 6, should voters approve the proposition again in two years. In November, 59 percent of the Nevada voters approved a change in the state law that currently requires 25 percent of the state’s electric power to come from renewable generation sources such as wind and solar by 2025. Question 6 upped the ratio to 50 percent by 2030, no matter the cost and practicality or whether carbon emissions are actually reduced.

It should be noted that Question 6 passed in only three counties — Clark, Washoe and Mineral. It failed in every other county by wide margins.

Wind and solar eyesores gobble huge tracts of land and the most likely candidates for such projects are generally cheap federal public land, primarily found in rural counties.

Only 22 percent of voters in Lincoln County approved of Question 6, only 26 percent in Eureka, 29 percent in White Pine and Esmeralda and 32 percent in Elko, for example.

Clark County, the site of the rejected Crescent Peak Wind Project, saw 64 percent voter approval.

It will be hard to generate 50 percent of the state’s electricity with solar power, since the sun shines only half the day.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.