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Reid Talks Land Preservation, Loosening Bank Restrictions, Stepping Down As Majority Leader

    

In his final days as Senate Majority leader, Senator Harry Reid is holding together Democrats in the US Senate to pass legislation. But his successes are manifesting tensions and division within his own party.

Last week US Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, took to the floor of the Senate to rail against Citibank. Warren says legislation that is buried in a $1.1 trillion federal spending bill, would weaken restrictions on federal insurance for so-called “swaps”, where risky loan are traded.

On the senate floor, Warren said the weakening of the Dodd-Frank Act sets up US taxpayers for another bailout of big banks.

“Here we are 5 years after Dodd-Frank, with Congress on the verge of ramming through a provision that would do nothing for the middle class, do nothing for community banks, do nothing but raise the risk that taxpayers will have to bailout the biggest banks once again,” Warren said during her speech last week.

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In an interview with KNPR’s State of Nevada, Senator Reid said that the legislation will not be a prelude to another bailout.

“No one knows the banking business any better than (Warren) does,” Reid said. “Let’s hope we don’t have another meltdown and we won’t have to bail out anyone.”

For Reid, President Obama, and a number of Congressional Democrats, there are other provisions and protections that will prevent the kind of financial collapse Warren is warning about.

“One reason is (the) Dodd-Frank (Act),” Reid told KNPR. “We have many, many more controls. Could there be another meltdown? Maybe. But it would be much, much more difficult than it was a few years ago.”

Warren alleges the legislation was written by Citigroup, a bank that she estimates received a half-trillion in federal bailout funds.

“We’re watching as Congress passes yet another provision that was written by lobbyists for the biggest recipient of bailout money in the history of this country,” Warren said. “And it’s attached to a bill that needs to pass, or else the entire federal government will grind to a halt. Think about that kind of power.” 

Reid said the spending bill is far from perfect but he did not want, “perfect to get in the way of good.”

He said the bill contains dozens of advantages for Nevada, including defunding Yucca Mountain, reauthorizing travel promotion efforts, funding for lower Colorado River and military money.

The biggest expansion of the National Park Service since 1978

The senator talked to KNPR’s State of Nevada about the defense bill passed Friday by Congress, which included a massive land bill.

The bill protects prehistoric artifacts and bones on the edge of the Las Vegas valley as it creates the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, setting aside nearly 23,000 acres of ice-age era fossils and relics.

The designation comes after nearly eight years of efforts by residents and paleontologists to protect the area from development.

North Las Vegas John Lee thanked the senator for his efforts to get the land bill passed.

“This man has delivered and delivered and delivered,” Lee said.

The designation was part of the single largest package of park units approved since 1978, according to CNN. Besides creating the Tule Springs National Monument, the legislation will expand nine national park sites, extend funding to 15 national heritage sites and establish thousands of acres as new wilderness areas.

Critics have called it a land grab, but the senator said many of the provisions in the bill have been held up for years by Republicans.

The Death of Yucca Mountain

The senator was very firm about a project that he says is dead: Yucca Mountain.

Sen. Reid compared the project to build a storage facility for high-level nuclear waste about 90 miles north of Las Vegas to an empty trailer park.

“Yucca Mountain is gone. It is closed,” he said.

He said it is ‘insane logic’ to try to resurrect the project. The senator along with other lawmakers have systematically dismantled the funding for the nuclear waste repository over the past several years.

Working with Republicans in 2015 and beyond

Senator Reid will no longer be the majority leader in January. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., takes the position after the sweeping victory of Republicans in the November mid-term elections.

The senator said he'll still be a ‘leader’ on Capitol Hill, noting “I've still got a little bit of juice back here.”

But Reid is bracing for more gridlock, and said there's not much room for compromise on women’s rights, environmental protections or the Affordable Care Act.

As the senator told Politico that if the GOP, “want to try to do all this crazy stuff, we’re getting out of that stream.”

He told KNPR that he'll be surprised if a Republican-led House and Senate take any significant steps on comprehensive immigration reform.

“Immigration reform has the same chance as I do of performing a backflip off this desk,” Reid said from his office.

The senator reaffirmed his support of President Barack Obama’s executive order signed in November that protects about 5 million undocumented people from deportation.

He said despite the setback suffered by Democrats during the November election he thinks 2015 will be a great year for the party and him.

And Will he run?

The senator declined to formally announce his plans but he did say he was currently hiring staff for a re-election campaign.

Guest:

Senator Harry Reid, Democrat, Nevada

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