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Dina Titus On Congress' Inaction

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As the eyes of the political world turn to Cleveland and Philadelphia over the next two weeks, Congress is taking a vacation.

That's despite inaction on a number of pieces of legislation, and issues, President Obama has asked the legislature to address.

Dina Titus, a Democrat who represents Nevada's first congressional district, isn't happy about that.

She has lambasted her colleagues in the House for not taking on things like funding for the Zika virus, or gun control, among others.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

On congressional inaction:

Funding for the Zika virus, this is a major public health crisis. The irony of this is many of the people who are holding this up are from the southern states where you are going to find the greatest threat. I can tell you it’s not just a partisan barrier -- there are some Republicans from Florida who are up in arms about this to because they’re likely to be hit by it and they want this funded.

Some of it is about funding, that’s for sure. There is a group of Republicans who don’t want to fund anything. They don’t like government. They just as soon [would] see it all shut down, which is a position they’ve taken in the past and a position they may take again this September when the time comes to fund it for next year.

Support comes from

But, there are also other kinds of issues, like gun violence. There are two bills pending. One would just close the loophole for background checks. And the other one is don’t fly-don’t buy. If you’re on the terrorist watchlist and you can’t buy an airplane ticket, why should you be able to buy a gun? They will not even bring those to the floor for a vote. Now, if you want to vote ‘no,’ that’s fine. If that’s what your constituents want and that’s what you believe in – fine. But bring it to the floor for vote, so we can at least be on record. At least show that we’re trying to get something done one way or the other.

Kaufman: There are some Republicans who do want to bring this to the floor for a vote?

Titus: That is correct. There are few but they then get bullied by the faction of extremists with in their own caucus.

Kaufman: Do you see them taking more control after this election?

Titus: I don’t. I think the Democrats will gain seats in the House. I think they’ll take the Senate back and I think they’ll gain seats in the House.

On Yucca Mountain:

You’ve got Congressman Shimkus from Illinois -- where you have a number of nuclear power plants -- who wants to ram it down Nevada’s throat and put it at Yucca Mountain, despite all the science that’s been out there, despite the fact that there’s no funding for it. He wants to move it forward. I think he sees an opportunity that, once Senator Reid leaves, he’ll more easily be able to ram and jam. But I believe Hillary Clinton will be president and she’s already said she’s opposed to it.

Plus, there’s just not the money for it. There’s not the money to finish the project. These false promises that we’re going to give Nevada a bunch of infrastructure or more water or funding for education -- I don’t know where they’re going to come up with that money because they won’t spend a nickel for anything else. I don’t see them giving it to us.

I’ve been fighting this for a long, long time. I wrote about it as an academic. I fought it in the Legislature. This has been a real cause and concern of mine for many years and so I’ll definitely pick up and try to do what I can in the House.

On her public land bill:

I’m a very strong supporter of protecting our federal lands. They’re put in trust for future generations and we need to do all we can to protect them. Some people want to turn them back over to the state. I’m opposed to that because I don’t believe the state has the resources to continue to protect them. This promise that they’ll go and be developed and bring in all this tax money I just think is a false hope.

I do think you need to have a balance, however, and the development of renewable energy is something that Nevada would be really great at. I mean we’re the leader -- we’re the most sunshine[-filled] state in the country. Reasonable adjustmentsm, like speeding up some of the regulatory process to put renewable energy on public lands, I think shows that kind of balance.

On the gun control sit-in:

It’s one of those questions where we didn’t get the vote, but we may have won the battle. And the reason we did is because of the popular support. It was tremendous. We were getting calls in our office 3 o’clock in the morning -- somebody’s calling saying, ‘We would like to bring you some pizza.’ And in fact, our two colleagues from down here [Ed: Reps. Joe Heck and Cresent Hardy] were not in their offices, and so people were calling our offices saying, ‘We can’t get through to them so will you give them a message?’ We’ve had several calls to action here in the district. I think the ballot initiative -- I believe it’s Question 1, on closing the loopholes -- has really gained momentum. I think it will pass in Nevada.  

On immigration:

I don’t call it amnesty. I call it a pathway to citizenship. There was a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate a congress ago that the House would never take up. And now, they’re not taking it up again and so we have no legal immigration reform. And yet, everyone agrees that the system is broken. We have more border guards, more technology -- in effect, a wall has already been erected and so we’ve addressed that. Maybe we can do more, that’s fine.

You’ve got 11 million people living in the shadows here. You’re not going to be able to deport them. I don’t care what Donald Trump says. And they’re members of our community. They’re our neighbors. They’re our friends. They’re our relatives in some cases.

On ideological riders:

In a budget bill, you’ll have a Republican stick in a rider or an amendment that’s not really about the budget but will have to do with abortion. And so people won’t want to pass the Zika bill because they disagree with that abortion provision.

That seems to be a common practice [...] that is a problem. We shouldn’t allow ideology amendments that are non-germane to hold up funding or appropriation bills.   

On earmarks:

There has been concern about earmarks in the past. We haven’t had earmarks for about the last five years. The rules of the House do not allow earmarks any more.

If we had earmarks, I think they should all be just for public service projects, not for private companies. So you can’t give your favorite person an earmark and they should all be transparent. It should be reported what money you’re trying to get.

But an earmark I think is a good thing, because I could get money for Project Neon here in District One or money for some kind of highway improvement or water treatment plant. It seems to me it makes a lot more sense to have me, who represents this district, making that decision and fighting for it than it does to have some bureaucrat, who may not have even been here, sitting in an office in the administration somewhere handing out that money.

Guests

Rep. Dina Titus (NV-01)

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