Bill Tracker – June 2018

jessica_santinaCongressional Delegation Legislation Update

Bills From The Hill That Matter To Nevadans

Compiled by Jessica Santina


S.2770 – Abuse of the Pardon Prevention Act

Sponsor: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

Co-Sponsors: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

Related Bill: H.R.5551

House Sponsor: Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA-28)

Synopsis: A bill to direct the Attorney General to submit to Congress investigative materials in the event of certain pardons granted by the president, and for other purposes. Provides congressional oversight relating to pardons by:

  • Requiring that, within 30 days following a presidential pardon, the Attorney General shall submit to chairmen and ranking members of appropriate congressional committees (House or Senate Judiciary, or those pertaining to intelligence or counterintelligence), all investigative materials from attorneys, prosecutors and investigative bodies relating to the offense for which the individual is pardoned.
  • Relating to all pardons granted by the president on or after January 20, 2017.

Actions: On 4/26/2018, S. 2770 was read twice and referred to Committee on the Judiciary. On 4/18/2018, H.R. 5551 was introduced in House and referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Sponsor Comments: “I am deeply troubled by indications that President Trump may use his pardon powers as a tool to obstruct justice or derail ongoing investigations against his campaign, businesses and personal associations,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “This bill would give Congress and the public the ability and opportunity to assess whether the pardon power has been exercised appropriately, or in the self-interest of the President and his family.”

“President Trump has repeatedly indicated that he may use the power of the pardon to protect his personal business and political associates – obstructing an ongoing investigation and undermining the rule of law,” Senator Blumenthal said. “This bill ensures transparency in the pardon process, codifying a strong deterrent against the president weaponizing the pardon power to protect himself or his allies.” 

“President Trump already has signaled that he is willing to use his constitutional powers in order to protect those who remain loyal to him, even if they are convicted of obstruction or perjury,” said Representative Schiff, who introduced the companion bill in the House. “At a time of constitutional peril, it is incumbent on the Congress to stand up for the rule of law by creating a strong disincentive to the President issuing pardons to protect himself and obstruct ongoing investigations.”

Jessica’s Take: President Trump’s decision to pardon I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby in early April prompted Schiff and Cortez Masto to propose these twin bills, to ensure that pardons are no used in an attempt to obstruct justice or to shield family or friends of the president from prosecution. Libby, an aide to the Bush administration, was convicted of lying to the FBI in an investigation into the leak of the identity of a CIA agent. With many in Congress concerned about the possibility that Trump will grant pardons to subjects of the Russia investigation, it raises the question of whether the presidential pardon should be allowed to go unchecked in our government built upon the concept of checks and balances. On first blush, it would seem such legislation, which ensures transparency and abuse of power, would receive strong bipartisan support. However, the Democrat-sponsored bill is unlikely to gain traction in Republican-controlled House. The Constitution’s language seems to give exclusive authority to the president to grant pardons, and many legal scholars say it’s a bit of a loophole that hasn’t, as yet, been abused. Hopefully, Constitutional language that calls for a “faithful execution” of the law by the president can inhibit less-than-pure motives in the pardoning process.

H.R. 5571 – Protecting American Solar Jobs Act

Sponsor: Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

Co-sponsors: Reps. Mark Sanford (R-SC), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Ralph Norman (R-SC0, Stephen Knight (R-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Mia B. Love (R-UT)

Synopsis: A bill to amend the U.S. tariff schedule to repeal increases in duty and tariff-rate quota on certain crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, retroactive to February 7, 2018, with companies who imported any affected solar products under the tariff to receive reimbursement.

Action: On 4/18/2018, introduced in House and referred to House Committee on Ways and Means.

Sponsor Comments: “Solar energy’s success throughout Nevada has led to new jobs, cheaper power bills, and the growth of a new industry that is diversifying our state’s economy,” said Rep. Jacky Rosen. “This Administration directly threatened the stability and financial well-being of our local solar industry when the President decided to impose a 30 percent tariff on imported panels. An attack on solar energy is an attack on the countless hardworking Nevadans who benefit from this growing industry, and my new bill will reverse this damaging decision.”

Jessica’s Take: When President Trump introduced the solar tariffs in January 2018, he claimed that the tariffs, imposed on manufacturers outside the U.S., would create more domestic solar jobs. It was the result of a recommendation from the International Trade Commission to impose tariffs to inhibit what Suniva, a bankrupt solar manufacturer, called a flood of products coming into the U.S. from abroad. Many said it was one of several steps the president has taken to curb renewable energy, presumably to make good on his vow to strengthen the coal industry and double down on oil. Many solar companies insist that the tariffs would create price hikes that would cause many projects to be cancelled or result in layoffs. And the solar industry has indicated that the tariffs lessen solar energy’s competitiveness against other renewable energies such as wind. In Nevada, the solar industry accounts for 8,371 jobs, according to the Washington-based Solar Foundation, and about 12 percent of those jobs are filled by veterans. Plus, the solar industry in the U.S. relies upon parts made abroad for about 80 percent of its supply.

The old saying “If you want less of something, tax it” would seem to hold true here, as the tariffs would seem to inhibit growth in an industry that’s increasingly vital in Nevada and the West. As this is a bipartisan legislation with resounding support from the Solar Energy Industries Association, it may just have legs in Congress, especially as projections of job losses continue growing.

H.R. 5643 – Jobs, Not Waste Act

Sponsor: Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

Co-sponsors: Reps. Mark Sanford (R-SC), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Ralph Norman (R-SC0, Stephen Knight (R-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Mia B. Love (R-UT)

Synopsis: A bill to prohibit the Secretary of Energy from taking any action relating to the licensing, planning, development or construction of a nuclear waste repository until the Director of the Office of Management and Budget submits to Congress a study on the economic viability and job-creating benefits of alternative uses of the Yucca Mountain site, including but not limited to defense activities, a secure electronic data center, renewable energy development or scientific research.

Action: On 4/26/2018, introduced in House and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Sponsor Comments: “I stand with the overwhelming majority of Nevadans who have made their case for decades against reckless plans to turn Nevada into a dumping ground for the rest of the nation’s nuclear waste,” said Rosen. “My bill would prohibit the Department of Energy from moving forward with its dangerous and costly nuclear waste repository plan until it considers a number of other job-creating alternatives for this project. This Administration should stop wasting our time and taxpayer money on this failed project, and instead find an alternative use for Yucca Mountain that creates jobs without threatening the health and safety of Nevada families.”

Jessica’s Take: Rosen’s proposed legislation is a direct response to moves within the Republican-controlled House to restart the stalled process for making Yucca Mountain a central repository for commercial nuclear waste. The bill seems to be moving ahead with bipartisan support, and Rosen’s effort is a last-ditch attempt to come up with alternatives for the site other than a dumping ground, and her bill seems to have some bipartisan support as well. Meanwhile, Nevada Rep. Dina Titus has proposed a substitute amendment that would require a consent-based siting in the approval process. Bottom line, Congress wants something to happen with regard to Yucca Mountain, rather than nothing, particularly in light of the fact that appropriations have not funded interim storage while debate over Yucca continues raging. And though Rep. Rosen and Sen. Dean Heller, opponents in the upcoming senatorial race, agree on very little, they’ve consistently agreed in their opposition to Yucca Mountain nuclear storage. These facts may help Rosen’s bill gain a bit of traction, but it’s not looking terribly promising. Interestingly enough, Nye County, where the site is located, have not opposed the Yucca Mountain project.

S. 2769 – Opioid Addiction Action Plan Act

Sponsor: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Co-sponsors: Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

Synopsis: This bill requires the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to develop an action plan to provide recommendations on changes to the Medicare and Medicaid programs to enhance: (1) the treatment and prevention of opioid addiction, and (2) the coverage and reimbursement of medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.

The CMS must convene a stakeholder meeting to solicit public comment on the action plan.

Action: On 4/26/2018, read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

Sponsor Comments: “In 2016, more than 600 people died in the state of Nevada as a result of drug overdose. Too many American families have been impacted by the opioid epidemic, which has rocked our communities in Nevada and around the country. That’s why I’m proud to introduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation with Senators Bob Menendez and Johnny Isakson to help our friends, family members, and loved ones battling addiction,” said Heller. “I thank Congressman Kinzinger for his leadership in the House on this bill, and look forward to working with my colleagues to pass the Opioid Addiction Action Plan Act.”

Jessica’s Take: This is one of many bills Heller has sponsored or supported in the field of health care in recent months. He’s submitted an onslaught of bills related to opioid addiction and mental health. This one would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make recommendations to Congress about data collection and improvements to Medicare and Medicaid coverage and reimbursement of medication-assisted treatment. HHS would also improve provider education on treatments for chronic pain and addiction, as well as methods to expand access to treatment for rural and medically underserved communities—those where opioid addiction seems to take hold hardest. In fact, the CDC has indicated opioid addiction is highest among the uninsured or underinsured, whites, rural residents, and those with lower rates of education and higher rates of unemployment. Nevada, with its large swaths of rural residents, has had higher-than-the-national-average rates of opioid addiction in recent years. Meanwhile, Heller has worked hard to emphasize his commitment to the health of citizens—especially with opioids, the cause du jour—and to bash senatorial opponent Jacky Rosen’s lack thereof. It may very well be his best course of action in this tough race.