It was a busy June and July in Washington, D.C. and I would like to provide you with a brief update as to what happened in the U.S. House of Representatives.
I am happy to report that two Nevada jobs bills, which I introduced, passed the House with bipartisan support (H.R. 4039 and H.R. 4402).
The House also voted to repeal the President's controversial health care law (H.R. 6079) and to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Jobs for Nevadans
Since taking my oath of office in September 2011, I hit the ground running. As of July, two bills I introduced passed the House with bipartisan support:
1) H.R. 4039, the Yerington Land Conveyance and Sustainable Development Act, as title IX of H.R. 2578, the Conservation and Economic Growth Act.
The bill would convey approximately 11,000 acres of land administered by the Bureau of Land Management to the City of Yerington for economic, recreational, and cultural development. The city and Lyon County are seeking to leverage the infrastructure investments being made by Nevada Copper at its nearby Pumpkin Hollow project.
The initial shaft sinking is already producing economic benefits with the creation of 30 to 40 jobs. An additional 250 to 500 construction jobs could start in 2013 if the land transfer is successful. At full operation in 2015-2016, Pumpkin Hollow is projected to employ 750 to 800 people directly.
I look forward to well-deserved support and leadership in moving the Yerington bill forward in the U.S. Senate. As the junior member of the House Republican Conference, I am sure the Senate Majority Leader will have no problem advancing Senator Heller's Yerington legislation in much less than 120 days.
2) H.R. 4402, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act.
In the 2012 ranking of countries for mining investment, the United States ranked last in permitting delays. Duplicative regulations, bureaucratic inefficiency, and lack of coordination between federal agencies are threatening the economic recovery of Nevada and jeopardizing our national security.
Nevada, which is rich in strategic and critical minerals, also has the highest unemployment rate in the nation. Decade-long permitting delays are standing in the way of high-paying jobs and revenue for local communities.
H.R. 4402 would simply bring some predictability and transparency to the permitting process to leverage our nation's vast mineral resources, while paying due respect to economic and environmental concerns.
The 11-page bill would not change any environmental regulations, protections, or opportunity for public input. It would simply ask federal land managers to collaborate with all stakeholders in an effort to move the process along in two and a half years, as opposed to indefinite timelines.
Critical and strategic minerals are essential ingredients to the technologies that make our daily lives and economy work. Computers, smart phones, medical equipment, renewable energy (wind turbines, solar panels, hybrid vehicles), military equipment, building and manufacturing materials all require hard rock minerals and rare earth elements. Despite our vast mineral wealth, America is extremely dependent on foreign countries like China for these vital components of the American manufacturing sector.
Australia and Canada demonstrate it is possible to streamline permitting processes without sacrificing environmental protections. Australia's permitting timeline is 22.5 months and Canada's is 24 months. The U.S. average is seven to 10 years. It's no coincidence that Australia attracted 13 percent of worldwide minerals exploration dollars in 2011 and Canada 18 percent, as compared to nine percent for America.
We are surrendering thousands of jobs with average salaries of $70,000 to $80,000 without putting up a fight. And we are leaving countless other American manufacturing jobs dependent on foreign countries because we are unwilling to cut red tape and allow federal land managers reasonable administrative guidelines to work with each other and all stakeholders.
The objective of this simple, 11-page bill should not be Republican or Democrat, but common American sense.
The House recently passed two bills important to the nation's wounded warriors, veterans, and their families -- H.R. 4114, the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Act, and H.R. 4155, the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act.
H.R. 4114 would put service-disabled veterans, their dependents, and the survivors of deceased veterans on equal footing with Social Security beneficiaries by authorizing a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to their benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
H.R. 4155 would require the heads of federal departments or agencies to ensure that applicants for federal licenses, for a variety of commercial activities, who received relevant training while serving as members of the Armed Forces, are deemed to satisfy any training or certification requirements for the licenses.
In a town that doesn't agree on much, it's encouraging when we can set aside partisanship to do what we can to help our veterans and military families through this tough economy after they've served and sacrificed for their country.
In October, I will hold my fourth veterans' town hall since taking office in September 2011. I want to continue to meet with our veterans and listen to them regarding the issues and challenges they face. In addition to thanking them for their service, the town halls are an opportunity to familiarize veterans with the assistance my office can provide, as well as to identify areas where I can help as a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee.
For veterans-related issues, please contact Ken Gray in my Reno office at 775-686-5760.
H.R. 6079, the Repeal of Obamacare Act
In July, I voted in favor of and cosponsored H.R. 6079, which passed the House 244 to 185.
The President's health care law fails to accomplish real reform and instead harms health care, job creation, and the federal deficit at a time when our country, especially Nevada, can ill-afford such government-inflicted damage.
According to a survey by the non-partisan Doctor Patient Medical Association, 83 percent of American physicians have considered leaving their practices over the health care law. This would worsen the existing doctor shortage and threaten access for those who need it most, particularly in rural areas.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has raised the cost estimate for the health care law from $900 billion to $1.76 trillion over 10 years.
CBO analysis also estimates that the health care law could cause 20 million people to lose their employee-sponsored insurance by 2019.
And now, according to the Supreme Court, the individual mandate can be added to the list of 20 other tax increases in the health care law.
As if these consequences were not bad enough, you hear every day in Nevada of small business owners who cannot hire and expand because of increased red tape from the health care law.
This is not the answer to our health care crisis. It is making things worse, which is why I voted for repeal and will continue to work for patient-centered solutions to lower costs and to improve quality health care access for all Nevadans.
Contempt of Congress
In June, I voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Americans are searching for some evidence that their federal government is accountable. When U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and an estimated 200 Mexicans were murdered as a direct result of the 'Fast and Furious' gun-walking operation, the victims' families were left without any answers or explanations.
During an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, I asked Mr. Holder if he believes he leads from the front. He replied he does.
Yet, by turning to President Obama to invoke executive privilege, Mr. Holder gives a different answer.
The vote to hold Mr. Holder in contempt of Congress represents a small step toward regaining some sorely needed accountability.
Many Nevadans face serious mortgage difficulties. No matter the cause, there are ways for homeowners to be able to keep their homes. If your mortgage has become unaffordable or your home is threatened with foreclosure, we've compiled some options that may work for you at amodei.house.gov/homeowner-resources.
If you have questions or need assistance with your particular housing situation, please contact Elyse Monroy in my Reno office at (775) 686-5760.
As your representative, I pledge to continue working on these issues. I also want to hear from you. Please complete and return the enclosed survey, so that I can ensure that your voice is heard in Washington. As always, if I can be of service, please contact me at 775-686-5760 (Reno Office), 775-777-7705 (Elko Office), 202-225-6155 (D.C. Office).
Or visit my virtual office amodei.house.gov, where you can email me with your thoughts, questions, and opinions, get the latest legislative updates, as well as access assistance with academy nominations, federal job postings, federal agencies, internships, passports, Washington tours, flag requests and more.
Mark E. Amodei