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Congress sent President Joe Biden legislation to curb gun violence, including a provision introduced as a separate bill by Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) last year that would provide funding for community violence intervention programs.

The House approved the $13 billion bill — the first time Congress has passed gun control legislation since the now-expired 1994 assault weapons ban was enacted — Friday on a 234 to 193 vote, with all but 14 Republicans opposing the package. Nevada’s House Democrats backed it, while Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) voted against the measure.    

Horsford gave an emotional speech at a press conference after the bill passed, noting that Friday was the anniversary of his father’s death. His father was killed by gun violence during Horsford’s first year of college, an event that has influenced his view of the issue.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) speaks at press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol after the House approved the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. June 24, 2022. (The Nevada Independent/Humberto Sanchez)

Horsford lamented that his father never got to see him “raise three children, serve my community and now be a member of Congress and to advocate for the change that he inspired me in his death to deliver for my community.” 

The bill, known as the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, included a provision similar to the Break the Cycle of Violence Act.

The measure on its way to Biden’s desk would provide $250 million for community-based violence intervention programs such as hospital-based violence intervention programs. These aim to reduce retaliation and recidivism among patients treated for violent injuries by providing in-hospital services and follow-up care through intensive, community-based case management.

Horsford said the funds would also help programs run by Pastor Troy Martinez, who has worked on gang violence in Las Vegas

He said that similar community-based programs helped him.

“I know these programs work,” Horsford said. “When you give young people that opportunity, give them hope … they can live out their purpose … someone gave that chance to me and I thank God today for the opportunity to serve because that’s my purpose.” 

The bill would also broaden background checks for those under age 21 to include juvenile records and provide states with $750 million to pass and enforce so-called red flag laws, which allow for guns to be taken away from those deemed by a court to be a danger to themselves or others.  

The Nevada Legislature approved a red flag law in 2019, which went into effect in 2020

The bill would also provide $300 million over five years for school security and mental health programs. And the measure bars convicted domestic abusers, including boyfriends, from buying guns for five years and criminalizes gun purchases on behalf of someone ineligible to buy a weapon.

Amodei said he voted against the bill over concerns that political appointees at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would have discretion over enforcement and would overreach. 

He also raised concerns about taking guns away from law-abiding citizens, defining boyfriends and due process in red flag laws.

“But when you get into defining boyfriends, girlfriends, and relationships, as well as competing definitions of red flag dos and don’ts, once again, with zero trust in the present Administration’s DOJ and FBI political appointees, my appetite for hoping for the best is exhausted. I vote no,” he said in a release.

Amodei also took issue with the fact that the bill was negotiated by a select group of senators led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC).

The Senate approved the bill Thursday night on a 63 to 55 vote. Both Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) voted for the legislation, along with 15 Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Approval of the legislation came in response to a raft of recent mass shootings, including one last month in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 21 at an elementary school.

Cortez Masto backs Biden gas tax holiday

Cortez Masto said she would support a gas tax holiday after Biden called on Congress to enact a three-month pause in the 18.4-cent-per-gallon gas tax.

Both Cortez Masto and Rosen signed onto a bill in February that would have paused the gas tax through the end of the year.

“I haven’t changed my position,” Cortez Masto said when asked about the Biden proposal.

She said lowering gas prices could help encourage more tourists to drive to the state.

But she quickly noted that lifting the gas tax should be done in conjunction with other measures, including holding oil companies accountable for possibly padding profits, allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription prices and capping the cost of insulin.

“We need a comprehensive approach,” she said.

Her comments come as Biden’s proposal has received a lukewarm response from other Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Neither said they would put a bill on the floor. Pelosi said she would see where her caucus is on the issue, and Schumer said he would prefer to focus on cracking down on oil company profits.

In a brief interview Wednesday, Amodei said the gas tax pause would not affect consumers.

“If you’re trying to be a leader and get credit for something, then do something,” Amodei said. “But that’s not something and I think you get that even from the folks in his neck of the woods.”

Lee backs defense spending bill

The House Appropriations Committee approved the annual defense appropriations bill, which would provide $761.7 billion in fiscal year 2023, which begins October 1. The measure provides an increase of $33.207 billion above the 2022 level. 

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV), a member of the committee, voted for the bill and highlighted provisions she helped include, such as language directing the secretary of defense to review existing child-care fee assistance programs to ensure they will meet the needs of military families with children. 

Lee called for the provision’s inclusion after hearing about the challenges faced by military families in Nevada, particularly at Creech Air Force Base. She nt said they face long waitlists, lengthy commutes, irregular hours, budget constraints, insufficient open houses and prohibitive expenses. 

Lee also voted to advance legislation for full-committee consideration that would provide $48.2 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE), an increase of $3.3 billion above the fiscal year 2022 level. 

Lee touted that the DOE’s budget includes no funding to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. 

The measure would also provide $1.9 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation, an increase of $479.7 million above Biden’s budget request.

Miscellany

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), along with 12 other House members, sent a June 22 letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf requesting that the FDA develop and release “Guidance for Industry” on alternatives to animal testing.

“To eliminate unnecessary government-mandated animal testing and facilitate greater use of modern alternative methods, we request that the FDA develop and release Guidance for Industry on how alternatives to animal testing can be used to meet regulatory requirements,” the letter said. “Furthermore, we ask the FDA to detail a transparent process by which sponsors can engage with the Agency on this issue and gain approval for non-animal testing methods.”

Titus, a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, said allowing the pharmaceutical industry and government agencies to use high-tech alternatives to wasteful and inhumane animal tests will save time, money, and animals’ lives. It will also expedite drug development and lower pharmaceutical research and development costs.

Lastly, four Nevada Democrats made the case to a Democratic National Committee panel Wednesday for the Silver State to be allowed to hold the first-in-the-nation presidential primary in 2024.

For a full rundown of the measures the delegates supported or opposed this week, check out The Nevada Independent’s congressional vote tracker and other information below.

SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO

Legislation sponsored:

S.4496 – A bill to amend the Water Resources Development of 2000 to modify the authorization of appropriations for the Las Vegas Wash program, and for other purposes.

S.4494 – A bill to amend the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to modify the requirements for an eligible project under the competitive grant program for large-scale water recycling and reuse projects, to provide for an additional authorization of appropriations for that program, to repeal the termination of authority for that program, and for other purposes.

S.4462 –  A bill to establish a pilot program within the Office on Violence Against Women of the Department of Justice relating to advocacy for domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking victims, and for other purposes.

S.4459 – A bill to provide targeted relief for student borrowers, improve the affordability of higher education, provide reforms to the student loan system, and for other purposes.

S.4445 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to expand housing investment with mortgage revenue bonds, and for other purposes.

S.4441 – A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide for peer support specialists for claimants who are survivors of military sexual trauma, and for other purposes.

S.4436 – A bill to establish Joint Operations Centers along the southern border of the United States, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored

S.4485 – A bill to amend the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination based on source of income, veteran status, or military status.

S.4480 – A bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide increased labor law protections for agricultural workers, and for other purposes.

S.4440 – A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize and improve the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program for fiscal years 2023 through 2027, and for other purposes.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation sponsored:

S.4461 – A bill to reauthorize the program for mental health awareness training grants, and for other purposes.

S.4437 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exclude certain combat zone compensation of certain servicemembers relating to remotely piloted aircraft from gross income.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.4496 – A bill to amend the Water Resources Development of 2000 to modify the authorization of appropriations for the Las Vegas Wash program, and for other purposes.

S.4494 – A bill to amend the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to modify the requirements for an eligible project under the competitive grant program for large-scale water recycling and reuse projects, to provide for an additional authorization of appropriations for that program, to repeal the termination of authority for that program, and for other purposes.

REP. DINA TITUS

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 8210 – To direct the Federal Trade Commission to prescribe rules prohibiting disinformation in the advertising of abortion services, and for other purposes.

H.R. 8197 – To authorize Department of Veterans Affairs health care providers to provide recommendations and opinions to veterans regarding participation in State marijuana programs.

H.R. 8190 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to treat certain assisted reproduction expenses as medical expenses of the taxpayer.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 8111 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exclude certain combat zone compensation of certain servicemembers relating to remotely piloted aircraft from gross income.



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