WASHINGTON - Sen. Harry Reid said Wednesday he and Sen. Dean Heller are trying to work out an impasse that for the past year has sidelined a candidate to fill a federal judge vacancy in Nevada.
Reid declined to say much when asked about the status of Elissa Cadish, a Clark County judge who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to fill one of three openings on the Nevada court. Her confirmation has been blocked by Heller after questions were raised last year about her views on gun rights.
"We're not going to talk about that," Reid said after a meeting of Nevada's federal lawmakers. "That is something we do among ourselves. That's something we are trying to work out on our own."
Heller, who was seated nearby, did not comment.
Reid's remarks came near the end of a rare gathering of Nevada's congressional delegation, the first one in three years and the first since the state was awarded a fourth House seat that Rep. Steven Horsford filled in January.
The six representatives - Democrats Reid, Horsford and Rep. Dina Titus and Republicans Heller, Reps. Mark Amodei and Joe Heck gathered at a round-table in a Capitol meeting room.
Among other issues, they discussed immigration, guns and looming federal spending cuts, although they said none in detail. There also was a fair amount of joshing among the group, whose careers have crossed in the Nevada Legislature and state politics. Laughter could be heard outside the closed-door meeting that lasted a half-hour.
"Historically in Nevada we have always worked well together for the size of the delegation even though it is growing," Heller said. "We may have our philosophical differences and that's fine but when it comes to what's best for the state, ninety-five percent of the time we are on the same page."
On other topics:
• Reid said he and Heller "are trying to find a way forward" for federal legislation that would legalize Internet poker.
After a bill failed last year, states including Nevada continued to move ahead with their own regulations for online gaming. Reid said he and Heller have discussed Internet poker "at great length the past month. It's not easy but we are working on it together."
• Public land bills affecting Lyon and Humboldt counties are Nevada priorities in Congress this year, the lawmakers said.
The Lyon County bill wold sell 12,500 acres of federal land to the city of Yerington to support development of the Pumpkin Hollow copper mine while creating 48,000 acres of protected wilderness. The Humbolt County bill would designate 26,000 acres as the Pine Forest Range Wilderness Area while releasing 1,500 acres of land for multiple use.
As for Southern Nevada, Reid said "there are a few problems" with a bill to preserve fossil beds at Tule Springs in northern Clark County, and it would be more difficult to pass. He did not elaborate.
Reid, the Senate majority leader, said there was a chance Congress might end a ban on earmarks, which he said are important for economic development in rural areas in Nevada and elsewhere.
With lawmakers unable to steer federal dollars, spending decisions are left to bureaucrats who, he said as a for instance, "don't care about Hawthorne."
Heller said he may be ready to reconsider his support for a broad earmark ban. Although he continues to believe that earmarks that benefit private companies are a source of corruption, "we can take a look at other earmarks, for universities, roads and so on, that make a lot of sense when it comes to creating jobs."
Nevadans in Congress last gathered when Sen. John Ensign was in office, although that came to a halt in 2009 as his ethics troubles mounted and caused embarrassment. When Ensign resigned in May 2011, the delegation immediately was plunged into partisan politics as then-Rep. Shelley Berkley attempted to unseat Heller, who was appointed to fill Ensign's Senate post.
Reid joked Wednesday that it should be easier for Nevadans in Washington to get along now "because we don't have a Senate race" in 2014.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.