When Sen. Dean Heller was elected to a full term last fall, he and Sen. Harry Reid re-established a practice of co-hosting weekly morning get-togethers for Nevadans visiting Washington.
“I think it’s important to show to Nevadans that they can come to the Capitol and meet with both their senators on a Thursday morning for breakfast,” Heller said in November.
But after the holidays, Heller quietly bowed out. The breakfasts are closed to the press, and his absence was not revealed until last week when a reporter poked his head into a meeting room outside the U.S. Senate chamber and found Reid going solo, talking immigration with about 50 visitors.
Like polished Kremlinologists, pundits in Nevada scour the seemingly sometimes off-on relationship between senior Sen. Reid, a Democrat, and junior Sen. Heller, a Republican.
Heller spokeswoman Chandler Smith dismissed efforts Friday to read into his decision to pass on the orange juice and donuts. After giving it a go for a few weeks, Heller basically concluded he wasn’t so much of a breakfast guy, she said.
When he joined the Senate as an appointee in May 2011, “Sen. Heller then established a pattern of meeting with as many Nevadans as he could in his office, just like he was known to do in the House of Representatives,” Smith said in a statement.
“Sen. Heller did go to a few breakfasts after the election, but he found that the one-on-one constituent meetings were more productive, and that he preferred them,” she said.
For his part, Reid said he will continue to go it alone in the mornings.
“I’ve been hosting these breakfasts for nearly 25 years and as a result have been able to meet thousands of Nevadans,” Reid said through an aide. “They are a wonderful chance for me to visit with Nevadans when they are in our nation’s capital, and I thoroughly enjoy them.”
— Steve Tetreault
CONFIRMATION VOTE FOR DORSEY
The Senate has reached an agreement to vote on the confirmation of Jennifer Dorsey, the Las Vegas lawyer whose nomination to become a federal judge became colored by a campaign finance controversy.
As they do with district judge nominees, senators will debate Dorsey for an hour and then vote, according to an agreement posted in the Congressional Record. A spokeswoman for Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the debate and vote likely will take place July 9 or 10.
Dorsey, who was Reid’s choice to fill a vacancy on the federal court in Nevada, came under scrutiny in April when it was reported that senior partners in her law firm, Kemp, Jones & Coulthard, made $150,000 in contributions to a Reid-connected political committee around the time she was being vetted.
Dorsey professed no knowledge of the donations, and both Reid and the law firm denied any connection between the money and the judgeship. Reid said money “hasn’t entered into my selection of anybody” for a federal post.
Dorsey was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 10-8 party-line vote in May.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he was concerned about appearances and that making her a judge “might undermine public confidence.”
Democrats came to Dorsey’s defense, with Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii saying it would be “very unfair” to hold her accountable for the actions of her partners.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who had blocked Dorsey temporarily, has said he will vote against her.
With Democrats controlling the Senate, Dorsey will be confirmed as a federal judge, said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who is an expert on judicial selection. Depending on whether Grassley speaks against Dorsey during debate, and how strongly, Tobias said as many as 30 Republicans may cast votes against her.
— Steve Tetreault
SANDOVAL GIVEN EDUCATION POST
Gov. Brian Sandoval has been named chairman of the Education Commission of the States, a group created in 1965 for states to work together on challenging education issues.
Sandoval assumed the leadership post from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper while attending the 2013 ECS National Forum on Education Policy held last week in St. Louis, Mo.
The chairmanship alternates between Democratic and Republican governors every two years.
“Education is vitally important to the strength of our state and indeed our country,” Sandoval said. “I am pleased that, through this chairmanship, Nevada will have an expanded voice in the national education discussion and continue to learn best practices from states across our country.”
Through ECS, state policymakers and education leaders exchange information, ideas and experiences to improve public education. ECS supports their work by providing nonpartisan and unbiased research, analysis, and technical assistance on education issues from pre-kindergarten to postsecondary education.
Sandoval has made education one of the top priorities of his administration. During the most recent legislative session, Sandoval became the first Nevada governor to direct funding to English language learner programs.
He also expanded all-day kindergarten throughout the state and reduced the average kindergarten class size. He has also previously reformed teacher tenure and evaluations, provided a path toward performance pay for educators, improved charter school governance, and connected higher education to economic development.
— Sean Whaley
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC. Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@ reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.