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Amodei says Nevada benefits from his new job in Congress

U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei said Monday he’s excited about winning a seat on the House Appropriations Committee because he can advocate for Nevada issues, from public lands development to veterans benefits, and have a say in where government spends money.

“That’s where a lot of policy opportunities are,” Amodei said at the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce’s “Eggs & Issues” breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Amodei, R-Nev., said one of his top 2014 priorities will be ensuring passage of two major public lands packages — one in Northern Nevada involving a Yerington mine and the Pine Forest Range Wilderness Area; the other in Southern Nevada to designate Tule Springs a federally protected national monument.

Besides creating a national monument on 22,500 acres at the edge of Clark County for fossil beds, the wide-ranging Tule Springs bill would re-designate public land in other parts of the valley and offer more than 600 acres apiece to Las Vegas and North Las Vegas for economic development purposes

Amodei said he expects the public lands packages to be considered in January after many delays “because there are no objections to either one of those bills.” He expressed frustration at the slow process, however, saying one bill includes a public lands issue pending since the early 1970s.

“Sometimes the pace back there makes paint drying look like the Indy 500,” Amodei said of Washington.

Another priority is restoring full cost-of-living increases for young retired veterans, Amodei said. U.S. Joe Heck, R-Nev., voted last week against a budget resolution because the cost-of-living payments were to be cut by 1 percent for younger retirees. Amodei voted for the $2 trillion, 2014-15 budget blueprint despite its flaws, saying the money committees will build the final spending plans.

“It’s not where we want to end,” Amodei said of the budget deal that passed the House and will be before the Senate this week. “But it beats the heck out of where we’ve been, which is a stalemate.”

Amodei said he wants to attack debt reduction, too — something the current budget resolution didn’t address. He said the nation’s $17 trillion debt is too much. Earlier this year, he was one of the House Republicans who voted against a budget deal — partly because it didn’t deal with debt reduction — a move that shut down the government for 16 days. He said he wouldn’t do it again because it got Republicans nowhere and angered the public.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” Amodei said.

Funding to develop Interstate 11, which would link Las Vegas and Phoenix, is another top priority, Amodei said, although it will take years to actually build the highway.

Amodei said he also hasn’t given up on comprehensive immigration reform. He was on a Judiciary subcommittee dealing with the issue. He said the status quo is unacceptable because 11 million undocumented people are now living in the United States and many of their children have grown up here.

“I haven’t heard a single person say, ‘Leave it the way it is. It’s fine,’” Amodei said. “I cannot come back to a group like this and say we’re doing nothing.”

Amodei said he couldn’t wait to dig in on issues as he serves on the 50-member House Appropriations Committee. He had to give up other committees to take the seat, including on Natural Resources, Veterans Affairs and Judiciary. He said he can work on Appropriations subcommittees focused on those issues, however.

“You have primary oversight about what is done with the money that is given to the agencies,” Amodei said of his new role. “You have the opportunities, if you will, to pick your spots. It’s a great responsibility.”

Nevada last had a representative on the House Appropriations Committee 17 years ago. The late U.S. Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, R-Nev., served on the panel from 1991 to 1996.

Contact reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj.

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