A pin on Nevada Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen’s lapel reads “415,” a daily reminder that the freshman congressman is among the newest of the 435 members of the House of Representatives.
But the fresh eyes he brought to Washington helped him Kihuen quickly realize that Congress’ lawmaking process is flawed compared to what goes on in Nevada, he explained Friday to a room of about 100 business leaders attending the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly Eggs and Issues breakfast roundtable.
“That place is as dysfunctional as it gets,” said Kihuen, who served in both the state Assembly and Senate from 2007 to 2016. “I come from a state Legislature … where yes, we can have debates, we can have back and forth. … But as much as we disagree, we would always walk out of the Senate floor and go grab lunch together and laugh about it.”
That’s not how it works in Washington, D.C., Kihuen said. On his first week on the job, he recounted, a fellow Democrat scolded the newbie for walking across the aisle to get acquainted with his Republican counterparts.
“Oftentimes, you see, again, folks who are out of touch in Washington, D.C. and the rest of America,” he said, adding that proceedings in federal government lack civility.
Kihuen raved that each of the bills he introduced while in the Nevada Legislature had bipartisan backing. In Congress, he said, “We (Democrats) are not being heard. Our amendments are not being accepted.”
While the state-federal comparison was the focus of his Friday speech, Kihuen also sprinkled in remarks on draft bills he’s involved in and his advocacy for immigration reform, the freshman congressman’s go-to topic. He and his parents immigrated from Guadalajara, Mexico, and became citizens under former President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 immigration reform.
He also touched on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project (he doesn’t support it), tax reform (he thinks we need it), and the Affordable Care Act (he wants a bipartisan solution), and pushed for diversifying the state economy.
“This is an observation from a freshman,” Kihuen said. “Again, I come from a very fresh perspective. I don’t come here to tell you things are perfectly fine, because they’re not.”