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Nevada congressional delegation ready to tackle key local issues

Updated January 8, 2019 - 8:38 am

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in Nevada’s congressional delegation are prepared to get to work on issues specific to the state, including filling federal judicial vacancies and keeping the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project mothballed.

Nevada Democrats ran for election on campaigns to protect health care and reduce the cost of prescription drugs, issues that Sen. Jacky Rosen, Rep. Steven Horsford and Rep. Susie Lee, the newest members of the delegation, all cited as priorities.

But the new members were also focused on state specific issues such as the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project and federal judicial vacancies in Nevada as civil caseloads skyrocket.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the state’s senior senator.

Cortez Masto and Rosen are exploring the creation of a bipartisan committee or commission that can vet judicial candidates whom the senators could recommend to the White House for nomination.

The state has two of seven federal judgeships vacant, one considered a judicial emergency because it has been vacant for nearly three years.

President Donald Trump did not appoint judges for Nevada vacancies in the past two years. Republicans blocked a nominee by then-President Barack Obama for a judgeship that came open in 2016. It remains unfilled.

Meanwhile, the state’s leaders remain opposed to reviving the licensing process that could lead to the opening of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

The dean of the state’s congressional delegation, Rep. Dina Titus, a Las Vegas Democrat, stood before the east front steps of the Capitol last week for a picture of the women of the new Congress, who now total 106 members, nearly a quarter of all 435 members.

Titus said the number of female lawmakers “changes the agenda. It changes the process.” Titus said women were more likely to collaborate and work to accomplish specific achievements.

Titus also has led opposition to the Yucca Mountain project in Congress.

Although rural counties in Nevada support the Yucca Mountain licensing process, and opening the facility in the state if it is proven to be safe, state and federal officeholders from Nevada oppose it, citing environmental and health concerns.

The Trump administration has included funding to restart the licensing process in the past two fiscal budgets — requests that were blocked in the Senate. Cortez Masto and Rosen oppose the project.

Lee said the state’s congressional delegation was expected to meet on local issues, like Yucca Mountain.

“We are unified that we have to do whatever it takes to stop Yucca,” Lee said.

The freshman lawmaker said she spoke with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., before voting for her for House speaker last week to get her assurances to stop Yucca Mountain.

“It was one of my conditions for voting for her,” Lee said.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Contact @garymartindc on Twitter.

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