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Spending bill has money for Las Vegas shooting first responders

WASHINGTON — A sweeping $1.3 trillion spending bill to fund the federal government through September includes $16 million to assist law enforcement agencies with emergencies like the Oct. 1 mass shooting on the Las VegasStrip, lawmakers revealed Wednesday.

No money is included in the bill to restart licensing of the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository, much to relief of most Nevada lawmakers who urged the House and Senate to keep it out.

“I’m pleased Nevada’s message was heard,” Republican Sen. Dean Heller said.

Negotiators reached a deal late Wednesday, and lawmakers are pushing to pass the legislation by Friday and avoid a shutdown.

The bill faces opposition from conservatives and liberals alike, and the last-minute cobbling together of a complex spending bill still faces procedures that could block passage in both chambers of Congress.

The bill includes increases in spending for the military and domestic programs, including money to cover unbudgeted overtime for first responders following the Las Vegas mass shooting, which left 58 concertgoers dead and hundreds injured.

The provision was tucked into the bill by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for commerce, justice and science, on a request by Heller.

Heller said the funds would reward first responders for “protecting and saving as many lives as they did.”

Nevada already received a $1 million emergency grant from the Justice Department. But that didn’t cover the overtime costs, Heller said.

Nevada law enforcement agencies are seeking $2.8 million to cover expenses, and they must apply to a Justice Department program for a piece of the $16 million.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., also sought funding immediately following the shooting, citing the cost to the community and state for the law enforcement and emergency medical response.

Heller asked Shelby to include more funding for law enforcement agencies in the spending bill for fiscal 2018, which began Oct. 1.

“There are a lot of deep wounds that came with Oct. 1,” Heller said.

Heller told Shelby the funding issue was not important to just “Nevada but to those law enforcement heroes that serve us every day.”

Lawmakers reached a deal in February to raise spending caps on military and domestic spending by $300 billion, but writing the bill bogged down as lawmakers in the House and Senate stalled on contentious issues such as immigration and gun control.

Included in the bill is a measure that would bolster the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is co-sponsored by 76 senators, including Heller and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

No other gun control measures are included.

Meanwhile, a request from the Department of Energy and and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for $150 million to revive the licensing process for the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository was excluded from the bill.

Although the House approved the money, the Senate did not, and it out of the negotiated version of the bill.

The majority of the Nevada congressional delegation opposed funding, including Heller and Cortez Masto, D-Nev., as well as Democrat Reps. Dina Titus, Jacky Rosen and Ruben Kihuen, whose district includes the site in Nye County.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., favors continuing the licensing process to determine if Yucca Mountain is safe for permanent storage of nuclear waste.

The Department of Energy is seeking $120 million for Yucca Mountain licensing and interim storage, and the NRC is asking for $47 million for licensing activities in their budget requests for fiscal year 2019, which will begin Oct. 1.

Without agreement by the House and Senate on how to effectively manage nuclear waste, Energy Secretary Rick Perry told a Senate panel the 2019 spending request for Yucca Mountain licensing faces a similar fate.

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

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