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Capitol dome pictured from the eastern front of the U.S. Capitol on April 1, 2019. (Humberto Sanchez/The Nevada Independent)

The House approved legislation this week that would provide a path to citizenship to about 2.5 million people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, including 12,000 in Nevada.  

The House also approved legislation to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented farmworkers, renewed protections against victims of domestic violence and removed the deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

Votes in the House came as the Senate approved more of President Joe Biden’s cabinet nominations, including Deb Haaland to be Interior Secretary, Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Isabella Guzman to direct the Small Business Administration (SBA). Haaland is the first Native American to lead the Interior Department, and Becerra is the first Latino to head HHS. 

Both Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen voted for all of the nominations. 

Immigration bills

The House passed the American Dream and Promise Act 228 to 19. All Democrats voted for the measure along with nine Republicans. 

The bill would provide a path to citizenship for those brought to the country illegally as minors, typically known as DREAMers, and for those receiving Temporary Protected Status (TPS) as well as Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients. TPS and DED allow individuals from certain designated countries to stay in the U.S. on humanitarian grounds. 

The House also approved legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for farm workers. That bill passed 247 to 174, with 30 GOP members joining all but one Democrat. 

Just as in 2019, Rep. Mark Amodei opposed the Dream Act but backed the farm workers bill

The bills are similar to those passed by the House in 2019, and Amodei's complaints about the Dream Act still apply. Those include that the Dream Act would legalize undocumented people's status beyond TPS recipients and DREAMers participating in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children from deportation and allows them to work. Amodei questioned whether the measure has enough safeguards to prevent criminals and gang members from obtaining green cards.

Amodei has supported legalization and a path to citizenship for both DREAMers and TPS communities. In 2018, the Republican challenged his leadership as one of 23 GOP House members to sign a “discharge petition” that would have forced votes on immigration reform bills even if Republican leaders didn’t want to bring the measures to the floor. Although the petition fell two Republicans short of triggering the votes, Amodei credited the effort with pressuring GOP leaders to eventually bring two DACA bills up for votes that ultimately failed.

Under the new bill, anyone who has been in the U.S. since January 1 and was 18 years or younger on that date can apply for a 10-year conditional residency. They also must meet various conditions, including that they are not inadmissible for health-related reasons, smuggling or student visa abuse.

They would be able to apply for green cards after they earn a college degree, complete at least two years of postsecondary education, serve in the military for two years or have been employed for at least three years. And as permanent residents, they could then apply for citizenship after five years, like other green card holders.

“We must not continue to allow a broken immigration system to deprive innocent young people of the opportunity to study, work, and live in the only country they’ve ever known,” Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) said of the DREAMers.

At least 12,000 DREAMers live in Nevada, according to the American Immigration Council. As of March 2020, that’s how many Nevadans were participating in the DACA program.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) said that more than 40,000 immigrants in Nevada would be eligible for protections under the bill. That includes DACA, TPS and DED recipients. 

 “These eligible immigrants and their households contribute $234,500,000 in federal taxes and $102,700,000 in state and local taxes each year,” Titus said in a release.

The bill would allow TPS recipients, eligible for TPS since 2017, and DED recipients, eligible for DED since January, to immediately apply for green cards. After five years as legal permanent residents, they would be eligible to apply for citizenship. TPS and DED recipients would also have to have resided in the U.S. for three years before the bill’s enactment.

Roughly 4,000 TPS recipients live in Nevada. (Venezuelans, including the community in Las Vegas, were recently offered TPS and DED.)

If signed into law, the bill would supplant the DACA program, which was put in place by President Barack Obama. DACA could be changed or rescinded by future presidents, just as  

President Donald Trump’s administration tried to. Although the Supreme Court ruled in June 2020 that the Trump effort was arbitrary and capricious, the court conceded that it is within the president's authority to repeal to terminate the program, leaving DACA in need of a more lasting legislative solution.

During debate on the bills, Republicans, including House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), hammered President Joe Biden over the wave of immigrants flooding the Southern border. 

Jordan said the bills would “give amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants,” and exacerbate the surge at the border.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a statement last week that said the nation is in the midst of a migration wave at the U.S.-Mexico border that could rival the highest levels of the last 20 years. That includes roughly 4,000 unaccompanied children who are waiting to be processed in jail-like facilities — in most cases, even longer than the 72-hours stipulated by law, according to reports

Meanwhile, chances for the measures in the Senate remain unclear. Under a 50-50 split Senate, ten Republicans would be needed to join with all Democrats to get the 60 votes needed to end the debate once the measures come to the floor. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Dick Durbin (D-IL) said last week that something would need to be included for the border to win any GOP support. 

“I'm reaching out on the Republican side,” Durbin told reporters last week. “Many of them have said they are focused on the southern border and I think that has to be part of the conversation.”

Durbin remains skeptical that a comprehensive package for all of the 11 million undocumented is possible in the current political climate. 

But Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)—who was part of the group of eight senators, along with Durbin, to get a bill through the Senate in 2013—is holding out hope that Republicans would join with Democrats on a big bill.

“It's a constant effort to build a coalition,” Menendez told reporters. “Many members want to see, who come from Republican agricultural states, they want to see [agriculture] jobs. Others from high tech [areas], they want to see that. So as I have said to them, it takes everybody receiving but also giving. And that means finding pathways [for] the 11 million or significant parts thereof. So we're in a constant effort to try to achieve that and we'll see. All of the options are on the table.”

ERA and VAWA

The House also approved legislation this week to remove the deadline for the ERA on a 222 to 204 vote. All Nevada’s House Democrats voted for the bill.

“Today’s vote to remove the deadline for #ERA ratification is a historic win for equality that strikes a blow against gender-based discrimination,” Rep. Steven Horsford said on Twitter.

The House passed the resolution last year; Amodei again opposed it.

Congress approved the amendment, which would prohibit discrimination based on sex, in 1972, sending it to the states for ratification. The states had until March of 1979 for 38, or three-fourths of the 50 states, to ratify the ERA for it to become part of the Constitution.

Congress extended the deadline until 1982, but that extension has been challenged in court and remains unsettled law. By then, only 35 states had ratified the ERA. Nevada became the 36th state in 2017, followed by Illinois in 2018 and Virginia in January.

Five states, including Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee, South Dakota and Idaho, initially ratified the ERA and subsequently withdrew their ratification.

Last year, the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion that the ERA is no longer pending before the states because the deadline has expired.

The measure would need 10 Republican senators to support it to advance in the Senate, which is unlikely. 

“I wish that I could tell you that we had more Republican support,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), an ERA backer, told reporters. 

Murkowski said she is talking to her colleagues about the measure, though some argue that it's not needed and still others are concerned that it could have unintended consequences such as bolstering abortion and transgender rights

The House also approved the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) 244 to 172. The bill provides grants to support training for law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, service providers, and communities to provide comprehensive support for victims of violent crimes, including domestic violence.

All of Nevada’s House Democrats voted for the measure. Amodei opposed it, as he did in 2019.

“In 1994, the #ViolenceAgainstWomenAct enacted transformative change to stop gender-based violence and save lives,” Horford said on Twitter. “This legislation must be reauthorized now.”

Biden helped pass the first version of the bill, which became law in 1994. The law expired in 2013.

Republicans did not support the bill, in part, over a provision that would ban gun purchases for those with misdemeanor stalking and domestic abuse convictions. That's a change from the current law under which only felony stalking and domestic abuse convictions affect gun purchases. The provision, known as "the boyfriend loophole," was why the National Rifle Association opposed the bill. 

Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) offered an amendment to prevent groups that misused VAWA funds from getting grants for five years, which split Nevada's Democrats. 

Titus voted against the amendment, while the rest of the delegation voted for it. The amendment passed 242 to 174. Most Democrats, 174, voted against it. 

“Congresswoman Titus opposed the amendment because fraud is already a criminal offense,” said Titus spokesman Kevin Gerson. “She wants to ensure non-profit organizations that protect women from violence and abuse have the resources they need, which is why she voted to pass the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act – unlike the author of the amendment.”

Miscellany

The House also voted to 415 to 3 to extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) through May 31. All members of the delegation voted for the measure. The PPP, set to expire on March 31, provides loans to businesses disrupted by the pandemic. The bill still needs to get through the Senate, where it is expected to pass before it expires.

And Titus, who is chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee, convened a hearing on mitigating the cost of disasters. Her panel oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is the government’s leading disaster-response agency. 

One way of lowering the costs of disasters is beefing up building codes. Titus said that the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), after the 2004 hurricane season in Florida, studied homes built before and after 1996, when codes bolstered, to examine insurance claims' impacts. The IBHS study found that homes constructed after the new codes saw 60 percent fewer claims, and those claims were 42 percent less costly than the homes constructed before the strengthened codes.

“That’s just one example, but we know that when homes, businesses, and other infrastructure are built stronger from the get-go, or are built back stronger following disaster, they’re less likely to be seriously damaged during future events,” Titus said. 

She also wants to coordinate all of the federal government’s disaster-recovery programs, including those within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies.

Cortez Masto introduced two bills last week that would seek to prevent housing discrimination. One measure, the Housing Fairness Act, would fund fair housing programs, including authorizing the HUD secretary to test for discrimination in the housing market.

The other bill, the Home Loan Quality Transparency Act, would reinstate the requirement that detailed loan statistics are publicly available by any bank or credit union issuing more than 25 mortgages or 100 home equity lines of credit each year. That would help the government hold lenders accountable for discriminatory practices.

“So we must remember that housing discrimination, it takes many forms. And we've seen an increase of harassment complaints, which are often unreported and harder to detect and deter,” Cortez Masto said on a call with reporters.

“This is especially important as an increasing number of vulnerable families find themselves looking for new more affordable housing or facing heightened uncertainty,” Cortez Masto continued.

Also, Rosen, at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing last week, questioned Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on what can be done for the 30 percent of people, known as long haulers, who contract COVID-19 and continue to suffer from an ill-defined set symptom.

Fauci touted a $1.15 billion program to study the phenomenon. But he noted that much is still unknown.

“You asked a very relevant question, what about treatment of them?” Fauci said. “It is very difficult to devise a therapeutic regimen when you don’t know what the underlying mechanism of the pathogenic disease is, and that’s the real stumbling block here [and] is why we are intensively studying the individuals, because although it is an absolutely real phenomenon, we don’t have any pathogenic mechanisms right now that we’re certain of that has a commonality among all of them.”

“We will find that out, and when we do then we’ll be able to devise, hopefully, effective and appropriate therapies,” Fauci said.

For a full rundown of the measures the delegates supported or opposed this week, check out The Nevada Independent’s congressional vote tracker and other information below.

SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO

Legislation sponsored:

S.769 – A bill to authorize funds to prevent housing discrimination through the use of nationwide testing, to increase funds for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program, and for other purposes.

S.768 – A bill to amend section 5303 of title 49, United States Code, to consider housing in metropolitan transportation planning, and for other purposes.

S.767 – A bill to improve the Safe Routes to School Program, and for other purposes.

S.766 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow an above-the-line deduction for attorney fees and costs in connection with consumer claim awards.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.846 – A bill to provide for the confidentiality of information submitted in requests for deferred action under the deferred action for childhood arrivals program, and for other purposes.

S.833 – A bill to amend XVIII of the Social Security Act to allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate fair prescription drug prices under part D of the Medicare program.

S.810 – A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand the list of diseases associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents for which there is a presumption of service connection for veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam to include hypertension, and for other purposes.

S.808 – A bill to amend the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to promote transparency in the oversight of cybersecurity risks at publicly traded companies.

S.802 – A bill to modify the Federal and State Technology Partnership Program of the Small Business Administration, and for other purposes.

S.779 – A bill to provide that certain rules and guidance related to waivers for State innovation under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act shall have no force or effect.

S.764 – A bill to amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to encourage State Medicaid programs to provide community-based mobile crisis intervention services, and for other purposes.

S.762 – A bill to provide the National Credit Union Administration Board flexibility to increase Federal credit union loan maturities, and for other purposes.

S.749 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to enhance tax benefits for research activities.

the deduction for charitable contributions for individuals not itemizing deductions.

S.745 – A bill to make high-speed broadband internet service accessible and affordable to all Americans, and for other purposes.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.846 – A bill to provide for the confidentiality of information submitted in requests for deferred action under the deferred action for childhood arrivals program, and for other purposes.

S.802 – A bill to modify the Federal and State Technology Partnership Program of the Small Business Administration, and for other purposes of Congress sentenced for certain offenses, and for other purposes.

S.801 – A bill to identify and address barriers to coverage of remote physiologic devices under State Medicaid programs to improve maternal and child health outcomes for pregnant and postpartum women.

S.779 – A bill to provide that certain rules and guidance related to waivers for State innovation under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act shall have no force or effect.

S.765 – A bill to improve United States consideration of, and strategic support for, programs to prevent and respond to gender-based violence from the onset of humanitarian emergencies and to build the capacity of humanitarian actors to address the immediate and long-term challenges resulting from such violence, and for other purposes.

S.745 – A bill to make high-speed broadband internet service accessible and affordable to all Americans, and for other purposes.

REP. DINA TITUS

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 2070 – To recognize the right of the People of Puerto Rico to call a status convention through which the people would exercise their natural right to self-determination, and to establish a mechanism for congressional consideration of such decision, and for other purposes.

H.R. 2066 – To provide for the confidentiality of information submitted in requests for deferred action under the deferred action for childhood arrivals program, and for other purposes.

H.R. 2029 – To provide that individuals who are beneficiaries of deferred action, deferred enforced departure, or temporary protected status shall be treated in the same manner as citizens of the United States for purposes of determining the eligibility of such individuals to serve as officers or employees of Congress.

H.R. 1996 – To create protections for financial institutions that provide financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses and service providers for such businesses, and for other purposes.

H.R. 1976 – To establish an improved Medicare for All national health insurance program.

H.R. 1948 – To amend title 38, United States Code, to modify authorities relating to the collective bargaining of employees in the Veterans Health Administration.

H.R. 1916 – To provide health insurance benefits for outpatient and inpatient items and services related to the diagnosis and treatment of a congenital anomaly or birth defect.

REP. SUSIE LEE

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 1808 – To regulate assault weapons, to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, and for other purposes.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 1974 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow the energy investment tax credit for electrochromic glass.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 2037 – To extend Federal Pell Grant eligibility of certain short-term programs.

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