Nevada NewsMakers

News - September 13, 2018 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar

Nevada Newsmakers

Nevada's 3rd U.S. House Rep. Jacky Rosen looks at the Yucca Mountain controversy through the eyes of a member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee.

The storage and transportation of nuclear waste at the site -- less than 100 miles from Las Vegas -- poses a serious threat to national security because of the U.S. military bases that surround the area, Rosen said Thursday on Nevada Newsmakers.

"I sit on Armed Services (Committee) and I have a giant map about Nevada's neighborhoods," Rosen said. "We have Nellis Air Force Base, the premier pilot-training (facility) throughout the world. We have the Nevada Test and Training Range where we do all that training, 70 percent of the Air Force's live munitions lives there.

"We have Creech Air Force base, where we have our unmanned aerial system," she said. "We train those Top Gun Naval aviators in Fallon. We have a Hawthorne Army Depot, a Nevada Test Site and Area 51.

"Yucca Mountain sits right in the center of all that," Rosen said. "Nevada is critical to our national security, our homeland security and safety. And anything that could compromise that, moving nuclear waste through the Nevada's Test and Training range or any of those other routes, could put us at risk."

Other members of Congress see Yucca and an an excellent spot to store the waste, But they do not understand how vital central Nevada is to national security, Rosen said.

Storage of the waste near U.S. military installations is only one problem with Yucca, Rosen said. The other one is moving it there through wide swaths of United States territory.

"If there is a nuclear (accident), if there is an issue, let me tell you this: There are 75,000 metric tons of nuclear waste. At three loads a week via trains or trucks on our freeways, going through over 44 states and 300 counties, it will take 50 years to transport it," Rosen said. "So don't tell me that within that 50 years, there is not going to be some kind of accident. Any accident is going to impact all of Nevada or it could impact a congressional district anywhere in this country."

When it was noted that the Naval Air Station in Fallon is much closer to Reno than Yucca Mountain, Rosen said, "What I am saying is that it all sits in the center of our state."

Break the gridlock

Rosen, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Dean Heller, R-NV, is a founding member of the  Problem Solvers Caucus in the U.S. House. The group has a plan for the next Congress to make it more inclusive.

"We've come up with a blueprint called, 'Break the Gridlock,' and we hope the next Speaker of the House would allow Congress to move forward in certain ways -- that maybe every member of Congress, regardless of party, would have the opportunity to bring a bill to the floor. And a bill, if it had a particular threshold of co-sponsors -- Republican and Democrat -- that it would come to the floor for a vote. It would allow the people's business to get done."

The Problem Solvers also want to reduce the practice of adding controversial proposals to common-sense bills that both parties like.

"We ask often times for clean legislation," Rosen said. "What does that mean? It means that America has pot holes all across this country. People want their potholes fixed. Don't put something controversial in with the potholes. Let that stand alone. Let us get some of the business, that we all agree on, done, moving forward."

Immigration and education

Rosen said Nevada needs to grow and train its own citizens to take good jobs that are being offered in today's economy.

Yet she is all for immigration laws that allow workers to come into the U.S. on temporary work visas.

"I do think it is really important that we bring in the kinds of workers that we need to fill these jobs," she said. "I have talked to the Nevada Housing Authority and subcontractors and there is a labor shortage.

"We are booming," she said. "We are building a big stadium in Southern Nevada. We've got businesses coming to Northern Nevada. We need housing and we need infrastructure. So we need labor. We need to bring that in.

"We have a shortage in tech jobs," she said. "We need to bring those people in, too. And I can tell you in the medical field, we need to bring in people for that because as our population ages, we know we'll need more medical care and good access to that because, honestly, people's lives are on the line."

At the same time, Nevada's education system needs to improve, she said.

"The second piece is really education," Rosen said. "We need to be sure that in K-through-12, we are preparing our kids with the right kind of education and critical-thinking skills to take on the jobs and the challenges for the future. We need to improve our career and technical education, from data analytics to plumbers and pipe fitters to electricians to avionics. We have the Grand Canyon helicopter tours (in Las Vegas). They need helicopter mechanics. It is a great job, a long-lasting job.

"So I think it is twofold," Rosen said. "We need to train and grown from within, by creating a good people pipeline with those education skills. And then we need to supplement that with people coming into our country to help us in all ranges."

Government shutdown

Rosen does not think any immigration bills will be approved by the current Congress. The focus is on the potential government shutdown.

"There are not enough working days," she said about passing immigration legislation. "We have until Sept. 30th to deal with the government shut down. We have a lot of funding that still needs to be done. And so I think we need to be sure that we do the business at hand first and, maybe, in October, there might be, maybe, a few things we can get done before the election. We'll see."

Yet a government shutdown looms. President Trump has said Congress must pass a budget bill for the federal government because he will not sign any more omnibus bills to temporarily keep the government running. Trump is also pushing for funding for his wall on the Mexican border.

"I hope we can avoid it (shutdown) but I can tell you, the Republicans control that -- the presidency, the Senate and the House. The ball is in their court," Rosen said.

"So if the President wants to shut down over a wall, I'm not sure what the Republican caucus has been talking about, how it is going to play out with their different factions and who he (Trump) is going to have to please," Rosen said. "I hope cooler heads prevail because people's salaries are on the line. They need to pay their rent. They need to take their kids to the doctor .. all of those things. We can't afford a shutdown."

When it was noted that federal employees would be reimbursed if a government shutdown disrupts their pay, Rosen said:

"What if you pay your bills late? You could have to pay a fine. If it (rent) is due on the first, what if you don't get your money until the 5th, the 6th? So people who could least afford it, may incur a penalty."

Constituent service

Rosen, in her first congressional term, said constituency service is her No. 1 job, without mentioning the phrase, "constituent service."

"My No. 1 job is to listen to people's anxieties back home in Nevada, take these stories here with me to Washington and be sure I use them to legislate with heart," she said. "Because every single person matters and what we do has an impact on somebody at home, a serviceman, a business, large and small. We need to take that into account with everything we do."