On Friday, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) opened up during his appearance at the “Eggs and Issues” breakfast hosted by the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce. Amodei spent the morning explaining his conditions for supporting the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project, Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, and Donald Trump’s tax plan. After the breakfast, Amodei then answered our questions on what lies ahead for Congress on health care.
“Paul Ryan wants to do tax reform by Thanksgiving. I think he means it.”
– Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City)
The morning after the U.S. Senate narrowly approved its 2018 budget reconciliation bill, Amodei opened his presentation by celebrating its passage. “The Senate did their thing last night. Thank goodness,” Amodei exclaimed to the audience. Senate Republicans intend to use the reconciliation instructions in this bill to pass Trump’s tax plan, which cuts taxes primarily on the wealthiest 1% of Americans while removing deductions and exemptions that would result in tax increases for some middle and lower income Americans.
Amodei expressed confidence that Congress will move quickly to approve a tax cut bill to Trump’s liking. “I expect the reconciling process to be fast. [House Speaker] Paul Ryan [R-Wisconsin] wants to do tax reform by Thanksgiving. I think he means it.”
“They think they have the votes. My prediction is that it passes the House.”
– Rep. Mark Amodei, on Yucca Mountain
Later in the breakfast, Amodei addressed Nevada’s ongoing fight against nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain. The Las Vegas Metro Chamber is part of a broad coalition of Nevadans opposing the controversial project, a coalition that includes Governor Brian Sandoval (R) and both of Nevada’s U.S. Senators. Amodei, on the other hand, is willing to accept nuclear waste if Nevada gets funding for infrastructure projects, and to research recycling of nuclear waste. For Amodei, “If there’s an opportunity on the House side to add things of substance that are related to economic development, I will look at that.”
Why has Amodei broken ranks with the rest of Nevada’s Congressional delegation? Amodei declared that House leaders probably have more than enough votes to fund completion of the Yucca Mountain project. “They think they have the votes. My prediction is that it passes the House.”
On the other hand, Amodei thinks there’s still a chance Yucca Mountain stalls in the Senate. According to Amodei, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) may hesitate to advance something that could further harm Senator Dean Heller’s (R) chances of winning reelection. “If Mitch McConnell is helping Dean Heller out, he won’t have the Senate going yee-haw, cranking the cranes out.”
“We’d be happy to look at anything the Senate actually passes.”
– Rep. Mark Amodei, on the Alexander-Murray health care agreement
After the breakfast, we spoke with Amodei about the budget some more, then asked him about Obamacare. He continued to defend his vote for the House Trumpcare bill, even though Governor Sandoval has consistently opposed efforts to undo Medicaid expansion or jeopardize the health insurance exchange.
Amodei told us he understands Sandoval’s position. “I don’t blame the Governor for taking his position. As it stands right now, the feds pay for 90% of Medicaid expansion,” he said. But later in our conversation, Amodei stated he can’t support keeping Medicaid expansion as is. Even though Medicaid expansion has been credited for bringing Nevada’s uninsured rate to historic lows, Amodei suggested it’s too expensive. “We need to do it in a way that doesn’t just say, ‘You keep signing them up, and we keep reimbursing them 90 cents on the dollar.’”
When asked about the bipartisan Alexander-Murray proposal to ensure stability in the health insurance market, Amodei took a pass. “We’d be happy to look at anything the Senate actually passes.” As of Friday, the bill from Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Patty Murray (D-Washington) has 24 co-sponsors, 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) expressed her support for the bill Thursday, but Senator Dean Heller has yet to state his position.