Congressman Mark Amodei, R-Nev., addressed such topics as healthcare, immigration reform and Sage Grouse Tuesday afternoon during the Fallon Rotary Club luncheon at the Fallon Convention Center.
The District 2 Representative from Carson City observed during a 51-minute town hall-like question-and-answer session that he “needed to get out of Washington D.C. and back to high altitude” in Northern Nevada, where he is currently touring Northern Nevada communities as the House has adjourned until Sept. 9.
“I don’t know what you’re supposed to do on these because I’m still relatively new, but I think it’s important that you go back to your district and hear from the people who gave you the job and circulate to see what’s going on in the private sector, the public sector, in your healthcare, all those other things,” he said.
Amodei went on to emphasize he is not on “vacation” as he opened his with a word of thanks for the introduction he received.
“I want to thank Anita (Trone) for those kind words, especially when you’re part of an organization whose approval rating ranks in the high single digits on a good day, and we’ve got nowhere to go but down from there” Amodei said, drawing a round of laughter from the audience.
He went on say he wanted to cover a couple of topics. Among those were recent comments Fox News Channel personality Greta Van Susteren made on her blog that Congress had passed legislation exempting its members from provisions of the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA, also known as Obamacare), a claim that has circulated on the Internet for at least three years.
Earlier this month, Amodei voted in favor of “Keep the IRS Off Your Healthcare Act,” to prevent the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing ACA and in July voted for legislation that would delay implementation of the individual mandate, which will require Americans to buy health insurance. Then there was Susteren’s report, which came as news to him.
“I was in the airport in Chicago with Billy Long, who represents a (Seventh Congressional) district in Missouri,” Amodei said. “We were sitting there commiserating on how popular we are and how everybody loves us and see this email about how we voted to exempt ourselves from the healthcare law, and I go, ‘What?’ We didn’t vote for anything. We’re not exempt, neither are federal employees. Healthcare is a mess, but it’s our mess and we should all be in the mess together.”
In his first question, Amodei responded to whether a shutdown of government to defund the healthcare law would be good.
“I don’t think shutting down the government is anybody’s goal,” he said. “The next 90 days are going to be a pretty interesting time. You’re coming up against the debt limit, you’ve got all the budget bills, you’ve got sequester floating around out there, and so you sit there and say, ‘What are we going to do?’ And it’s been hard some days to even have a discussion about what the potential course changes are, which is frustrating I think to everybody on all sides.
“But here’s my question, and let’s say we shut it down on a Tuesday. So, what’s your plan on Wednesday? And what are you going to do on Thursday or Friday? If shutdown is one of the options, tell me what the plan is and how that gets you started again? Right now, nobody’s talking about that, and I think that whether you’re a Democrat or Republican you’ve got to talk about it. Do we need healthcare in this country? Yes. Are there some good things in the law that are good? Yes. Was it done poorly? Do you remember the public hearings that were held on healthcare? If you say no, it’s because there were none.”
Amodei spoke about the importance of the immigration subcommittee of which he is a member.
“This is an issue that needs work,” he said. “It’s an important issue for Nevada, and the most under-reported part of immigration is the economic stuff, whether it’s impact on public services, impact on the ag industry, high-skill, low-skill, you name it, this is a big deal in terms of the economy of our country.”
He went on to describe the issues as a “huge, huge challenge” that needs to be resolved through bipartisanship and that — like any matter of concern — the public needs to stay well informed.
“At the end of the day, immigration reform won’t pass the House of Representatives unless some Democrats vote for what the Republicans feel. And if it doesn’t pass, what you’ve got is the status quo,” Amodei said. “When you’re talking about ‘the process’ and trying to build some confidence in it, I can tell you I’m much more towards, ‘Hey, you’ve got to watch it on TV, you’ve got to see what the questions were and what the answers were, so at least you have a point of reference in the process as opposed to a 30-second sound bite from whatever your favorite national news organization is.
“The primary driving concern for immigration reform should be the good of the country. Not Republicans scoring points, not Democrats scoring points. Do the right thing for the country and let the chips fall where they may.”
• Amodei said he didn’t get a great grade in civics at Carson High School, but he passe and did come away with an understanding about the equal importance of both houses of Congress.
“The 670,000 people in Congressional District 2 that elected me for this two-year period to represent their views are just as entitled to have their shot at the issue through their representative, with all due respect, as the folks who ran statewide in their senate districts.
“Whether it’s healthcare, immigration, the budget, if both sides go like this,” he added, splitting his hands apart, “then you’ve got what I think is the basis of a lot of frustration right now. And that is, ‘You’re not doing anything.’ Do I feel passionate about a lot of these issues? Well, yeah, but it’s like, OK, what will I win if nothing’s done.”
• Churchill County Comptroller Alan Kalt asked the final question: “Tell me something good that’s happened in the last 20 months since you defected … end on a positive note.”
Amodei flashed a wide grin and went on to name such House achievements as passage of the farm bill, dealing with student loans, and in Nevada, five lands bills moving, a bill that will be ready for action for Native tribes and the Defense Authorization Bill.
“There’s a long ways to go, but we’ve dealt with it in an open and transparent manner so in that sense, I’m grateful for the successes that we’ve had,” Amodei said. “I have told people there are days when I’m incredibly frustrated, but I know this, and that is, you know for sure you’ve lost if you quit. And so, make no mistake, it is an honor and privilege to say you’ve been given this responsibility by the people in your district. So as long as I have it, I’m going to swing the bat as hard as I can.”
• Amodei on the popularity of Congress: “I have to tell you, I was a lawyer before and people hated lawyers, but this is much worse than being a lawyer.”