Still skeptical even though West has leadership in Congress |

Still skeptical even though West has leadership in Congress

Guy W. Farmer
Special to the Appeal

When the newly elected Congress reconvenes early next month, Western Democrats will be in charge in both the Senate and the House – Nevada’s own Harry Reid will take over as Senate majority leader and San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi will become the first female speaker of the House. Nevertheless, I have mixed feelings about this change in congressional leadership.

On the positive side of the ledger, I’m delighted that Reid will continue to lead the fight against the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, which is on life support if it isn’t already dead. Pelosi, who worked against Yucca Mountain four years ago when she was the house minority whip, will be a strong ally in Nevada’s campaign against the ill-considered nuclear waste dump.

Shortly after the Nov. 7 mid-term election, Reid pledged that no Yucca Mountain bill will reach the Senate floor as long as he is majority leader, and promised to strangle the doomed project by cutting off its funding. Nevertheless, the Bush administration and nuclear energy industry lobbyists continue to throw millions of taxpayer dollars down that particular political rat hole.

Only last Monday, the U.S. Energy Department unveiled a far-fetched proposal to ship nuclear waste through downtown Reno. “If this route were selected it would channel all of the nation’s nuclear waste through the Interstate 80 corridor and would affect more Nevada cities and towns than any other (route),” said Bob Loux, executive director of the Nevada Nuclear Projects Agency. That plan is a non-starter despite the Bushies’ continuing efforts to jam highly toxic nuclear waste down our throats.

But while I’m optimistic that Reid and Ms. Pelosi will keep Yucca Mountain on the back burner, I’m concerned about their benign approach to another hot-button issue, illegal immigration, because I fear they’ll cave-in and endorse Bush’s massive amnesty plan for millions of illegal immigrants. Ironically, the president’s dangerous plan has more support on the Democratic side of the aisle than it does among his fellow Republicans.

After the president’s mid-term election defeat, he claimed victory on the immigration issue. “I think we have a good chance (of passing ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform) …” he said. “It’s an important issue and I hope we can get something done on it.” The moderately conservative Weekly Standard, which backs the president’s flawed proposal, said the Democratic victory meant that the Republicans lost on immigration. I disagree, however, because Iraq was the most important issue in the November election, not immigration.

Here in Nevada, voters elected three Republicans who are tough on illegal immigration – Gov.-elect Jim Gibbons, Congressman-elect Dean Heller and Sen. John Ensign – and like-minded candidates who back an enforcement-first approach on immigration reform won elsewhere in the Mountain West and Southwest. Meanwhile, in a stunning bit of overkill, the Pahrump Town Board passed an English-only ordinance and banned the flying of foreign flags in public. Readers who’ve never heard of Pahrump should go back to California.

President Bush and the new Congress will be at odds on other major issues like Iraq and the economy. On Iraq, both the president and Congress will hide behind the Baker Commission report, due out on Wednesday, as they search for a graceful way out of an increasingly violent Middle Eastern quagmire. Although the president insists that there won’t be a U.S. withdrawal any time soon, some of his political allies are talking about troop “redeployments.” In any case, the November election clearly showed that the American people want our troops out of Iraq as soon as possible.

There’ll be a pitched battle over the economy with the president pushing for permanent tax cuts and Democrats attempting to revoke cuts for wealthy taxpayers. Beyond the Democrats’ planned 100-hour blitz to pass their legislative agenda, Sen. Reid and Speaker-elect Pelosi have pledged to restore ethical and fiscal discipline to Congress. Ms. Pelosi got off to a promising start last week by rejecting a bid by Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida, a former federal judge who was impeached on corruption charges, to become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. In January, senators will clash over whether to ratify the feisty and outspoken Ambassador John Bolton (who I support) as our permanent representative to the United Nations.

In summary, I hope the new Democratic Congress will get us out of Iraq and bring higher ethical standards to our federal government.

BODINE’S: Yet another out-of-state developer wants to put a casino on the old Bodine’s property at the busy corner of 395 South and Old Clear Creek Road. Despite what they say, any self-respecting casino operator will want to pave-over the adjacent Carson City Fair grounds for parking. And that’s why city supervisors should declare the Fuji Park/Fairgrounds complex off-limits to casino gaming. Enough is enough!

• Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.