By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Challenger Danny Tarkanian went on the attack against Nevada’s 2nd U.S. House District Rep. Mark Amodei during a debate Monday, criticizing the 11-year incumbent for consistently voting for annual Omnibus bills that fund most federal appropriations even though they were lax on illegal immigration, ripe with pork projects and gave millions to Planned Parenthood.
“Mark has been in office 11 years and he said he’s voted against some of these budgets but he has never voted against the final Omnibus bill,” said Tarkanian, a Douglas County commissioner. “He has been in office 11 years and the debt has gone up $14 trillion, actually $16 trillion since Mark has been in office. It isn’t just this past bill that’s causing this sky-rocketing inflation. It is the reckless, out-of-control spending.”
The two Republicans will meet in the June primary, along with three other candidates, with the winner advancing to the November general election. Monday’s debate was held during a taping of Nevada Newsmakers then uploaded to the show’s web page later that day. The candidates were limited to 60 seconds on the initial question and 30 seconds for responses. Both landed some zingers.
“You know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” Tarkanian said. “Well, Mark has been in office 11 years, and if you are not happy with these past 11 years of Washington D.C., if you are not happy with the results of illegal immigration, then you’ve got to be insane to vote for Mark again.”
Amodei touted his potential for leadership in the 2023 Congress. Some expect Republicans to take the majority in the U.S. House in the November election and Amodei could become a chairman of a powerful committee or subcommittee.
“Like anything else, it takes time to build relationships,” he told host Sam Shad. “And when you’ve been back there for a little while, you get the ability to go to a position of influence for getting what we need for Nevada.
“And by the way, make no mistake, the priority for this seat is Nevada,” Amodei continued. “It is the only seat of the 435 whose exclusive responsibility is for the original part of the state. That’s how we’ve conducted ourselves for the whole time and will continue to from a position of seniority.”
Amodei warned that now is not a good time for Nevada Republicans to make a change. Amodei is the only Republican currently in Nevada’s congressional delegation.
“And if you think there is going to be a red wave, there’s going to be a lot of freshmen in this time, fighting for attention and stuff like that,” he said. “So quite frankly, I think it is a good time to stay the course.”
Tarkanian countered: “Congressman Amodei’s response to why he should be re-elected has been the same thing he has said at all the Lincoln Day Dinners — that I’ve been in office so long that I’ll be put in a powerful position and I’ll bring back more pork to the state. If the viewers feel that is the reason you want somebody representing you, then you should vote for him. But if the viewers want someone who will stand up for all of the conservative principles that you care about, then you should vote for me.”
Amodei also touted his own conservative chops.
“(My) 94 percent Trump voting record (voting with Trump administration in 94 percent of the time) is not about not caring about the things that are dear to conservatives,” he said. “And he (Tarkanian) has misconstrued the fact that it (seniority) is not about pork. It is about being able to influence federal executive-agency decisions that affect Nevada. And you can get their attention when you are in a position of seniority and also, perhaps the majority.”
Tarkanian also was critical of Amodei’s poor ratings by various conservative policy and advocacy groups.
“He’s got a lifetime rating of 60 percent with Club for Growth, a lifetime rating of 60 percent with FreedomWorks and a lifetime rating of 61 percent with the Heritage Action Committee,” Tarkanian said of Amodei. “This past year, he had a 68 with the American Conservative Union.
“Now If Mark Amodei is supporting the conservative views of CD2 voters, then why does he have one of the worst voting records (compared) with every single GOP congressman?” Tarkanian asked.
Amodei said the out-of-state ratings are not a major concern.
“Frankly, these East Coast groups are not the ones who elected me to this office,” he said. “I will continue to vote the way that I think is in the best interests of the folks who gave me the job. And the fact that they don’t agree with somebody in Indiana who runs a group, one way or the other, fine. We vote with them (conservative advocacy groups) most of the time but I work for the people in Nevada, not some group on the East Coast.”
Amodei, who served as Carson City’s assemblyman then state senator earlier in his career, noted that Trump signed the Omnibus bills when he was President. Amodei said he has learned from experience that failure to pass the overall spending bill can lead to hardships for seniors and veterans, two of the 2nd U.S. House District’s strongest voting blocs.
“I’ve shut down the government a couple of times,” Amodei said. “And you know what changed when we shut the government down? Nothing….You can’t shut down social security and veterans affairs over this stuff and, quite frankly, I have chosen not to do it and have been very verbal about it.”
Tarkanian accused Amodei of doing a poor job of bringing home federal funding in the Omnibus bill.
“With respect to this bill that he’s talking about that was so good, and it had a few positive things in it, it had $10 billion in pork projects,” Tarkanian said.
“Mark brought back one-tenth-of-one-percent of that and he says that’s good,” Tarkanian said. “Dina Titus (Nevada’s 1st House District representative.) brought back four times that. Congressman Horsford (4th U.S. House District) brought back three times that.”
Amodei countered: “I find it interesting that you sit there and talk about all of the money we are spending and then you turn around and criticize me for not bringing back more? That’s an interesting case of a bi-polar complex. Thank you.”
Tarkanian began the debate on the subject of illegal immigration and security on the U.S.-Mexican border.
“One of the biggest concerns I think people have in Congressional District 2 is the influx of illegal immigrants,” Tarkanian said.
“Mark has voted for it numerous times,” Tarkanain said. “He has been on radio, advocating why he supports providing citizenship to illegal immigrants.
“When we encourage people to come across the border and give them the greatest gift you can possibly give, citizenship to the United States, you encourage more people to come to the county and that’s the last thing we need,” Tarkanian said.
Amodei said his immigration stance was based on providing laborers for the many farms and ranches in Nevada’s 2nd U.S. House District. The district includes Reno, Carson City, Fallon and Elko and all of Nevada north of Yerington and Ely. The district has a long-standing tradition of food and cattle production that is dependent on seasonal workers.
“I voted for the Farm Labor Force Modernization Act, which was merit-based immigration for farm-labor folks,” Amodei said.
The path to citizenship was not easy in the bill, Amodei said.
“You had to work (in farm labor) for nine to 14 years, you had to do background checks, pay a fine,” Amodei said. “It was supported by the Chamber of Commerce, the Farm Bureau and the Cattlemen’s (Association).
“I think it is about not being afraid to be a leader,” Amodei continued. “It is why I was one of the people who stood up and said, ‘This is is well-thought-out and it is a way to solve the farm-labor work-force problem. And it is not amnesty, when you’ve got to basically do the system for nine to 14 years and come in and go under all the merit-based things.”
He’s proud of the stance he took on that immigration issue.
“Quite frankly, if I had to do it over again, I’d do it the same way,” Amodei said.
Amodei, however, partially agreed with Tarkanian’s border assessment.
“Danny’s right about the border and the reason things are so messed up at the border is because Congress hasn’t done its job, leadership on both sides,” he said.
Tarkanian lamented the current inflationary impacts of last year’s federal stimulus checks given to citizens during the pandemic.
He was also critical of some of the foreign aid in the Omnibus bills, mentioning $370 million to reimburse Middle Eastern nations for border security and $500 million to support armed forces in Jordan.
Amodei seized on Tarkanian’s criticisms:
“Quite frankly, this world is a dangerous place and you don’t protect your interests by withdrawing,” Amodei said. “You have seen what happens with this administration when you withdraw from Ukraine and they are fighting for their lives.
“And so when I sit here and listen to that sort of stuff, it indicates a fundamental lack of understanding on what you have to do to try to be a world power and protect your interests. And our interests go beyond our borders,” Amodei said.
Tarkanian shot back: “I think that shows how out-of-touch Congressman Amodei is. He is more concerned about the border security in Jordan than he is about our own border security here in the United States.
“So what is more important to the voters in CD2, that we protect the borders in Jordan or that we protect the borders here in the United States?” Tarkanian said.
Tarkanian was also critical that the recent Omnibus bills included more than $500 million in funding for Planned Parenthood. Tarkanian said Planned Parenthood “commits the most abortions and harvests body parts.”
House and Senate bills in 2017 to repeal Obamacare would have stripped Planned Parenthood of all federal funding but were defeated. Medicaid payments have long formed the bulk of federal funds flowing to Planned Parenthood, reimbursing its clinics for providing birth control and preventive services to low-income Americans, according to the Washington Post. Medicaid doesn’t pay for abortions, but Republicans have still repeatedly tried to cut abortion providers from the program entirely, the Post reported.
Other funding for women’s health programs was also in those Omnibus bills, Amodei said.
“Planned Parenthood funding was in with the Violence Against Women Act, which was in the Omnibus that apparently, I should have voted against,” Amodei said. “And quite frankly, all the pro-life organizations, which I’ve gotten 100 percent scores with by the way, … none of them expected you to defund the Violence Against Women Act in order to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.
“And so, I’ll just say this: Some days in this business are tough and you have to make decisions,” Amodei said. “It is a value judgement. There was much more good in that, and quite frankly, nobody in a right-to-life sense got dinged for voting to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which has been around for more than a little while.”
Tarkanian countered, “Mark is misleading the audience. He has voted for funding for Planned Parenthood for 11 years in office. It is not just one bill. He keeps voting to increase the funding. It was $500 million in 2018. Now we are giving $600 million of taxpayer money to an organizations that commits the most abortions and harvests body parts. Anybody that I have talked to who is pro-life thinks it is horrendous that would happen.”