Rep. Dina Titus lit in to her fellow Democrats Wednesday. At right, Susie Martinez, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO. (AFL-CIO courtesy photo)
Between state legislators and Gov. Steve Sisolak making a mess of redistricting in Nevada, and Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema holding up the president’s agenda in Washington, Rep. Dina Titus has just about had it.
In spirited remarks at an AFL-CIO town hall Wednesday, she told union members “I’m going to need your help on something terrible.”
“I totally got fucked by the Legislature on my district,” she said. “I’m sorry to say it like that, but I don’t know any other way to say it.”
Titus was referring to a shift of Democrats away from the first congressional district, historically an ironclad safe seat for Democrats, in order to strengthen their position in the state’s two swing districts.
She warned the three congressional seats held by Nevada Democrats are now at risk of turning Republican during the 2022 election cycle, under the new maps approved by the state lawmakers and the governor last month.
“You read that the Republicans are using gerrymandering to cut out Democratic seats, but they didn’t have to in this state,” she said. “We did it to ourselves.”
Titus said that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee “were stunned” by the decision.
“They couldn’t believe a Democratic Legislature and governor would do this to themselves,” she said. “They could have created two safe seats for themselves and one swing. That would have been smart. (U.S. Rep.) Steven (Horsford) and mine and then a swing. No no, we have to have three that are very likely going down.”
She said redrawing her district “would have been worth it” if it created two other safe districts, but instead lawmakers created “three, competitive, risky districts.”
When asked about conversations with Democratic leadership about redistricting, Titus said she “tried to be part of the process when they were doing it, but they just didn’t want to hear it.”
“The consultants had a plan, and that was the plan they were going to go forward with,” she added.
There are a lot of factors stacked against Democrats going into 2022 including Biden’s low approval ratings and the fact that Democrats usually have lower voter turnout in a midterm cycle.
“Plus it’s a bad year,” Titus said.
Titus pointed to Virginia where Democrats lost statewide, including the governor’s office, as an example of Republicans winning big in a state Biden won in 2020.
She said it won’t matter who the candidate is because people are “going to vote for the jersey” and cast ballots along party lines.
“Republicans are going to turn out, and they are excited,” she said. “Democrats are kind of ‘meh, I have to pay more gas prices.’ Hispanics aren’t going to want to turn out if we don’t get something for immigration. I mean, why would they?”
The choice by the Legislature, she said, will have consequences for future cycles.
The redrawing of political boundaries, which takes place once a decade, as approved by lawmakers and the governor will also make it harder for the Hispanic community to retain power since redistricting split their population, and Titus said there is “no chance a progressive can hold this seat after I’m gone.”
Only one lawsuit has been filed challenging the state’ district maps. Titus said she doesn’t know if that will go anywhere.
“Democrats aren’t filing a suit,” she said. “And the Hispanics were going to file a suit but they haven’t got the wherewithal to get that together even though in other states they have filed suits for similar kinds of (redistricting issues).”
Not done by Christmas
“(Senate Majority Leader Chuck) Schumer keeps saying they are going to pass it by Christmas,” she said. “That’s not too long away. I’m not sure if they’re going to be able to do that. And we don’t know what it’s going to have in it when it comes over.”
The Build Back Better bill would invest nearly $2 trillion over a decade into multiple programs and services including child care, an expansion of the Child Tax Credit, lower prescription drug costs, creation of a federal paid leave policy and more affordable housing,
With zero Republicans supporting the proposed investments in child care, housing, health care and climate policy, and two Senate Democrats indicating resistance to portions of the House bill, Senate Democrats must still achieve 50 votes to pass the bill through the reconciliation process, a procedure that shields them from a filibuster.
Titus said Manchin is digging in his heels in negotiations while Sinema “has just gone silent.”
Titus added she doesn’t know what provisions will survive the final version of the bill, but said she was “sure, through frustration, we will just vote for it and it won’t be as good as what we sent.”
“Will it have the PRO Act that we had on our side?” she said, referring to the Protecting Right to Organize Act, a suite of provisions designed to strengthen and protect collective bargaining rights. “Will it have immigration, as small as it is, at least it was something. Will it have family leave? That’s still a big issue with Manchin. We just really don’t know what it will look like when it gets back to us.”
Recent reporting from The Washington Post suggests Manchin might want to strip out the Child Tax Credit altogether.
Titus said she wants to see the credit made permanent.
“This supports over 90% of families in district one, and that’s money in their pockets that makes a big difference,” Titus said. “Manchin and I don’t agree on many things. This would be one of them.”
When asked, Titus didn’t rule out the option of a stand-alone bill to extend the credit, but said “the chances of it passing” are slim.
During early negotiations around the infrastructure and social spending bills, many Democrats, including Titus, pushed for the two bills to be coupled together and voted on at the same time.
The infrastructure bill passed the Senate in August and the House in early November. The Build Back Better bill passed the House mid-November where it has since languished in the Senate.
“The public demand for something was very great,” Titus said in an interview. “I was glad we at least got the infrastructure bill out.”
Titus told union members she is still hopeful about the Build Back Better act, adding that’s where significant change will come.
“Short term building projects are good, but the things that are in the Build Back Better Act really make a transformational change, whether it’s education, workforce development, helping home care workers, ensuring the union’s ability to organize and negotiate,” Titus said. “All those really good things are in the Build Back Better bill. It’s really the icing on the infrastructure cake. It doesn’t matter if you have a new bridge if you don’t have enough money to buy a car to drive across the bridge.”
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