Horsford calls on Senate to work through holiday and pass voting rights bill

Declares BBB isn’t dead

By: - December 21, 2021 6:54 am

“This is not the time for the Senate to take holiday recess when…so many of my constituents and people all across the country are depending on Congress to act,” Horsford said at an event in Las Vegas Monday. (Photo: Jeniffer Solis)

While Senate Democrats are figuring out their next moves after Sen. Joe Manchin’s declaration that he can’t support the Build Back Better Act as written, the Senate should stay in session over the holidays and pass a voting rights bill, Nevada Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford said in Las Vegas Monday.

“The Senate needs to cancel its holiday recess” and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer should keep senators working,  Horsford said. “This is not the time for the Senate to take holiday recess when…so many of my constituents and people all across the country are depending on Congress to act.”

In the evenly split Senate, a no vote from Manchin would doom the Build Back Better bill, which the Democratic House passed just before Thanksgiving following months of negotiations between moderates and progressives.

For months House progressives warned that decoupling the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill—which passed in November with strong support from Manchin— from the larger social and climate policy package would undermine leverage needed to get Manchin to support the latter bill. A half dozen progressive Democrats voted against the infrastructure bill, citing their concern that passing it would imperial passage of BBB.

Progressives called on Democratic leadership to place both bills on the floor for a vote together, a strategy initially embraced the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

House moderate, including Nevada Democratic Rep. Susie Lee, urged a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure measure without passed by the Senate, without tying it to the larger bill. Lee’s office did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Moderates eventually won out, with the bipartisan infrastructure bill passing before the Build Back Better Act had passed either chamber, after the majority of the progressive caucus, including Horsford voted for the bill, citing assurances they received from President Joe Biden that he could secure 50 votes in the Senate.

Taking questions during an event with local transit officials Monday, Horsford — a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — would not say whether House progressives should have continued to to hold off on passing  the bipartisan bill to assure the passage of the Build Back Better Act, which includes popular proposals to extend an expanded child tax credit, establish universal pre-K, and expand health care access and rein in prescription drug prices, along with multiple other policy initiatives and reforms.

When asked if passing the infrastructure bill alone had compromised the social spending package, Horsford said “for me it’s always been about passing both bills, that’s why I worked to strike an agreement to get both the infrastructure and Build Back Better through the House. There was a point in which there was doubt we would get both bills through at all.”

The congressman said he believed the Build Back Better bill still has a chance to pass the Senate.

Horsford said the House had done its job by passing both bills through the lower chamber. Now, he said, the Senate should stay in session and continue to work on Build Back Better and, more immediately, pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. 

“It is unconscionable to me that the Senate has not acted to protect our most fundamental right, which is our right to vote,” Horsford said. “No member of Congress, in the Senate or House, should block our ability to protect that most fundamental right.”

Schumer said Monday he plans to force votes on Build Back Better, voting rights and a change to Senate rules early next year — despite a lack of support from Manchin.

Manchin has indicated that to get his support for any BBB legislation, the bill should be pared back to fewer provisions that are funded for a full ten years.

Asked to identify his priorities in the bill Monday, Horsford said they include extending the expanded child tax credit, prescription drug affordability provisions, including a cap on out-of-pocket costs for seniors, and measures meant to help build the clean economy.

Touting the bill that’s passed

During the Monday press event at the Bonneville Transit Center, Horsford and transit leaders highlighted the local benefits of the infrastructure bill he voted to pass last month. 

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada will receive $150 million to improve transit and roadways through projects that support safety, equity, modernization, and climate action. In total, the infrastructure bill is expected to provide more than $4 billion in funding for Nevada, including $468 million over five years to improve public transportation options across the state.

Even prior to the pandemic, the RTC was facing a budget deficit due to declining gas tax and farebox revenues. The pandemic only deepened those projections.

“Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Nevada will receive $468 million to expand our public transit and connect Nevadans with new jobs and opportunities,” Horsford said. “This funding means fewer cars on the road, less pollution, and faster commute times.”

Among the many consequences, transit-related problems have costly effects on people and result in higher commute times, which are worse for communities of color that are twice as likely to use public transportation to commute, said Horsford.

MJ Maynard, CEO of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, said the guaranteed five years of funding would allow the agency to better plan and build projects for Clark County. In addition to increasing funding streams, the infrastructure bill also allows local and state agencies, like the RTC, to compete for more than $100 billion in new federal grants, said Maynard.

“The RTC is also exploring ways to enhance our fixed route and paratransit services, including increased frequencies and the deployment of innovative technologies like on demand transit,” Maynard said.

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Jeniffer Solis
Jeniffer Solis

Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.