Las Vegas Sun

December 21, 2014

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Harry Reid back at White House for health care talks

WASHINGTON -- Greetings, Early Liners and welcome to this Friday afternoon political wrap-up.

Living at the White House

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was back at the White House today for another long round of health care talks as the House and Senate race to craft a final bill for passage and the president’s signature.

Reid called off his planned fundraiser today in Dallas (much to the disappointment of the tea party protesters) to keep working on health care. Today’s talks follow Thursday night’s marathon session that went until 1 a.m. this morning.

Nevada’s House members remain non-committal about the deal reached with labor to exempt unions from the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost health plans – a 40 percent excise tax that both Democratic Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus oppose.

“Congresswoman Titus has expressed concern for the tax on insurance plans; however, if some form of the tax is going to be included in the bill, she is encouraged that negotiations are moving toward changes that will exclude more workers from the tax,” her spokesman Andrew Stoddard said. “Negotiations are ongoing and she is withholding judgment until language is final.”

Titus and other House Democrats heard today from former President Bill Clinton, who addressed the group at on the final day of their annual issues conference.

Berkley, who was not in Washington for the conference this week but instead was home in Las Vegas, plans to discuss the compromise with Nevada’s labor unions, whose members could be snared by the new tax.

Berkley has “not taken a position” on the deal, spokesman David Cherry said.

Kennedy’s seat

Reid famously does not pay attention to polls, but he might be watching the ones coming from Massachusetts, where Republicans are within striking distance of taking the seat held by late-Sen. Ted Kennedy in Tuesday’s special election.

A Republican upset could spell the end of Reid’s 60-member majority in the Senate – hitting the brakes on President Barack Obama’s agenda in Congress and giving Democrats a shock as the 2010 election season begins.

Obama is headed to Massachusetts on Sunday to campaign for Democrat Martha Coakley.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today the president “believes he can be helpful.” Though some of questioned if Obama’s visit would only serve to rally supporters of Republican Scott Brown.

As congressional leaders conduct round-the-clock health care negotiations with the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denied that Democrats were rushing the bill before Election Day.

Ensign’s resurgence?

Speaking of Republican popularity, the folks at Public Policy Polling have unveiled hypothetical 2012 electoral match-ups in Nevada.

A new poll out today pits Republican Sen. John Ensign against potential Democratic candidates Berkley, Secretary of State Ross Miller and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman (who the Sun’s J. Patrick Coolican and Jon Ralston have reminded cannot run as a Democrat).

Remember, this is robo-call polling, which is not the best measure of accuracy.

With that warning, here are the results: Ensign’s approval rating is as dismal as Reid’s, at 38 percent. However, he beats potential Democrats, besting Berkley 49-40, Miller 47-36 and Goodman 43-41.

Not great for a two-term senator, but not quite DOA, PPP’s Tom Jensen says.

State campaign coffers

Sun colleague David Schwartz-McGrath has the run-down on campaign finance reports in statewide races today over on his Twitter account.

To note: Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki tops the field for his re-election with $139,000 raised. “His campaign spin: $100K in last 11 days,” schwartznews writes.

Reid cartoon pulled

The Omaha World-Herald pulled its cartoon spoofing the majority leader’s impolitic racial comments earlier this week, Romensko reports.

HUD saga continues

Rep. Shelley Berkley today dialed up Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to add her voice to those complaining that Southern Nevada was left out of the latest round of Neighborhood Stabilization funds for foreclosed homes.

“I am pleased that the Secretary heard me out, and after our conversation, I know he is very aware of the situation we face in Southern Nevada,” Berkley said. “He indicated to me it was his understanding that Southern Nevada faced difficulties in utilizing resources that have already been allocated.”

Berkley is also talking with local officials to see what can be done to better use the money already on the table.

That’s all for now. Check back later for all the political news in Nevada.

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