Las Vegas Sun

July 31, 2014

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The untold story of the Ensign-Heller-Berkley moves: Nevada’s loss of DC clout

For a small state such as Nevada, having the Senate majority leader is an obvious boon. But the state also has been covered by obtaining highly coveted seats on the Senate and House money committees.

By the end of 2012, those will be gone.

One of the untold stories of the political decisions of the last few months – Sen. John Ensign’s retirement, Reps. Dean Heller and Shelley Berkley running for his seat – is that Nevada will lose two seats on Ways and Means and one on Senate Finance. It took years for Ensign to get on the financial panel and Berkley had to surmount her frosty relationship with Speaker Nancy Pelosi to get on Ways and Means.

That clout is gone, probably not to soon return because freshmen usually don't win those coveted assignments.

“Here we’ve had the perfect world for us; now we’re going to have zero,” lamented one insider.

Why is this so critical?

All tax measures are given birth from the Ways and Means womb and in the Club of 100, and Senate Finance is pivotal in the upper chamber. Now the state is left with uncertainty.

Ensign did it to himself and Berkley and Heller can’t be faulted, I suppose, for their ambition. But the real-world implications for the state, especially since Harry Reid won’t be there forever and may not even be majority leader next session, can’t be underestimated.

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