Tuesday, April 3, 2012 | 6:52 p.m.
- Dean Heller files amendment that repeals tax breaks for oil companies (3-28-2012)
- Nevada Sen. Heller knocks oil company tax breaks (03-27-2012)
- Berkley, Heller debate the war on women, Obamacare (3-11-2012)
- Heller’s position on contraception amendment leads to clash with Berkley (3-01-2012)
- More Sun political news
After becoming the poster child Republican for a GOP budget that would shrink federal spending and dramatically reshape Medicare by voting for it twice, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller said Tuesday he doesn’t know whether he’ll support the latest version that passed the House last week.
Twice last year — once in the House and once in the Senate — Heller voted for the so-called Ryan budget, a spending plan proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. The votes opened Heller up to attacks from Democrats who accused him of wanting to “kill Medicare.”
Ryan’s plan would replace Medicare with a voucher program, but only for those younger than 55.
During a tour of a veterans hospital guest house in Reno, Heller was non-committal on the budget that passed the House.
“I haven’t had a chance to take a look at it yet, and there’s a lot of changes in it versus what we passed last cycle,” he said. “We’ll continue to take a look at it. What I’m waiting for is a budget to pass in the Senate.”
Asked if he would vote for the Ryan budget once it hits the Senate, Heller again punted.
“I haven’t decided yet,” he said.
Last year, Heller didn’t back away from his two votes in support of the Ryan budget, telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal he would likely campaign on it as a way to shrink government.
“I’m proud to be the only member of Congress who will get to vote for it twice,” he told the Associated Press in May 2011.
Seeking to position himself as a Washington outsider, Heller continued to rail on the Senate for failing to pass a budget for more than 1,000 days.
“It’s a shame to think the U.S. Senate after 1,000 days has proven they are ineffective and are proving they will be ineffective for the next year,” he said.
Asked why he refers to a body he is a member of as “they” instead of “we,” Heller said he “doesn’t set the agenda.”
Heller is in the midst of a hard-fought Senate race against U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., whose campaign accused Heller of failing to support veterans because he voted against the stimulus bill and budgets that included increased spending for veterans programs.
In turn, Heller accused Berkley’s camp of being less than honest about his record.
“Their camp is going to say a lot of things that aren’t true, but that’s OK,” he said. “That seems to be the game of the day. But there isn’t anybody out there who doesn’t believe that I have a commitment to veterans and what they stand for and what they’ve done for this country.”
Heller noted his father is a disabled veteran who has been treated at the veterans hospital in Reno.
Heller rejected a pact proposed by Berkley that would ban outside spending in their race from super political action committees and other third-party groups. He noted that he countered with a proposal to also ban out-of-state contributions to the campaigns, saying most of his money has so far come from within Nevada.
“We’re stepping it up,” he said. “Don’t go halfway, go all the way. My message is get rid of all outside contributions. Let’s see if she’ll match that. We haven’t heard a response. I don’t expect to hear a response.”
Heller also side-stepped a question on why he opposed the nomination of Las Vegas Judge Elissa Cadish to the federal bench.
“I think that thing has played out in the press pretty accurately,” he said.
As first reported by Sun columnist Jon Ralston, Cadish responded to a question on a 2008 survey by saying she does not believe the Second Amendment gives individuals a constitutional right to bear arms. She later clarified that she wasn’t expressing her personal belief but an interpretation of federal law on the subject at the time.
“I just want to be very clear that Sen. Reid and I will always work together to get federal judges selected here for Nevada, and we just have to agree on who that individual may be,” he said. “I think I talked about and discussed a little bit about where she stands on the Second Amendment. That is a critical issue. We do need to support federal candidates who support the constitution.”