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Dina Titus on Healthcare, Heller, and Her Political Future

(AP Photo/Chase Stevens)

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., speaks to supporters after her victory at an election watch party in Las Vegas, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Chase Stevens)

Less than 100 days into the Trump presidency, Nevada’s congressional representatives are making the rounds in the state during their spring break.

Congresswoman Dina Titus is one of those people. Titus told KNPR’s State of Nevada that partisanship has become worse on Capitol Hill. She said many of the wounds from the campaign season have not healed.

She also said that almost all votes are strictly along party lines. Plus, the bills working their way through Congress aren’t anything new.

“We’re not really doing much of anything,” Titus said, “They’re voting on bills that they voted on before that never went anywhere.”

The congresswoman said Republicans are trying to roll back some of the Dodd-Frank banking act, which was established after the financial crisis to put more controls on the banking industry, and they have already diminished some of the environmental protections put in place during the Obama administration.

One of the biggest struggles so far was the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. With a lack of support from far-right and moderate Republicans – and no support from Democrats – President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill before it even got a vote.

“It was chaos,” Titus said, “I think the Republicans looked really bad and they’re hearing about it back home in their districts.”

Titus said it is that division in the Republican Party along with Pres. Trump’s changing focus that is making it difficult for congressional Democrats to form a strategy as the minority party.

“It’s hard to have a strategy because it is such a moving target,” she said, “One day it’s one thing. One day it’s the next. They were going to do the Obamacare repeal and the next day they were going to tax reform.”

One thing Titus believes Democrats do have a strategy for is opposing the Affordable Care Act reform proposed by Republicans – in its current form. She said there has been discussions about another repeal and replace bill that Republicans might put forward, but she “doubts” they’ll have the votes needed for that legislation.

Part of the problem for Republicans, according to the congresswoman, is people now realize some of the good things in Obamacare that have allowed thousands of people in Nevada alone to get health insurance.

“It’s very difficult to take something away from people once they have it and that’s what the Republicans are finding out,” she said.

Titus does admit that changes need to be made to the ACA. A reform she would like to see is the public health insurance option. When the Affordable Care Act was initially passed by the House, it had a provision allowing people to buy Medicare; however, that provision was taken out by the Senate.

Titus supports its return for several reasons.

“One thing we need to look at is perhaps providing Medicare expansion so that can be the equivalent of a public option,” she said, “If there are any areas where there aren’t any companies that want to provide health insurance, you can buy it through Medicare.”

She said it would put more dollars into Medicare - making it more solvent – provide even more people with health care and be a step towards Medicare for everyone.

While she might not get wide support from the rest of the Nevada delegation on that effort, she will likely get a lot of support from other Nevada lawmakers in the renewed fight over the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

The waste site issue has been on the sidelines for many years after Nevada lawmakers in Washington, headed by former Senator Harry Reid, successfully got the funding pulled.

Now, in the budget proposed by Pres. Trump, there is money to restart the project. Titus believes it is going to be a tough battle for Nevada because of the number of people lined up against the state, including the Texas Attorney General, Illinois Republican Congressman John Shimkus and possibly even Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

“We have got a fight on our hands,” she said, but she knows most lawmakers in Nevada will fight to stop it and the casino industry, which she said has been reluctant to talk too much about the waste site, is also “energized” against the project.

Besides health care reform and the possible return of Yucca Mountain, another big question on the minds of Southern Nevadas is whether she will run for Senator Dean Heller’s seat.

Many political pundits peg Heller as one of the most vulnerable Senators and Titus doesn’t disagree. She pointed out that he is the only Republican in a heavily Democratic part of the state. So, does that mean she’ll run for his post?

“I’m thinking about it,” she said. “Some people have talked to me about the possibility.”

The congresswoman said it is a difficult decision because she loves the district she represents and she is just getting to the point where she has some seniority in the House.  

“It is hard to walk away from where you think you can make a difference,” she said. 

Rep. Dina Titus D-NV 

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)