Congressman Mark Amodei talks elections, public lands and why he voted against the Jan. 6 commission
Congressman Mark Amodei has been representing Northern Nevada in Congress since 2011. He’s been an advocate for more local control of federal lands and served as former President Donald Trump’s campaign chair in Nevada for the 2016 presidential election.
In this conversation with KUNR’s Noah Glick, Amodei talks about pandemic recovery, political gridlock in Washington, and why he voted against an independent commission charged with studying the events of Jan. 6.
Note: In honor of Nevada Day, KUNR's Noah Glick recorded interviews with four Nevada lawmakers, including Governor Steve Sisolak, Congressman Mark Amodei, and U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen. Each interview is lightly edited for clarity and the length of the interview was determined by the availability of each lawmaker.
Noah Glick: Let's just start with the pandemic. I want to start with some of the big coronavirus spending measures. You voted in favor of the original CARES Act last year. You voted in favor of the Paycheck Protection Program, but you did vote against the American Rescue Plan Act and you were against the continuation of additional unemployment benefits. What in your view, is the right way to handle this pandemic from a federal response?
Congressman Mark Amodei: Generally speaking, I mean, it was all uncharted territory for us and when the bell was finally rung in March of last year, it's like, what are we going to do? We've got supplies, we've got economy issues. We've got everything from soup to nuts, [including] starting all the research on the vaccine and all that other sort of stuff, so obviously the one in March, I think, was pretty much a no-brainer. I mean, we erred on the side of spending and not whatever, but then when the next follow-on one came on, there were some very good arguments on, 'Let's see what's working, what isn't before we throw more money at it' and do things that quite frankly may not be helpful in terms of if you're unemployed, if you're looking for a vaccine, if you're a hospital looking for PPE or extra space for people who are sick, just the whole gamut of things, and so when the second one came around, of course, like everything, these days, politics started sneaking into it and it got pretty dog gone political.
And so remember in the House, the rule in the House is the side with the most votes wins, so when Nancy Pelosi was basically put into the speakership as a result of the 2018 election, so you were dealing with some of the stuff where you started to see abortion measures in there, and you started to see other social aspects of that were quite frankly, it's like, listen, let's not politicize this stuff. On the other side, Mitch McConnell was still running the Senate, and so you're sitting here going, 'Hey, shouldn't we see how the Paycheck Protection Program is working? Is that really working the way we need it too, to get the money to people who need to stay in business and the other various aid things?'
There was a rush and they had the majority of votes, so they got to do it. Every bill that I vote on, it's a balancing test, and when you balance that and the follow-on one, which was even worse, it was like the old saying, 'You never want to waste a good disaster because you can get things done that you couldn't get done before.' And so, I felt like there was a whole heck of a lot of that stuff that ended up in those last two, especially the last one to where it was like, 'Hey, they're going to pass it anyhow, but quite frankly, I'm not in favor of a whole bunch of stuff that they're doing with respect to this.'
Glick: I want to ask how you sort of square the timing aspect of this, given that to your point, I think it's fair to say, 'You know, let's see how things are working,' but to the other side, I think you could argue that 'Well, this is an emergency, people need the support now, we can look at that sort of thing later,' So how would you square the timing of that?
Amodei: You've got to separate the issue. The issue wasn't just, 'Hey, people are getting sick and this is a virus.' Obviously, that's a no-brainer, but that was funded phenomenally in the first one. And, by the way, they hadn't used all that money. It was huge amounts of money, which quite frankly, you can't spend fast enough. So context is absolutely important and here's the context. They weren't out of money from the first one, especially on the medical stuff. What we were talking about here was all sorts of other, and one of them, quite frankly, that you brought up that's absolutely fair game, is the whole thing on the $600 supplemental unemployment checks. That came from Senator Schumer in New York. Maybe $600 extra a month is appropriate for the cost of living in New York.
But let me tell you, my phone was ringing off the hook from employers here in Western Nevada, going, 'I can't compete. On the one hand, you're giving me paycheck protection, so that I can continue paying these people a as if they weren't laid off because of the pandemic. But on the other hand, you've made unemployment so attractive here in Western Nevada, that I'm competing with an unemployment program. And guess what? My people are picking the higher dollar amount.' Which human nature being what it is, is not a huge surprise.
So when you sit there and the second one says, Hey, we're going to continue that. It's like, quite frankly, that needed some work. When we say what was working in terms of, Hey, can we have some sort of sliding scale based on what CPI is in different parts of the country or something like that? Absolutely not. It's the 600 bucks and that's the way it's going through. And so now you're still struggling with that, and I'm not saying it's all the fault of those two bills, but guess what? That's where the culture started.
Glick: I want to ask about that, because you're still seeing businesses having a hard time hiring and filling jobs. We see labor shortages all over the place, not just here in Nevada, but across the country as well. And the additional unemployment benefits, they've expired, right? They're not being offered anymore. So can you, I mean, is it fair to say that that was the reason [why] we're having staffing shortages, that people were choosing the extra benefit?
Amodei: I think it was a combination. That was part of it, part of what that $600 extra a month did was it basically created a culture - and I'm not blaming anybody, I'm just describing - it created a culture where it's like, 'Hey, if I can pay my bills to live and I don't have to go anything to do it,' there's people that are like, 'That's good enough for me.' And, you know, I'm just saying you have created that choice that didn't exist in 2019. And then the other part of it quite frankly, is now when you're sitting there trying to get the workforce back engaged, and it's like, now you've created a situation where it's like, 'Well, what are you going to pay me?' And so employers are doing what they have to do.
It's like, listen, employers can pay whatever they want. The thing is, is whatever they produce, whether it's a service or a good, guess what? The price is going to reflect that, so then you've got the other part of it where you're going, 'Hey, we haven't got enough truckers. We haven't got enough people working in fast food. We haven't got enough people working in manufacturing,' all [those] things. It's like, Hey, you can have them pay whatever they want, but that's going to be reflected in the cost of your fast food, of your services, of your manufactured goods, of all that stuff.
So, we're struggling with - and I'm not saying this in a blame sense, but I am saying it is the reality - is that it was such a trip up for us economically that by the time you deal with what was the unemployment impact, what is the cost of getting people back to work? How about the cost of manufactured goods? How about the cost of food? How about the cost of gasoline? All of those things happening, by the way you had a presidential election and you also had the Senate change hands, so, in terms of stability over the last 24 months, not a lot of that going around. So it's, it's like every other time when we've confronted this, it's like, 'Well, I guess it'll work itself out, but right now it's feeling pretty unsettled.'
Glick: What would you see as some of the biggest priorities to help Nevada continue its recovery moving forward from a federal standpoint? Or, what else needs to be done to help Nevadans recover economically?
Amodei: Well, when you talk about the economy of the state, I mean, obviously when you got somewhere in the neighborhood of the mid-50s, million, 55 million a year, that in the olden days used to fly into McCarran (International Airport in Las Vegas), and you talk about statewide what it means in terms of a healthy resort industry means to Nevada, not only down there, but up here, that's obviously something we've got to keep a close eye on: What's going on with travel? How's that impacted by health?
So, it's like, we need to get those people coming back like they were before, but, now also part of a function of that is, okay, so you can get on the plane and get off the plane. You don't have to risk whatever. You still have to have the money to spend discretionarily to do those sorts of things, and that isn't solved as of yet. So, when we talk general economy, when we look to the feds, quite frankly, if you look to them for policy, then obviously common sense is a big, big dose of that. But, I think at some point in time, trillions of dollars that we have to borrow to do things, quite frankly, it's like, that doesn't mean you shut down, you don't do it, but it's like, I think it has to be in context in some reasonable amount.
Glick: I'm glad you brought the debt, because I did want to ask you about that, just because the news was announced that the House voted to pass that temporary spending bill to allow the government to at least temporarily continue to pay off its debt obligations for a couple more months. You and your fellow Republicans voted against it. I'm just curious to know why did you vote against that?
Amodei: Well, let's be brutally honest. When the Republicans were in the majority and we needed to raise the debt, then the Republicans voted for it, because we have to govern and we're responsible because we're the majority. And, so, the Democrats are in the majority proposing these multiple trillion dollar things and it's like, 'Hey, you're the majority in the House, so go for it.' It's a political game. You want the real direct answer? It's a political game.
Now, they had packed some stuff in there also, but quite frankly, even if they hadn't put some of their social wishlist in there, I mean, it's pretty clear it happened in the Senate, too, it's like, hey, if you're in the majority, you're responsible for the debt. And, so, if somehow the Republicans took over the House after 2022 and you come up against another debt ceiling, I mean, it happened, the Democrats all voted against it when we were in the majority. And so here it is, Groundhog Day again.
Glick: I guess, I want to follow up on that because that's interesting. I mean, I can't imagine that a ton of Nevadans would be super thrilled to hear like, 'Oh, well this is just, this is part of politics. This is a political game.' Especially when we're talking about [the] debt ceiling, because if we don't pay our debts, we default on our debt.
Glick: Which you're arguing is then a result of the majority party, regardless of who's in charge?
Amodei: Yep, that basically it. And, you know, you say a lot of people wouldn't be thrilled to hear. Absolutely, they wouldn't be thrilled to hear it, but guess what? It's been the reality for the ten years I've been there, and so leadership sets that tone. The membership votes for who their leaders are, and there you go.
Quite frankly, the Democrats and Republicans didn't when they were the majority. It's like, we're not going to default while we're running the place, so obviously they turn out their majority of folks to pass it. I mean, I remember hearing Democrats give impassioned pleas on the floor about we've got to stop spending and blah, blah, blah, when we were in the majority. And I'm like, well, heck I agree with them, but, but then you go into Conference and it's like, 'We can't default while we're running the show, you got to be able to govern, all that stuff.' Let's just be completely brutally honest. That's one of the reasons why people think Washington sucks right now and has for a while, is because of stuff like this.
Glick: There [are] a couple things I want to ask you about Washington. And I think it's, one, how do you fix that problem? And, two, it kind of piggybacks into this next question, which is that the issue of bipartisanship has become a tough one, if not impossible in Washington these days. So I'm curious to know, how do you fix the issue you're talking about where it's a lot of just pointing fingers back and forth, and how do you help to bridge the gap to make Republicans and Democrats come together to solve issues for people?
Amodei: First of all, for the 'How do you work together to solve this problem,' you know, in the olden days, it used to be, this is what we need to do. And we got our eye on the debt, as well as how we finance it and those sorts of things. And people had that discussion in kind of an apolitical fashion. There's an old saying that says everything that gets uber-politicized gets ruined. And this is an example of uber-politicization, where it's like politics for the sake of politics. And, you're sitting there going that doesn't solve the problem, but you know what? And this gets into the second part, is how do you solve it? I think that a lot of the partisanship that you've seen develop over the last decade, maybe even more quite frankly, is related to social media, because people can say things there that quite frankly, you don't have to truth check.
And I'm not down on social media. I'm just saying, let's call it what it is. Very little regulation, no fact checking. There are people on social media [who] fact check, but they got to swim in the same pond with the folks who don't. And so you're sitting there looking at this and you've got all of these hyper positions on both sides of the aisle that are like, 'If you're not 100% this way, then you're no good.' And the same on the other side of the aisle, so you're sitting there with people going, what the heck? I can tell you the only salvation I've had in it is no matter what, focus on the issue, try to ascertain the facts and do what you think the right policy is on stuff that, quite frankly, really matters.
Obviously, in my world, that's how does it affect Nevada? How does it affect military bases in Nevada, employers in Nevada, employees in Nevada, the environment in Nevada, all those sorts of things. And you can find your way in that, but guess what? That's not the folks that are talking on Fox news and MSNBC every night. And, I'll just tell you, there is a part of the culture out there that's like, 'I don't care if you proposed [an] amendment or you worked on a bill that passed or any of that, or you did some great oversight, or you did some great constituent service. That person raised a million bucks a month.' They're one of the fast burners. And it's like, okay, God bless you. But quite frankly, that stuff, I think all ties into what you're talking about is what's going on here. It's about social media. It's about raising money. It's about reacting to what your constituents are saying. I mean, you can get on anytime you want and see all sorts of stuff about what a rotten bugger I am. It's like, well, I hope they're not right, but guess what? It is an absolute reality in terms of how you are judged these days in that context, or lack of context, on those big issues.
Glick: I'm curious. You mentioned this idea around the money side of politics. Are you in favor of working to try to remove money in politics or try to lesson that's impact? Would you be in support of repealing Citizens United, for example?
Amodei: You know what, I haven't really thought about it, but I'll tell you this. We're starting a gubernatorial election cycle here in Nevada, Senator Cortez Masto [is] up for reelection. You've got a bunch of elections getting ready. Well, heck they're already on TV. I sit here and I look at this and I hear people say, 'I will spend whatever it takes.' And I think to myself, 'Wow, that's your priority?' That's your plan for, if you get to be the fill in the blank on what office they're running for. And so part of me, the old fashioned guy, says, 'Listen, if you need to spend a million dollars a month to market yourself to people that you're really the answer, then quite frankly, that's a, a lot of money to market a concept that apparently people don't have a feeling for at the moment.' And, and so when you say, 'Well, would you be in favor of it?' It's like, you know what, I think at some point in time, if you can't get your message across and connect with those people that you want to vote for you without having to spend ungodly amounts of money, then maybe you ought to look at the quality of the candidate that you're thinking about voting for.
Glick: I do want to shift a little bit back to the pandemic and talk about vaccines. First of all, are you vaccinated against COVID 19?
Glick: All right. Would you suggest that people who are not vaccinated get to the vaccine?
Amodei: Well, you know, here's my explanation and it's real deep, so put your snorkel on. I sat in on the briefings during the last administration, where they were working on it, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and those companies, or whatever had briefings. 'This is where we're at. This is when we expect the trials to go,' blah, blah, blah, all that other sort of stuff. [I'm] not a medical guy. So, when they came out, my analysis was this: As a guy who was 62 at the time, in good health, but it's like, hey, I just like my chances better with the shot than without the shot. So that's my analysis now. It's like, so what are we going to do with respect to, does the vaccine work? And there's information out there from all around the compass on good, bad, old people, young people, breakthrough, you know, the latest variants and there's more to come and all that other sort of stuff.
I'll just say this. I don't think we're at the point where you got to hold somebody down to give them a shot. It's, like, those rules finding the sweet spot for that, and quite frankly, [the] CDC and Dr. Fauci and all those folks have done themselves no favors. How about just saying, we're not really sure what the deal is, but let's do this for a while to see how it works till we can build up some data. It's almost like you have to know because you are a virologist or whatever.
Glick: Are you saying that Dr. Fauci and others weren't doing that?
Amodei: I'm telling you this. When Dr. Fauci broke on the scene, I was one of his biggest fans. I'm going, hey, an Italian guy, played basketball when the shorts were really short, you know, blah, blah, blah. Great. But quite frankly, he's had some rough times in terms of credibility on some of the issues.
Glick: I mean, as you've have alluded to, we didn't know much at the beginning and as we started to learn more things change and, you know, recommendations change, so are you saying that you feel like that hurts his credibility?
Amodei: I'm saying that if you weren't sure you should have said, 'I'm gonna recommend this, but we're not sure.' Because we didn't get much 'not sure.' And so people are like, 'Well, this is what CDC says.' So people are taking it. I mean, I'm, I'm like anybody else. Okay. That's what CDC says. That's good enough. 'Oh, well, maybe we're gonna reverse that'--that is fodder for the folks who are saying a lot of things that are being said. And so, I think it all gets cured if you're like, 'This is the best we have right now. We're not sure, the studies aren't over,' or whatever. I mean, look at the stuff around Regeneron and some of those other deals where it's like, 'Oh, it's absolutely awful, and don't do it. It'll kill you without the virus,' to, 'Hey, maybe it is useful.' And so it's like, if you don't really know, or if it's something where it's like, 'Hey [Noah's] opinion's different than Mark's,' then say that. I think people can process that.
But in this context, in this day and age, now you got a bunch of people running around, going, 'Well on this date, and then on this date and, oh, by the way on the third date.' And I don't think it helps the public at large to basically go, 'Hey, we told you this was ongoing, but [this is] what we're doing now is since we got to make a decision now, here's the decision and we'll keep you posted.' Instead of, 'We know this; we don't know that.'
Glick: I want to talk about January 6, given that I think that's going to be forever one of the big moments of this year that we're all remember. I want to just start by asking you, what was it like that day for you?
Amodei: Uh, I don't know. If I had to pick one word, I'd just say sad. I mean, when you saw airplanes fly into buildings, that was awful. And when you saw a riot inside the capital, that's awful. And so, I guess [...] I don't think it accomplished anything. I don't think it got anybody's attention. It's incredibly unfortunate. There were mistakes made, but it's like, hey, the history was pretty strong in terms of, you know, the Capitol Police protecting the campus and stuff like that, so, obviously, you get the blame game going on and we're still living with it. And it's just, it was just awful.
My office was across the street and I was in the office and was actually watching the debate on the electoral college stuff. When somebody would object, they'd say what the basis was and all that. So, I was trying to watch the debate on what the Arizona story was at the time, and just a phenomenally sad day for the country.
Glick: You [have said] before that former president Trump does bear some responsibility for that day. But, you did vote against impeaching him over his role in that, so I'm just curious to know what would that responsibility look like in your view?
Amodei: Well here's where we're at. In terms of having some responsibility is fine, but let's not forget what impeachment is: high crimes and misdemeanors. Not, 'Hey, some responsibility.' Sorry, but I used to prosecute for a living a million years ago, and so high crimes and misdemeanor [aren't] a civil offense. So they're all crimes, and the last time I checked, it's got to be beyond a reasonable doubt. So it's like, Hey, here's what he said at that rally. It's like, everybody knows it. And it's like, so if you get to that, 'Hey, I want you guys to all go up there.' Oh, by the way, when you look at what they had in terms of, they had stuff, they had a guillotine or something like that, they had ropes for the West face. There was all sorts of stuff.
It's like, so you're telling me seriously speaking, because you look at what the articles of impeachment were brought back (and in record time, forget about due process. Even though it's a crime, we don't need due process in this instance), and you go, 'I know Capitol Hill. There's no hardware stores between where the rally was and the Capitol,' and so an hour later, the Capitol police are fighting for their lives, literally. And these people have got all this stuff, and you're telling me that the plan was formulated in 60 minutes with these people. I don't think so, but it's like, hey, if you prove to me that this guy did it, then I'll vote. I'll vote to impeach him the same as the time before, but political goals and proof beyond a reasonable doubt have nothing in common, and they didn't on either one of these things. Yeah, he's upset about the election. Yeah, he said some aggressive stuff, but quite frankly, it's not an impeachable offense any way you look at what the law is.
Glick: I want to ask briefly then about the election that happened in 2020 and some of the lead up. So, you did vote to certify the results, but you also voted against the creation of a January 6th commission, so I'm curious to know why did you vote against that commission?
Amodei: Well, first of all, there's at last count, there were six committees that were investigating, before you get to the FBI, the D.C. Police. So, quite frankly, an investigation by professional investigators is fine. They were ongoing in the law enforcement community, as well as congressionally [but] to have another special one, quite frankly, is I think is a political tool.
Glick: Have you gotten any information from any of those investigations yet that you can share? Have you learned anything from that day?
Amodei: Nothing other than what the newspapers have said. But let me tell you, you also asked about certifying the election. Well, Noah, let me tell you what. Donald Trump left the 15 counties of Nevada, actually the 16 counties of Nevada, except for Clark, with a 65,000-vote lead. He won by 40,000 in my district. I won by 60,000 in my district. You tell me, Noah, how it is I'm supposed to get up and go and say, 'It's a big sham!' because your next question would be, because the ballot remember was President of the United States, member of the House of Representatives. So it's like, 'Hey, it was all screwed up one notch above me' but when I basically won Washoe by five and all the rest of the counties for a total of 60,000, it's like, 'Mark, how do you say that those county clerks were doing an awful job in this sense one notch down?' And you know what, I'm not going to.
I don't know what happened in Clark county, but quite frankly, I do know what you have to prove to do that. And with all due respect, the president was not well served by the people who were advising him on Nevada. I don't know about the other states. I'm just going to say, and people go, 'Oh my God!' Because I went in front of central committees and they said they were upset with me. And I'm like, I don't know what to tell you. Quite frankly, if I missed something, because he lost Washoe by 10,000, the other 15 counties and Clark, he won by 75,000 votes, Noah. I mean, it's like, 'What am I supposed to [do], you know?' 'Well, it was Clark County.' 'Well, then show it to me because quite frankly, the folks who tried to do that in Nevada didn't do a real good job.
Glick: Well now, you were Trump's campaign chair in 2016, so what what needed to be done? What went wrong this last time?
Amodei: You mean in the election in general?
Glick: Yeah. I mean, you mentioned that whoever was giving him info on Nevada, just wasn't guiding him correctly.
Amodei: Well, quite frankly, in both those cycles, he lost Clark county by 100,000 votes. How's that for crisp answer? And that was before mail-in [ballots] - and after mail-in. And so, turnout was way up in 2020, but it's, like, Hey, guess what? I think the lesson that [we] already knew, but we've relearned is you can't lose Clark County by 100,000 votes in a statewide election and make it up elsewhere.
Glick: I do want to ask about election security just briefly. That's been in the news, people talking about election security. Nevada's own Secretary of State, Republican Barbara Cegavske, has come out and said there [was] no widespread evidence of voter fraud or election fraud. So I just want to ask, do you feel there is an issue with election security either in Nevada or nationwide?
Amodei: Well, listen, there's always mistakes made in elections, ok? People get ballots that are deceased and I don't mean to minimize that. I'm just saying the perfect election, I don't think has existed in modern times. And so I'm not the Secretary of State. I don't know what Barbara knows with respect to all that. Although, quite frankly, I'll go back to 90 days before the election, when the legislature in Nevada legislature, in its inevitable wisdom, passed a bill that said, 'Hey, we can do mail-in ballots because of COVID.' And then I know you're not gonna believe this, Noah, but they decided, 'Even though maybe COVID's getting a little bit better, we're going to just go ahead and do that from here out.'
I don't care if you have mail-in ballots, but there needs to be something that the voter needs to do. I mean, we do it with absentee ballots. We have mail ballots. They're called absentee, but you got to ask for it and do something other than just be on the list and get it mailed to you, which is what they did. And, quite frankly, it's a great idea for turnout and everybody should be for turnout. But, you need some sort of safety mechanism in there to where like when I vote in person or early, I have to go sign my name on the little sheet to see how much it matches what my signature looked like when I was 18, which is not much. [...] And by the way, clerks aren't handwriting experts. So it's not like this is impeding voter turnout. They're just seeing if it looks somewhere in the neighborhood, in Nevada.
And so, it's like you want to increase it for mail. Great. Let's do that. But, there ought to be something that the voter has to do to say, 'I want the ballot.' Or, if you're going to mail them out to everybody, [then] when they send them back, you screen those in terms of something other than just, 'We're mailing them all out and we're getting them back.' Because we know from the experience in Clark County, that those machines that kind of look at the signature and say, 'OK, this is the right one, the wrong one or whatever,' quite frankly, the technology isn't there yet.
Glick: So, it's just adding one step?
Amodei: It's adding something that you can point to, to say I've required the voter to participate in something other than being on a list.
Glick: It sounds like you're kind of in the middle then with some of the conversations that we've been hearing. You're supportive of mail-in ballots and expanding voting access, but as long as there's some other step.
Amodei: You got to have security.
Glick: You're not saying like we need voter IDs or a specific card. You're not advocating for any sort of limitations on voting, are you?
Amodei: Well, the reality in Nevada is voter ID is your signature. So you can say ID blah, blah. But, it's like, hey, ever since I've been 18, which is not recently, your voter ID is your signature. And, and so it's like, if you want to stick with signatures, that's the will of the people in Nevada, fine with me. But, you got to have some live element to it.
Glick: I do want to ask, just because we're talking elections. And I think I know the answer to this. Who is the current president of the United States?
Amodei: Joe Biden.
Glick: I want to shift briefly to a piece of legislation that you introduced, or reintroduced this last congressional session, the Northern Nevada Economic Development Conservation and Military Modernization Act. So tell me a little bit more about the legislation, what it would do and how that would help Nevadans.
Amodei: Well, it was an attempt. NAS Fallon needs more ground to train if they're going to keep pace with the Chinese and the Russians. You don't have to be cleared for a secret briefing to know what our two major competitors economically and militarily in the world are doing, how they're training, how much space they're doing to accommodate modern weapons, which don't require you to be eyeballing what you're shooting at when you're doing that stuff.
And so, they had consolidated in before this. NAS Fallon is where they train to dog fight and also for their bombing stuff. Those probably aren't even the right terms. But, the thought was, hey, listen, we have some lands issues in Northern Nevada, and they do in Southern Nevada, too, which they've partnered up with the Air Force on Nellis Creech. But anyhow, [...] instead of doing a whole bunch of them, if we can get consensus, then let's do everything in one fell swoop for the Northern part of the state and the Southern part of the state, ergo, the bill that you just talked about, that we've introduced a couple times.
It's got multiple county stuff in it. It's got environmental stuff, [and] creates over a million acres of wilderness preserves or wilderness areas. [It] takes the Ruby Mountains out of oil exploration, Senator Cortez Masto, [that was] one of her things. Good idea. So, we got basically the stuff that was in there. It's like, you didn't go in the bill unless the county commission approved it. And so, if it was Carson city, Douglas, Lyon, the piece in Elko, Pershing, all those different counties. It's like, if that's not the consensus to your county, fine, we won't put it in.
Glick: So, there's a lot of work with local stakeholders then?
Amodei: Who oughta be the folks driving the train quite honestly. And so we went through all of that. Then we went through all the stakeholders, Indian tribes, the whole nine yards. The Schurz folks were set to get a heck of a payment, because they were bombing part of their reservation inadvertently over the years. So, they gotta make that pot right. Cultural resource things, transfers of cultural resource areas, caves, other sensitive areas outright to the relevant tribes. The Washoe Tribe was going to get 6,000 acres around Tahoe and Douglas County that were ancestrally important to them. The Schurz folks were going to get cultural lands, as well as economic development lands. And so we got everybody pretty much on board, except for the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe.
And listen, it's America, you don't have to agree with anything. And they didn't, even though we set up a cultural resource program, which is probably the number one in the country in terms of Great Basin archeology and cultural resource stuff and other things like that.
Quite frankly, I think COVID might have had something to do with it. We couldn't get anybody in House Resources [committee], Congressman [Arizona's Raul] Grijalva is the chair, couldn't get a hearing, couldn't get a anything. And it's like, well, the Navy still needs to train. And so we've introduced the bill a couple ways: the old one, which it now has a couple of complicating things because the Walker River Paiute Tribe, the folks out at Schurz, want some economic development country that's right in the middle of Reno-Sparks Indian Colony country, as well as another tribe that's on I-80, which is not in proximity to their reservation. And by the way, I don't think the counties will like it either, but it's like, hey, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they'll get together on that. So, there's some work to be done on that.
We've also introduced them separately. So it's like, hey, Carson City's piece of it was mostly technical corrections and stuff like that to where it's like, hey, my crystal ball all isn't any better than anybody else's. But, if the committee wants to take them up singularly to get some of them moving, because that's a problem with these things. If the Navy wants to do a standalone, but quite frankly, it's hard to do a standalone with what they're doing, because it has an economic impact on multiple counties and stuff like that. So, we'll see. But it's been one of those things where I don't have any problem talking about it because it's like, quite frankly, I didn't write the bill.
The counties affected wrote the bill. The Navy wrote the bill, the tribes affected wrote the bill except for Fallon Paiute Shoshone. And I think that's the way it should be. Those are the people who are primarily responsible for land use decisions and planning. And so I'm happy to talk about it. I think we do a bunch of great stuff in it for cultural resources, for wilderness and wilderness areas and also for the Ruby Mountains. So I think there's something in there for everybody and there's nothing in there where it's like, 'Hey, can you kind of look away for a little bit? Because we got a couple things we're slipping in there.' It's been out there for multiple years now, so it's like nobody's sneaking anything in or if they did, they've snuck it in on me, too. But I think it's a pretty responsible piece. Now, I'll tell you right now, there's no Washoe county stuff in it or if there is there's, there's very little.
Glick: Does it address the checkerboard issue along the I-80 corridor at all?
Amodei: Well, we tried that a few years ago, but quite frankly, what we heard from the feedback then was we want that done county by county. So guess what? If it does in Pershing County, it's because it's what the Pershing County Commission wants after holding public hearings. It doesn't do any in Humboldt County. It doesn't do any in Washoe. And I'll tell you why. It's real simple. I think Sparks knows what they want in Sparks. I don't know where the county commission is exactly, and the Reno City Council, I'm not sure has fully engaged on it. I mean, everybody's worked on it. But quite frankly, that consensus thing, where it's like, 'Well, then why don't you just agree on what you agree on and we'll put that in?' We haven't reached that yet with Washoe.
Glick: So I do want to just touch on the climate a little bit and talk about climate change. We've seen, as you know, a pretty destructive wildfire season out here, especially around Tahoe. But also we're in the midst of an historic drought here in the West. So, I just want to ask you a simple question first: Do you believe that human-caused climate changes is an issue that needs to be addressed?
Amodei: Well, I think it needs to be looked at, yeah. And what our impact on it is, absolutely.
Glick: What would you say are some of the priorities, or some of the solutions, or some ideas that could come from the federal government to help, specifically in our area when it comes to wildfires?
Amodei: Well, since you said the federal government and they're the main major landowner, quite frankly until those federal agencies, and they've made progress. So, I want to make that contextual, but we now know that the thing we fear most in Western Nevada and in Northern Nevada is wildland fire. We learned here in Reno eight years ago that in November, you can have fires that burn down houses - in Reno. We've seen communities in California disappear. And we've also seen fires, which quite frankly threaten our way of life for the summer, in terms of the atmosphere and all that other sort of stuff. And so, since the federal government owns the vast majority of these, the next word I'm going to say, the next phrase, is 'fuels management.' You've got to manage the forest in an environmental way.
That does not mean that, quite frankly, when a fire starts somewhere, it goes instantly catastrophic because you have choking fuels in huge numbers of trees per acre, or even in our sagebrush steppe ecosystem. Because first of all, the idea of a town in Nevada getting burned down is something like, well, that could never happen. It's like, well, if it could happen in California with the huge concentration of resources they have, and we almost saw it seriously in Tahoe. We saw it a little bit in Tahoe a few years ago with the Acorn Fire, where we lost houses. And so I'm sitting here looking at this, going I know there are huge amounts of land. But, you go to those urban, rural interfaces first, you manage those fuels around there, so it gives the fire a chance to lay down, so that your wildland firefighters have a chance to defend those areas. Then you take the existing roads and go out a little bit from those and manage fuels. Now this isn't clear cutting or bulldozing. [...] And quite frankly, in this area, the reason where we're at is because of the Comstock Lode. They basically went and cut everything, so it all came back at the same time.
But until we start recognizing that there are days you can't fly the airplanes or the helicopters, there are managers who rightfully aren't gonna put people in harm's way [...] when the plant moisture is 30%, the wind's blowing Mach-6 and the terrain's like 45 degrees in the flat spots. [...] We are learning that it is more important what you do before the fire than it is during the fire. Oh, and by the way, that's before you get to what's going up in the air, when that stuff's burning, because none of it's benign. And so, I just think it's one of those things where until we start looking at our natural resources as infrastructure too, quite frankly, and that's a word like, 'What?' It's like that's infrastructure, too. We sell it for tourism. We sell it for quality of life in terms of look at this isn't this [nice]. We need to start treating it like it needs to be maintained, just like phone lines, power lines, roads, bridges, everything else. And quite frankly, we haven't done a lot of maintenance in the last 50-100 years.
Glick: Well, let me ask you on that then. In order to increase fuels management, in order to get that, you essentially need to support additional funding for [the U.S.] Forest Service or [the] BLM (Bureau of Land Management) or any of these other agencies, so would you support an increase in land managers' budgets?
Amodei: Absolutely. We haven't had a conservation administration probably since Teddy Roosevelt. But, let me tell you why it's not a, 'Oh, my God, he's going to spend money on there.' It's like, listen, the woods [are] coming out of the forest one way or another, and it's much more expensive if it comes out in a catastrophic wildland fire, in terms of the resources that you have to try to marshal. If you've been up to any of those camps that are set up for these major events, there was one at Douglas High for Tamarack, there was one up at Heavenly for the Caldor stuff. It's like those costs are absolutely phenomenal. And that's before you get to what happens to the watershed for the next 50 or 100 years. What did you put in the air in the meantime?
So, that's one of those ones where you can say, listen, it's a much better deal to have fewer numbers of people spreading out on a regular systematic basis going to significant watershed areas and that sort of stuff. The Tahoe Basin, I mean, we've kind of been doing that with the Tahoe Restoration Plan for 20 years or more now. And it's one of those things where it's like, 'Listen, don't spend the money,' but guess what? It's gonna cost you more when you got to bring people in from all around the nation to do this. And, oh, by the way, you got a quarter-million acres of burned up forest whose problems have now just basically multiplied times pick-the-number. And so, yeah, I just think it's a responsible thing to do for a piece of infrastructure that we have done no maintenance on almost until recently.
Glick: I know president Biden has at least thrown out the idea of a Civilian Conservation Corps. Would you support an idea like that?
Amodei: Yeah. Heck, I was in the Youth Conservation Corps a million years ago. I think it's one of those things where everybody with an idea, let's get it out there and get stuff moving. By the way, there are some things that are working now, it's like, that's fine. If that means instead of four crews working out of Gerlach in a summer, you put six crews [in] Winnemucca, or the Tahoe area. That's been done before over the course of time, and it's just one of those things where as we have continued to push out into those rural areas and that interface, because guess what, when somebody's home is threatened, it's a big, big deal as we've seen in the news way too many times.
Glick: Thinking back to the last year, year and a half or so, what would you say is your biggest or proudest accomplishment over that time? And what would you say is your biggest disappointment or maybe something that you wish you could have gotten done?
Amodei: You know, the disappointment is there are times when it's incredibly discouraging and frustrating to see the partisanship and, and listen, I'm a Republican. And so, I'm not lamenting that. It's like, I'm a Republican by choice. I have been since 1988. And so, it's not like there's no place for politics or whatever, but to see almost the exclusion of any kind of problem solving for the sake of political conquest is a thing that I think is discouraging to everybody. And I think that just continues to get worse, and I'm not blaming one side or the other. It's like it takes two to tango - or not. And so, there you go.
On the victory side of things, I think we did a lot of work on that Fallon bill that we were just talking about, that quite frankly represents just what I griped about not having enough of, to where it's like, we've gone to people who are rightfully responsible, ask them for their input, made sure that their priorities are the ones that were in there, so that when the inevitable complaining comes, it's like, it's not my bill. I'm just kind of the conductor of the orchestra. The folks that are playing the instruments who have the best...so we're proud of that, even though it didn't get through.
We're proud of the fact that the U.S. Mint resurrected the Carson City Mint mark. You know, as kind of a history buff, that's a neat thing. And, we're also proud of the fact that in this appropriation season, we were able to, to get funding for some pretty important things. None of them are sex and violence, but it's travel projects in the Truckee Meadows, water projects throughout the districts, stuff like that, nothing that'll ever make a headline. But, it's like, hey, you can say you're delivering in terms of trying to keep getting the mission done, if you will, instead of trying to see how many times you got on TV.
Glick: When I was looking into the military budget, I noticed that one of the provisions that was added into that budget was the Safe Banking Act, which I thought was interesting, because that would allow cannabis companies to access traditional banking services. Do you have any comment on that?
Amodei: Well, listen, I mean it's not my cup of tea, but I'll say this. If the federal government wanted, quite frankly, to stop recreational cannabis, they should have done something when it was going on in Washington and Colorado, and that was a long time ago. And so, when they're sitting there trying to basically put the fear of God into somebody who does the plumbing work or whatever on a warehouse that may be rented out by a cannabis company, it's like the banks aren't the right cops for that. They haven't really prosecuted anybody for it in ten years our research indicates.
And so, like I said, not my cup of tea, but creating public safety. And the hypocrisy, it's like, how do all these people pay their taxes to Nevada? They pay them in cash. What does Nevada do? They go deposit them in whatever bank that's got that account for. And so it's like, hey, enough of this. [...] I may have voted against it, but the voters, you know, it's like, hey, they voted for it. That's the law; let them bank like everybody else.