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Northern Nevada’s Congressman Amodei on land use, immigration, gas prices, and Trump

U.S. Congressman Mark Amodei, who represents congressional district 2 in Northern Nevada, is sitting in the KUNR Studios. He is looking toward the camera while smiling. There is a microphone pointed toward him.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Republican U.S. Congressman Mark Amodei at KUNR Public Radio’s studio in Reno., Nev., on Dec. 28, 2022.

The 118th U.S. congress convened on January 3. KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck sat down with Republican Congressman Mark Amodei to learn about his goals. Amodei has represented Congressional District 2 in Northern Nevada since 2011.

Lucia Starbuck: What is one bill, or source of funding, or project that you secured in the past year that you’re proud of?

Mark Amodei: We’ve been working on the expansion of Naval Air Station Fallon. That’s obviously a big deal, not only in a national sense, because it gives our naval aviators and seals an expanded training area to reflect the changes in technology and safety in terms of buffer zones that I think they legitimately needed to keep pace with Russia and China. The Navy had been mistakenly, not recently, but in years past, had been bombing part of the Walker River Paiute [Tribe] reservation, and so that was in there, it was a $20 million settlement for that tribe.

Starbuck: What’s one issue that you would have liked to see addressed that fell through?

Amodei: Douglas County had a bill, part of that bill created wilderness areas. Part of the bill restricted access to the Ruby Mountains from exploration for petroleum, oil. Those were all in the Fallon bill to start, but they got scrubbed out. There remains much work to be done in a state with [more than] 80% of federal land. We don’t do a lands bill unless we get a letter from the planning and zoning authority in that county or that city saying, ‘We support this.’

Starbuck: The lands bill would designate federal land to be developed. You’re saying it’s up to the local municipalities, but what are your personal thoughts? 

Amodei: I support the responsible use of federal land. You say, ‘It designates federal land to be developed,’ that’s part of it. But the other thing it does is designate wilderness areas, designates special reserve areas, school sites, you name it. Every community in Nevada, we’re all surrounded by federal land. Now, there’s part of that, that’s a blessing, but if you want your communities to be able to evolve and grow in accordance with what your county commissions or city councils agree with, they need more land.

Starbuck: Nevada still has some of the highest gas prices in the country, what needs to be done to bring the prices down?

Amodei: It’s possible to responsibly look for and produce petroleum on federal lands. To just say, ‘We’ve decided it’s all evil, and you shouldn’t mine, and you shouldn’t look for oil and gas,’ and we need those things. Where do we get those? ‘Get them somewhere else.’ I think that’s just an incredibly vulnerable position to be in.

Starbuck: What would you like to see done about immigration?

Amodei: There’s a way to earn your status. That is, you’re not cutting in front of people who’ve done it in accordance with the existing rules. It’s similar to what was kind of done with the DREAMers. You come in, you sign up, go through background check, you don’t get into trouble, you pass all those tests, you go through a period of five to 10 years or whatever, at the end of that, you get a green card. If you want to apply for citizenship after that, that’s your option. I also do want to say, though, this is important, we need to have control of our border.

Starbuck: What does that look like to you? 

Amodei: I don’t think the wall is a bad thing or an evil thing. Now, is it foolproof? Nothing is foolproof. I think those folks at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and [U.S.] Customs and Border [Protection] need some more resources.

Starbuck: Do you think the actions of busing immigrants to other states by GOP governors, what are your thoughts on those actions?

Amodei: I like that, because it’s not a solution, but for all these people to wax eloquent in areas where, you know the old saying, ‘Well, they’re border states,’ it’s like, we’re all border states. But to basically say, ‘Here’s a taste of what they’re dealing with in Arizona and New Mexico and Texas.’ When people are in your jurisdiction, you have to accommodate them.

Starbuck: There won’t be a presidential election [in 2023], but I’m sure we can expect some campaigning. What is your stance on former President Donald Trump?

Amodei: I believe in the primary process, and when Donald Trump came through that in 2016, it was like, he’s earned it. He’s entitled to the support. I think his presidency, in terms of what it produced, energy policy, going after COVID the way he went after it, trade policy, you name it, I thought he and his crew did a phenomenal job.

Starbuck I know you said you’ll support whoever gets the nomination, but do you want it to be Trump? 

Amodei: I want to be somebody who puts the best foot forward in changing the White House, from blue to red.

Starbuck: A Democrat has never won Nevada’s second congressional district, which is rural and red to a large degree. However, it does represent Washoe County, which is a pretty populous swing County and sometimes leans blue. You did win this county in November, but how will you ensure that you’re representing all of Northern Nevada, including non-Republicans?

Amodei: We rely on that direct, transparent contact with people to say, ‘Here’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.’ I’ll pick a recent one that was, ‘You voted against the Respect for Marriage Act.’ If you read our release, its like, Nevada voters put that in the [state] Constitution in 2020. Go to abortion, Nevada voters over 30 years ago said, ‘Here’s the rules.’ And so, if there’s anything that comes and says, ‘Here’s a new federal rule for abortion,’ I’m gonna say the same thing I said on the same-sex marriage thing, which is, ‘Quit looking for ways to come in and tell my state, what to do.’

Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning political journalist and the host of KUNR’s monthly show Purple Politics Nevada. She is passionate about reporting during election season, attending community events, and talking to people about the issues that matter most to them.
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