(Washington, D.C.) – Yesterday on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke in support of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act (S. 1752).
Remarks as prepared:
Mr./ Madam President, I would first like to thank Senators Gillibrand, McCaskill, Ayotte and Fisher for all of their hard work on this issue.
As someone who strongly believes in bipartisanship, I am glad to see the Senate moving forward today on debating and voting on this issue.
While we all may not agree on how to best solve this issue, we can all agree that it is too important not to debate and ultimately vote on ways to address it.
Mr./Madam President, our military is the greatest fighting force the world has ever known. The freedoms we enjoy as Americans are because men and women continue to volunteer to serve and protect our nation.
The vast majority of these men and women serve with honor and integrity. However, there are a few bad actors in our military who commit crimes against their fellow service members.
The question the Senate faces is whether or not the military’s justice system is equipped to properly handle sexual assault within the ranks.
After careful consideration and weighing all the facts, I feel the military today is not equipped, and that is why I support Senator Gillibrand’s approach.
Like everyone in this chamber, I am disappointed we ever got to this point. No soldier should have their service degraded due to dishonorable conduct in the ranks.
But there has been ample opportunity for the military to address this issue within its ranks, and too much time has passed without this problem being resolved.
It is Congress’s responsibility now to step in to protect the best America has to offer.
Congress needs to address what is currently lacking for victims.
Victims need to feel confident in reporting crimes of sexual assault, must be protected from retaliation, and must be confident that justice will be served.
Senator Gillibrand’s legislation will accomplish these goals.
If the Senate passes this bill today, loopholes in the military structure will no longer be an option to protect sexual assailants. These changes are long overdue and will hold the military to the highest standards they strive toward.
I encourage the rest of my colleagues to join me in supporting her efforts and keeping our commitment to protect the men and women who are honorably serving our nation.
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Chairs of the VA Backlog Working Group, U.S. Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Bob Casey (D-PA), along with Senators David Vitter (R-LA), and Jon Tester (D-MT), held a press conference to release the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act, comprehensive legislation designed to reduce the backlog of veterans’ disability claims. The Senators also released the VA Backlog Working Group March 2014 Report in which the VA Backlog Working Group analyzes the many factors that contribute to the claims backlog.
In July, Senators Heller and Casey announced the formation of the VA Backlog Working Group. The Working Group provides a forum for lawmakers, veterans, and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) to tackle the disability claim backlog. The March 2014 Report is a product of input from these groups, and provides a broad guideline for areas of improvement that can help shape a more efficient system. Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) are also cosponsors of the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act.
Details of the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act:
Whereas the VA Backlog Working Group March 2014 Report identifies problems in current processes, the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act aims to provide a comprehensive solution. The bill is divided into three sections:
Title I – Benefits Claims Submission. This section is designed to encourage, assist, and educate veterans on the benefits of submitting a completed claim, when possible, as well as reinforce the services available to help a veteran complete a claim.
- Includes proposals to improve veterans’ access to information about the claims process;
- Provides Veterans Service Organizations and veterans’ preferred secondary contact with better access to information;
- Authorizes monetary benefits to incentivize developed claims submission.
Title II - Reforming Practices of Regional Offices. Personnel and management must be given tools to perform efficiently. This section requires the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to make structural changes that increase accuracy and efficiency at the regional office level in the following ways:
- Calls for audit of regional offices of the Veterans Benefits Administration;
- Ensures improved accountability and oversight of VARO management;
- Provides resources to VBA employees and implements changes in process that allows VBA employees to move claims through the electronic benefits awards structure more efficiently;
- Improves transparency to the public on the size and scope of the current backlog.
Title III - Government Response. This section holds the government accountable and helps to ensure the claims process is a priority.
- Demands greater cooperation from federal agencies to transfer requested information;
- Presses VBA employees to process information it receives from these agencies in a timely fashion.
Feb 27 2014
Heller Asks Federal Reserve Chair about Economic Recovery in Nevada, Minimum Wage, Actual Unemployment
(Washington, D.C.) – At a hearing today of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) questioned Janet Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, about the debate on minimum wage, actual unemployment figures, and economic recovery in Nevada.
When responding to questions about Nevada’s economy, Yellen stated, “It is still going to be a long slog before things are back to normal in the housing market in Nevada and some of those hard-hit areas.”
Regarding minimum wage, Chair Yellen stated, “Almost all economists think that the minimum wage has two main effects. One is to give higher wages to those who continue to have jobs and were earning the minimum wage, and then second there would be some amount of negative impact on unemployment as a consequence. And there is a considerable debate about just what the employment impact of it would be. CBO is as qualified as anyone to evaluate that literature…”
She also indicated that the figure for individuals who are not fully employed or are working part-time seeking additional work is around 13 percent.
Feb 04 2014
(Washington, D.C.) – At today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on pending Department of Interior nominations, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) discussed Nevada’s Sage Grouse recovery efforts with Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks nominee Ms. Rhea S. Suh. In that exchange, Suh committed to working closely with Heller on a discussion draft that will support the State of Nevada’s efforts to address threats to Sage Grouse and its habitat.
“To-date, BLM and Fish & Wildlife have played a major role in Nevada’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Council. If you are confirmed as Assistant Secretary, you will play an integral role in any potential action the Department of Interior takes regarding the sage-grouse. Can you assure me the agencies under your purview will devote the time and resources necessary to work collaboratively with me and my State to avoid an ESA listing?” asked Heller.
To which Ms. Suh responded, “I absolutely will commit, if confirmed, to making this a top priority to working across our jurisdictional lines, both with the Fish and Wildlife Services and with the Bureau of Land Management…to approach this enormous problem and to make sure that we have the resources to address it appropriately.”
Jan 29 2014
Heller introduced amendment with Mike Lee (R-UT)
(Washington, D.C.) – This afternoon, the Senate is set to vote on an amendment introduced by U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) to the flood insurance legislation currently under consideration (S. 1926). The amendment is designed to encourage competition and provide clarification on what is considered acceptable private flood insurance. Earlier today, Senator Heller spoke on the Senate floor about the amendment, which is cosponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT).
Background and Summary of the Heller-Lee Amendment #2700
- When Congress passed Biggert-Waters, it reaffirmed the intent that private primary flood insurance should satisfy the requirements of mandatory purchase.
- Unfortunately, due to a lack of clarity in legislative language pertaining to private flood insurance, there has been pervasive rejection of private primary flood insurance by lenders. This is due to the fact that lenders are unsure about the validity of privately issued flood insurance, despite the fact that this insurance has been issued and accepted in the past.
- The Heller-Lee Amendment provides a simple and clear definition of what is acceptable private flood insurance. This legislation defines acceptable private flood insurance as a policy that provides flood insurance coverage issued by an insurance company that is licensed, admitted, or otherwise approved to engage in the business of insurance in the State or jurisdiction in which the insured building is located, by the insurance regulator of the State or jurisdiction.
- Private insurers are already subject to statutes and regulations in each and every state. State insurance commissioners are the best regulators to allow and disallow any policy they deem improper and they have significant ability to assure fair and equitable settlement of claims. Further encouragement of private-sector participation in the flood insurance market will help reduce the risk to which the U.S. taxpayer is currently exposed.
A PDF copy of the Heller-Lee Amendment is below.
Jan 28 2014
(Washington, D.C.) – In a bipartisan call for total repeal of the military retirement cuts included in last month’s budget, U.S. Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Mark Begich (D-AK) joined veterans, military families and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) at a press conference Tuesday morning. The press conference occurred just ahead of a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on adjustments to COLAs for military retirees and Tuesday night’s State of the Union Address.
Both Heller and Begich are members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
Heller and Begich joined IAVA CEO and founder Paul Rieckhoff to call for a repeal of the military COLA cut. On hand were military families and veterans who could be affected by the cuts.
“Our nation’s heroes and their families have made incredible sacrifices and we owe them our full support. When Congress approved cuts to their cost-of-living adjustment, the very people responsible for protecting these important benefits actually jeopardized them. It is an honor to join with IAVA, veterans and military families in a bipartisan call of support for repealing military retirement cuts," said Senator Dean Heller.
“I’ve said many times that we shouldn’t be balancing this budget on the backs of our military men and women who have served and sacrificed for this country,” said Sen. Begich. “I continue to hear from veterans back home in Alaska about the damage this cut will do to them and their families which is why I’m fully committed to repealing it. It is my hope that we can achieve a bipartisan compromise that fulfils the promise we have made to our veterans over the years and to whom we owe a great debt. I thank the IAVA for their continued advocacy of this issue and am glad to stand side by side with them today to tell Congress to keep that promise.”
“Congress is breaking America’s promise with our men and women in uniform. These military retirement cuts are unprecedented and outrageous. Tomorrow on Capitol Hill, Congress and the President will hear directly from veterans and military families who are affected by these cuts,” said IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff. “They can look our members in the eyes and explain why they voted for a 20 percent decrease in their earned benefits in a time of war. In the State of the Union, veterans expect to hear the President clearly state that he stands with us in opposition to these cuts. We need his support in pressuring Congress to fix this immediately. Our troops overseas in the combat zone are watching this issue closely. This is not the time for the President to be silent. ”
December’s bipartisan budget agreement included the cuts to military retirees. Since then, groups like the IAVA, the American Legion and others have fought for a total repeal of the retirement cuts, arguing that Congress shouldn’t balance the budget on the backs of those who have already sacrificed the most.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide.
(Washington, D.C.) – Today U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at a Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee hearing titled “The Future of Unmanned Aviation in the U.S. Economy: Safety and Privacy Considerations.” In December, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that Nevada was designated as an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) test site.
Remarks as Prepared:
As many of you know, my State of Nevada was selected as one of the six test sites by the FAA to integrate Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
Nevada was specifically chosen to test drone integration into the FAA’s NextGen air traffic control system.
This makes perfect sense because we are the birthplace of the unmanned aircraft system industry.
We have a skilled, experienced workforce and we have more airspace than all the other 49 U.S. States combined.
That is why we were well suited to take on this testing that some project could bring over $2 billion to our economy and bring 12 to 15 thousand good-paying jobs to the state.
However, in order for all this to happen, we must do our work to make sure safety and privacy concerns are met.
Especially when we start thinking of drones delivering packages in neighborhoods across Las Vegas.
That is why I am pleased we are having this hearing today so that we can work with the FAA and other privacy stakeholders.
Jan 14 2014
(Washington, D.C.) – Today U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) joined Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Dan Coats (R-IN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Rob Portman (R-OH) at a press conference regarding their proposal to fully pay for an extension of temporary long-term unemployment insurance benefits and repeal the recent cuts in the military retiree cost-of-living adjustment included in December's budget agreement.
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke on the Senate floor in support of extending benefits for the unemployed. The Senate is expected to vote tomorrow on a proposal he offered along with Jack Reed (D-RI) to extend unemployment benefits for three months.
The proposal would prevent approximately 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans, including 17,000 Nevadans, from losing their unemployment insurance.
Remarks as prepared:
I rise today to discuss an issue that has been at the forefront of many Americans’ minds ringing in the New Year, and that is extending benefits for the unemployed.
I hope that my friends and colleagues here in the Senate enjoyed their holidays, and that everyone returned refreshed and ready to tackle some tough issues in 2014.
Unfortunately, while Congress was in recess, approximately 17,000 Nevadans greeted the New Year not with the optimistic expectations of a fresh start, but with anxiety about how they are going to feed their families and pay their utility bills.
When Congress left Washington, D.C. in December, a lot of important matters were left undone and expired. As a result, millions of Americans were left with no idea whether or not their unemployment benefits were going to be “fixed retroactively” – something that has become all too common for Congress to do.
Helping those in need should not be a partisan issue. Providing a limited social safety net is one of the responsibilities of the federal government. Unfortunately, instead of planning ahead and figuring out the best way to do that, we are now forced to decide whether or not to reinstate these benefits after they have expired.
We should provide some relief to the millions of Americans that were left hanging when Congress went home in December and temporarily extend unemployment benefits for three months. It is the right thing to do. That short period will help these families whose benefits expired abruptly while Congress works out a longer-term solution that provides Americans with some certainty and is fiscally responsible.
I understand my colleagues’ concerns about the cost and their desire to pay for this extension. I, too, want to see our federal debt brought under control. My voting record is proof of that concern.
I, too, believe that Congress should be more focused on passing laws that actually help create jobs. Growing our economy should be the primary concern of this body. As the Senator of the state that leads the nation in unemployment, believe me, I understand the need to refocus on jobs. I would rather be down here discussing innovative ways to create jobs instead of the need to extend unemployment benefits yet again.
But because of this Administration and even some of the choices of this body, unfortunately, our economy is not growing quickly enough and many Americans are still hurting – including a lot of Nevadans.
My state is struggling. I have repeated often on this floor that Nevada consistently tops the chart in unemployment, in bankruptcies and in foreclosures. The statistics are surely revealing, but more startling is the obvious increase of impoverished Nevadans that I meet when I go home.
Every Thanksgiving, one or two of my children join me in serving Thanksgiving dinner to folks in Reno who are in need and cannot cook a Thanksgiving meal of their own. This year, my daughter Emy joined me during her first break home from college.
Every year, that dinner sees more and more attendees. Every year, the number of individuals and families who need help increases. This year, the venue was absolutely packed. It is such an obvious example of how so many Nevadans are unable to provide for their basic needs that it cannot be ignored.
I know that many economists point to a national unemployment rate that is improving. But at home, we don’t feel it. The unemployment rate in Nevada has consistently far exceeded the national average. In fact, the Silver State has led the nation for the past three years in unemployment and as a result, people are really hurting. It is difficult to stand here, in the nation’s Capitol – an area that has largely felt little negative impacts of the recession – and describe just how tough times are for so many of my constituents. At these Thanksgiving dinners, I hear about the choices individuals are forced to make: whether to buy gas for the car, or to pay for heat in frigid northern Nevada winters, or to buy school supplies for their children, or to save for the future.
These are the hard working individuals who rely on these benefits. They have been trying to find jobs. They want to provide for their children. But for these benefits to simply vanish, without giving families time to plan and figure out alternatives to help them get by is just not right.
I, too, understand the concerns about the cost of these benefits. I would prefer to see them paid for in a manner that does not burden our nation with more debt. I have previously introduced legislation that would do just that – legislation that would extend unemployment benefits while still paying for them. At the time, I introduced my legislation as an alternative to a more costly bill because I think it’s important that our nation bring down its debt. I am ready to work with my colleagues to introduce similar legislation again this year.
But in the meantime, I propose that we pass this short-term extension now. That would allow Congress the opportunity to spend the next three months debating how to pay for these benefits in the future, or perhaps how much longer they should be extended. Those are important questions worthy of more debate. But in the meantime, Congress simply must provide some temporary relief to those who are unemployed.
Paying for these benefits would be the best approach. Congress could have taken the harder road to figure out a way to do that before departing for the holiday break and leaving Americans hanging. But they didn’t. So let’s pass this short term extension, and focus on a more fiscally responsible solution for the longer-term.
Dec 17 2013
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources hearing in support of Nevadan Neil Kornze to be Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Remarks as prepared:
Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Murkowski, it is my pleasure to join with Senator Reid to introduce Neil Kornze to this Committee as the nominee to be the director of the Bureau of Land Management.
Neil was raised in Elko, one of Nevada’s most vibrant rural communities, which gives him a first-hand perspective of the challenges Nevada and other western states face regarding our vast public lands.
Because the BLM controls roughly 67 percent of Nevada’s land, our ability to access and use these public lands is vital to our State and has an enormous impact on Nevada’s economy.
As a Nevadan, Neil understands that good public land management and economic development are not mutually exclusive and he has taken this sensibility throughout his career.
Senator Reid and I work closely to find solutions to issues facing Nevada, particularly when it comes to the appropriate use of Nevada’s public lands and natural resources.
My staff and I enjoyed a good relationship with Neil during his tenure with Senator Reid. We collaborated to do what is best for the people of Nevada on a variety of public lands issues, including renewable energy development, mining, water, outdoor recreation, rural development, and wildlife.
Our working relationship has continued during his tenure at the BLM.
Neil understands the importance of working together, and has displayed maturity and wisdom beyond his years, which he will need as he officially takes the helm of the Bureau of Land Management.
While I have not always agreed with him on policy, he has proven to be a good partner on public land management issues.
His pragmatic nature and his background provide him with a fresh perspective as the head of the BLM, which allows him to think outside the box to find ways to maximize resources and produce good outcomes.
These attributes will be especially important as we wade into many difficult issues such as wildfire, resource development and conservation, and especially management decisions impacting sage grouse and their habitat.
As it relates to sage grouse, it bears mentioning that an ESA listing for the bird could have a devastating impact on Nevada’s fragile economy statewide.
Given this, it is imperative that Nevada have the cooperation of the BLM Director, as well as the other relevant federal agencies.
Neil has committed to me that we will continue to work together on this issue and I am depending on that commitment, as I know my fellow Nevadans are.
The stakes are too high and we have a lot of work to do.I am confident that if confirmed by the Senate, Neil will continue to successfully manage the BLM and bring a much-needed fresh perspective to an agency facing many challenges that directly impact Nevada and many of my colleagues on this committee.