Cortez Masto unsure of mining royalty in Democrats’ $3.5 trillion social spending bill

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Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) pushed back on a House proposal to include a new hard rock mining royalty in the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion social spending package. 

In a brief interview, she said that she was still reviewing the House version of the so-called Build Back Better Act, including the tax, environmental and mining proposals. She will help draft the Senate tax and mining policy sections of the Senate version as a member of the Finance Committee and Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

When asked about the proposed royalty included by the House Natural Resources Committee in its part of the $3.5 trillion package, Cortez Masto said she does not oppose the idea, but that the industry and other “stakeholders” should be allowed to weigh in.

“I have talked to Senator Manchin about this.” Cortez Masto said, adding that Manchin is open to adding a royalty under the General Mining Act of 1872, which currently applies no royalty to mines on federal lands.

“I think it is fair to, if we were going to open the door to royalties and the mining act—which I know Senator Manchin wants to do, and I'm not opposed to—that we should have a hearing on it. And so that's what I've asked Senator Manchin” to do, she continued. 

“Let's just be transparent, be fair, and have a hearing in committee on it and bring all the stakeholders so we can hear from everyone and not do something like this, that there's no input from all the key stakeholders,” she said.

Nevada Mining Association President Tyre Gray said recently he does not support the royalty. 

The House panel included the mining royalty as a way to offset the cost of the bill. The royalty on hard rock mining could raise around $2 billion over 10 years, according to the House Committee.  

The House bill would also establish a hard rock mineral reclamation fee, raising around $200 million over 10 years.

Her comments came as the House Ways and Means Committee finished its part of the $3.5 trillion measure. But the House held no roll call votes as it wrapped up its recess. The lower chamber will be back next week. 

The Senate was back from its recess and confirmed three of President Joe Biden's nominees, including James Kvaal, undersecretary of education. Both Cortez Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) voted for Kvaal, whose nomination was approved 58 to 37.

A former official in President Barack Obama’s administration, Kvaal saw his nomination held up by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) over her push to crackdown on student loan servicers. She then signaled her support for Kvaal last month after talks with the Department of Education. 

Still deciding

Cortez Masto stressed that she hasn’t decided on the specifics of either the House or Senate bills. 

“So this is my challenge,” Cortez Masto said. “There's so much out there and so I'm trying to make sure I understand everybody's proposals, including the” White House’s. She added that she would judge the provisions of the package on whether they help Nevada. 

“Here's what I know, at the end of the day...does what we do benefit our state?” she said. 

Cortez Masto said that the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax, Medicare and Medicaid policy, is exploring how it plans to offset the package costs and whether they will follow the House or use other revenue-raising provisions. 

“I think it should be paid for,” she said when asked about the package, but she declined to say that the cost would need to be entirely offset in order to win her vote. 

She stressed that the package was far from done and that it remained to be seen what could pass the Senate—especially as Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have said they would not support a $3.5 trillion measure. 

It's unlikely that a hearing could be held before the reconciliation package reaches the House and Senate floors. But it will be up to Manchin to decide whether to include the mining revenue raiser in the resources committee’s section of the reconciliation bill. If not, the royalty provision will need to be worked out between the House and Senate since both chambers need to pass identical bills.

The negotiation will be delicate. Democrats are using reconciliation, a budget process that allows spending and tax legislation to pass on a simple majority rather than needing 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. But with the Senate split between the parties 50 to 50, every vote will be needed to pass the package. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) can only lose three votes in the House if all Republicans oppose the package, as expected.

Timing on when the House and Senate vote on the package will be determined by when Democratic leaders line up the votes to pass it. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that he expects a vote before the end of September. 

House tax plan

Individuals earning more than $400,000 a year would pay a 39.6 percent tax rate and those making more than $5 million would be subject to a 3 percent surcharge under the tax portion of the $3.5 trillion social spending package approved by the Ways and Means Committee this week.

The new top individual tax rate, the new surcharge, raising the corporate tax rate to 26.5 percent for companies with more than $5 million in revenue and other revenue-raising provisions would offset about $2.2 trillion of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), a Ways and Means Committee member, underscored the spending in the bill that he argued would help middle-class taxpayers in the state, including two housing-related tax credits.

“It is no secret that our nation is facing a housing crisis, and we must expand tax credits that increases affordable housing for individuals of every race and income level and prevents homelessness and evictions,” Horsford said during the panel’s bill drafting session.

Nevada has a shortage of affordable housing. The state had a deficit of about 79,620 affordable units available to extremely low-income renters — people earning 30 percent or less of area median income — the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association said earlier this year.

The bill eased limits on the low-Income housing tax credit (LIHTC). The LIHTC is the primary federal program for encouraging private investment in the development of affordable rental housing for low-income households.

The measure also created a new credit, the neighborhood homes tax credit, to encourage private-sector investment to rehabilitate deteriorated single-family homes in distressed neighborhoods.

Horsford said the credits were “critical for my constituents in Nevada, as we continue to close the development gaps in low-income and multifamily rental housing communities.”

During the debate, Horsford also tangled with Republicans on amendments that failed to attach a means test to the enhanced child tax credit, extended through 2025 under the bill. He also spoke out against an amendment to strike language to allow union members to deduct dues from their federal taxes.

On the union dues proposal, Horsford said that the bill, as written, gives workers the same tax treatment as that of management, which is permitted to "deduct management and legal costs such as those involved in resisting unionization campaigns and negotiating with unions." 

House transportation

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved its $60 billion reconciliation measure on Wednesday. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV),  a panel member, voted in favor of the measure. 

Titus, in a release, called the reconciliation package “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” which will “spur economic development, address the escalating climate crisis, and provide a sustainable long-term recovery for working families.” 

The bill included $10 billion for a grant program to improve access to affordable housing and enhance the mobility of residents in low-income communities, $9.5 billion for economic development in distressed communities and $6 billion to advance local surface transportation projects.

Much of the Democrats' transportation-related priorities are included in the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. The Senate approved the measure last month and the House could take it up as soon as next week.

Titus also voted to approve the House Homeland Security Committees portion of the package, which consisted of $865 million in for cybersecurity enhancements. 


Cortez Masto and Rosen signed on to a letter with six other Democrats from western states to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging them to raise the pay for federal wildland firefighters. 

“The disparity in pay between federal and non-federal wildland firefighters has led to a shortage of federal firefighting personnel and limits our nation’s ability to respond to these increasingly devastating natural disasters,” the letter said.

The Senate's $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill provided $600 million to raise pay for federal wildland firefighters. The letter said that the senators want the agencies to be ready to implement the measure once it becomes law.

The letter comes as the western part of the country has suffered from drought and wildfires.

Rep. Susie Lee failed to report personal stock trades on time, according to The Insider. 

“Across seven certified reports to the US House between February 2020 and May, Lee did not disclose many of her trades until several days after deadlines mandated by the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012, also known as the STOCK Act,” the news website said.

“She also disclosed a few trades a couple of weeks or more late.” 

Lee's office told the website that the trades were made by a third-party money manager, which can take time to report transactions, and Lee also said she had no input on the trades herself. 

Under the STOCK Act, government officials must report financial transactions totaling more than $1,000 no later than 30 days after receiving notification of the transaction and no later than 45 after the transaction date. Violations are subject to a $200 fine.


Legislation sponsored:

S.2748 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify the rules for postponing certain deadlines by reason of disaster.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.2754 – A bill to provide funding for the deployment of Next Generation 9-1-1, and for other purposes.

S.2752 – A bill to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to protect civil rights and otherwise prevent meaningful harm to third parties, and for other purposes.

S.2726 – Public Transportation Expansion Act


Legislation co-sponsored:

S.2756 – A bill to posthumously award a Congressional Gold Medal, in commemoration of the service members who perished as a result of the attack in Afghanistan on August 26, 2021, during the evacuation of citizens of the United States and Afghan allies at Hamid Karzai International Airport, and for other purposes.

S.2752 – A bill to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to protect civil rights and otherwise prevent meaningful harm to third parties, and for other purposes.


Legislation sponsored:

H.R.5243 – To modernize the Fallon Range Training Complex in Churchill County, Nevada, through the withdrawal and reservation of additional public lands for military use, to provide for transfer of ownership of certain Federal lands in northern Nevada, to authorize the disposal of certain Federal lands in northern Nevada for economic development, to promote conservation in northern Nevada, and for other purposes.