By Mark Waite
The Republican Party needs to get back to stressing populist themes like low taxes, less government and support for the Second Amendment to win elections, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said at the Pahrump Republican Women’s Club Lincoln Day Dinner Friday.
“I want to thank Nye County for your help and support in this last campaign. If it wasn’t for rural Nevada, I wouldn’t be standing up in front of you today,” Heller said.
The senator said he won Nye County by 25 points. It was a very nasty campaign against former U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev. for Heller’s first, full six-year term.
But Heller was a success story among a mixed bag of Republicans running in the November 2012 election, including the election of Democrat Steve Horsford over Republican Danny Tarkanian for the new congressional District 4 seat and President Obama’s victory in Nevada. Nationwide, Republicans held onto their majority in the House of Representatives but Democrats still control the Senate and the White House.
“The purpose of the majority is to govern. The purpose of the minority is to become the majority. That’s the purpose of the minority. We have to have the right message so that we can become the majority. The last time that happened was in 1994 with the Contract With America. We need to have a populist theme,” Heller said.
“Low taxes is a great populist theme. Less government is a great populist theme. Supporting the Second Amendment is a great populist theme. The American people need to know where the Republican Party is coming from and I will continue to fight for these populist themes because that is what’s going to put us in the majority,” he said.
The Republicans have been portrayed by Democrats as anti-women, anti-immigration and anti-student, Heller said.
His comments indicated the fighting mood in Congress between the two parties. Heller began his speech with a humorous comparison of how Congress falls well behind brussel sprouts, lice, colonoscopies, root canals, even National Football League replacement referees in a popularity poll, because they’re not working together to solve the country’s problems.
Heller said the political class and the media incorrectly predicted his bill to withhold pay from Congress until they passed a budget would be unconstitutional and would never pass. But he said the 27th Amendment only prevents Congress from enriching themselves, not taking away their own pay.
House leadership called him up and said they wanted to steal his “no budget, no pay” idea, Heller said. It was an attempt to get Congress to pass its first budget in four years, he said.
“If Congress isn’t going to do their job, and passing a budget is their job, they shouldn’t be paid. I think most people agree with that concept,” Heller said to applause. “If you don’t work, you shouldn’t be paid.”
“Go back to your district with your pay cut and see if anybody complains about it,” he said. “They would be very upset of course if they enrich themselves.”
Heller said the no-budget, no-pay legislation he proposed a year and a half ago was the first piece of legislation signed by President Obama this year. There were a few differences however.
Heller said withdrawing pay will only be for one year, though he wanted to make it permanent. The bill set up a trust fund so if a budget passes Congress will get paid, against Heller’s original wishes. The pay reimbursement will be retroactive when the budget passes, there was no such provision in Heller’s original bill.
Heller gave a brief speech, then opened it up for questions which were predominantly about gun control. He probably was correct in stating the problem for Washington, D.C. is everybody in the banquet room at the Pahrump Nugget Hotel and Casino has read the Second Amendment, nobody has to be told by politicians what it means.
“If only guns are on the table, then it’s a political discussion, if we’re not talking about mental health and we’re not bringing Hollywood to the table and talking about the violence we’re seeing in theaters and movies and video games. I’m talking about all these other issues, bring them all to the table, including background checks. Then we’re going to have a real discussion,” Heller said.
“I do not anticipate you’ll see specific gun restrictions on any particular type of gun itself. I would be surprised if we take magazines and reduce the capability of them, but I think we will have a discussion over background checks,” he said.
Nye County Republican Party Central Committee Chairman Bill Cairns said there’s absolutely no provision in the Second Amendment requiring background checks on every single, private gun sale, he said that’s a back door to registration.
“We live in a land of reality and the reality is this: 90 percent of America wants background checks,” Heller replied.
In a concession to the gun rights advocates, Heller said he hasn’t released the nomination of Judge Elissa Cadish to the federal bench in Las Vegas because she said in her statement she doesn’t believe the Second Amendment guarantees a person a right to bear arms.
Another member of the audience objected to gun-free zones. Heller said he respects the rights of local governments to make their own rules and regulations.
The problem isn’t an AR-15 weapon that was used to gun down the 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Heller said. The problem is criminals with guns.
One audience member complained about the bureaucratic regulations piling up.
“All this new regulation you’re talking about came about because of two pieces of legislation: Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. Those are the two pieces of legislation that would’ve been repealed had Gov. Romney become president of the United States,” Heller said.
Obamacare is President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank Bill enacted more regulations on the banking industry following the financial collapse in 2008.
Heller charged Nevada has less than half the community banks and savings and loans it had before, because of new regulations.
Heller said he’s for all of the above when it comes to energy: oil, coal, wind, solar, geothermal and ethanol.
“We do not have an energy plan and the results of not having an energy plan in this country is right now gasoline prices are at their highest point at this time of year than at any time in history. Gasoline prices have gone up 25, 30 cents per gallon in the last couple weeks,” Heller said.
The U.S. needs to allow the building of the Keystone pipeline for one, he said.
“We can be energy independent in this country if we make Washington decide it’s more important that energy come from North America than from the Middle East,” Heller said.
The senator said true tax reform is needed.
“You can’t expect America to be competitive if we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world and keep in mind if you have money that you produced outside, offshore, and you bring it into America, you get taxed at 35 percent. We are the only industrialized nation that taxes our own capital coming back into the country,” Heller said.