One week ago today, Nevada Senator John Ensign (R) resigned from office following a well-publicized sex scandal and subsequent ethics investigation. He gave his final speech on the Senate floor to a mostly empty chamber. Today his successor, Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV), took the oath of office.
Heller was appointed by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) in a seemingly political move designed to give Heller the advantage of incumbency in upcoming primary and general elections for the Senate seat. Sandoval thwarted Democratic efforts to make the process of replacing Ensign more transparent and has thrown the state into chaos as Nevada prepares to hold its first ever special election to fill Heller’s seat in the 2nd congressional district.
In most respects, Heller is a cookie-cutter conservative. A side-by-side comparison of Heller and Ensign’s records reveals that both men scored as more conservative than three-fourths of the House and Senate, respectively. However, in some ways Heller may be even more extreme than his predecessor, especially since he has tried to appease members of the Tea Party in the past year. A review of some of Heller’s eyebrow-raising moments:
– Heller recently said he was “proud to be the only member of Congress who will get to vote” against Medicaid twice — once in the House and again in the Senate.
— Heller was among the 130 Republicans who wanted to end birthright citizenship.
— He once claimed unemployment benefits are creating “hobos.”
— In 2004, he said “John Kerry changes his position more often than a Nevada prostitute.”
— In 2007, Heller voted against the SCHIP bill, denying health care coverage to 4 million children.
— In contrast to Ensign, Heller voted to uphold “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to continue barring gays from serving in the military.
— Heller voted against the Troubled Asset Relief Program of 2008, while Ensign voted for it.
It’s an exaggeration to say, as one publication did, that Heller makes “Ensign look like Dennis Kucinich,” but it’s clear that the ultraconservative certainly won’t be a moderating influence on the Senate.
Only two days after taking office, Heller is already scheduled to have a fundraiser with corporate lobbyists. According to the invitation obtained by Sunlight Foundation, the event on May 11 will be hosted by Boeing PAC and AFIT PAC, among other corporate affiliates, and will charge up to $5,000 per attendee.