Nevada newspapers and the Associated Press are reporting that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Friday that he brokered a deal in which the White House promised to back away from trying to tap into millions of dollars from sales of public land in southern Nevada, in exchange for Democratic support for former Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s confirmation as the new Secretary of the Interior.
It turns out that a 1998 law, the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, called for auctioning off Bureau of Land Management land in Clark County, Nev. and spending the money inside Nevada. According to the news reports, those proceeds, some $2.7 billion thus far, have gone to parks, trails, conservation improvements and water and education funds in Nevada. The Bush Administration had proposed shifting 70 percent of the profits back to the U.S. Treasury for deficit reduction.
The AP report quoted Reid saying, “I said before that I couldn’t support Gov. Kempthorne’s nomination unless we could come to an agreement about key public land issues. I’m happy to say that we have. … The White House has agreed to honor the purpose of the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, and will not try to divert any funding away from the state of Nevada for the duration of this administration.” He added, “Senator (John) Ensign and I have worked together in recent years to defeat multiple proposals that would have stolen Nevada’s money. I’m pleased that these battles are now over.”
Kempthorne’s confirmation was approved on a voice vote in the U.S. Senate on Friday morning, after a procedural vote to end debate passed, 85-8. The eight senators voting no on the procedural question were Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Biden of Delaware, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Tom Harkin of Iowa, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Charles Schumer of New York.