Senior Newsman Reveals:
Harry Reid Destroys Nevada Bill
To Prevent Applause for Ensign

Nevada senator Harry Reid last month blocked legislation sponsored by fellow Democrat Dick Bryan to help Southern Nevada, rather than let potential 1998 GOP challenger Rep. John Ensign collect a share of the positive press.  
Writing in the October 4 edition of his copyrighted newsletter, The Ralston Report, veteran Nevada newsman Jon Ralston revealed that Reid -- maneuvering behind the scenes in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources -- had killed legislation jointly introduced early this year by Democrat Bryan and Republican Ensign.
The bill, titled "The Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act of 1996," would have authorized the sale of 20,000 acres of federal land in southern Nevada, then used the millions of dollars of proceeds to support water infrastructure there. The Nevada state education fund would also have been allocated five percent of the land-sale revenues.
"There are those who accuse Reid of outrageous conduct, sacrificing a meritorious measure and squandering countless hours spent forging an amazing coalition, simply to try to preserve his own political health," wrote Ralston.
"But there are others who figure the bill can pass next year and admire the senior senator's Machiavellian technique."
"He doesn't in any form or fashion want Ensign to have this, win," Ralston quoted one insider, who reportedly knows Reid well, as saying. "It boils down very simply to 'why give a guy who can be knocked off in this election another bullet in his armory?'"
Bryan and Ensign had appeared with Clark County commissioners January 19 to announce they would each introduce, in their respective houses of the U.S. Congress, the same legislation -- based on work done by a task force created by Ensign's predecessor, Rep. Jim Bilbray.
"It was a classic symbiosis," wrote Ralston. "Bryan knew what a tremendous issue he had latched onto, but he also knew in a GOP Congress he would need some Republican assistance. Ensign was only too glad to help, realizing, as one observer put it, 'this would be a huge issue, a huge positive.'"
But "as soon as Ensign was on," said one insider, 'Harry was off."
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"Smoking gun" evidence of Reid's central role in the death of the bill, said Ralston, was a September 26 letter from Alaska senator Frank H. Murkowski, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman, to Rep. Don Young, chairman of the House Resources Committee.
A fax of that letter was included in the Oct 4 Ralston Report as a graphic illustration.
"I am writing to inform you," wrote Murkowski to Young, "that I am unable to include H.R. 3127, the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act of 1996, into [sic] the Presidio conference report due to opposition from Nevada's senior Senator.
"I was informed by my staff that Reid's staff had stated that he intends to utilize all procedural obstacles at his disposal to defeat this legislation. As you know, Senate rules provide the ability of one Senator to object to legislation, which could ultimately result in its defeat. Therefore, at this time I do not feel that I can include this language and jeopardize the passage of the conference report.
"It is unfortunate because this appeared to be a sound bill that provided remedies to many problems afflicting the land exchange process. I look forward to working with you in the future on this and other measures before our committees..."
Ralston quoted his sources as saying Reid's longtime colleague, Bryan, had personally pleaded with the senior senator to put aside personal politics and let the bill -- which had Bryan's name on it -- go.
"Water district officials ... can't be happy," wrote Ralston, "having lost $16 million in rights-of-way they hoped to acquire.
"And state officials can't be happy, either, considering the revenue they lost that was destined for the state's coffers."
Subscriptions to The Ralston Report -- now in its fourth year -- are $500 annually for individuals and $1,000 a year for corporations.

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