Nevada congressional delegation protests GOP nuclear waste bill ceremony

WASHINGTON - Nevada's three congressional Democrats Tuesday protested the GOP's "dog and pony show" celebrating passage of the nuclear waste bill.

The bill would clear the way to make Nevada accept the nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi held an "enrollment" ceremony to publicly sign the bill before sending it to President Clinton.

Sens. Richard Bryan and Harry Reid and Rep. Shelly Berkley say those ceremonies are normally reserved for congressional leadership to show strong and unwavering endorsement of legislation - not for a bill President Clinton has promised to veto.

"This kind of high profile ceremony to sign an already dead nuclear waste bill is nothing but a slap in the face to every Nevadan," Bryan said.

"If the Republican leadership showed as much concern about health care, education and the environment as they do about dumping nuclear waste in Nevada, the country would be a lot better off."

Reid's response was similar, saying the bill speeds up the process of putting nuclear waste in Nevada and short-circuits safety standards at Yucca Mountain.

"If the Republican leadership wants to pat themselves on the back for putting millions of Americans at risk and in the path of nuclear waste, let them go right ahead," he said.

Berkley said the ceremony tells Republicans that Hastert "thinks a nuclear dump in Nevada is his top issue and that every member in his party had better support him."

"With the current majority leadership in Congress clearly bent on victimizing Nevada, we are fortunate that the president will stop the radioactive buck at his desk by vetoing the bill," she said.

Nevada's delegation has enough votes in both the Senate and House this year to block any attempt to override Clinton's promised veto. They said the bill is going nowhere despite the elaborate ceremony.

Also among the critics was Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ed Bernstein.

"This public celebration by Republicans is an absolute outrage and an insult to the citizens of Nevada," said Bernstein, a Las Vegas lawyer.

"It is bad enough that Republicans are determined to dump their garbage in Nevada, but now they are throwing a party to celebrate," he said.

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