Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Las Vegas, swung through Reno on Monday as part of her “Focus on Jobs” tour of Nevada.
Berkley will challenge Republican Dean Heller for one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats next year, but the verbal jabs are flying as if the election were tomorrow.
Berkley met with senior citizens at the Grand Sierra Resort, telling them that job creation was her No. 1 priority.
“It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up, and it’s the last thing I think about before I go to bed,” Berkeley said later during a news conference with local reporters.
But with so much at stake in the next election, it is evident that entitlement spending will also dominate much of the debate.
“Unfortunately, instead of focusing on job creation, my opponent is voting to kill Medicare by putting the health care of Nevada seniors into the hands of profit-first private insurance companies,” Berkley said.
Heller’s campaign immediately fired back.
“The ludicrous accusation that Sen. Heller would end Medicare is a lie, plain and simple,” Stewart Bybee, Heller’s communications director, said in an email. “The truth is Congresswoman Berkley cut half a trillion dollars out of Medicare and is now hoping this cut will go unnoticed.”
As part of her jobs platform, Berkley said she supports renewing loan guarantees for renewable energy development that are set to expire next month. She charged that Heller was against such a proposal.
The loan guarantees are supported by federal stimulus dollars that are set to expire.
“Sen. Heller supports renewable energy development,” Bybee said. “What he does not support is a trillion dollars in borrowed stimulus money that has lost tens of thousands of jobs in Nevada.”
Berkley also said she wants to end subsidies for oil companies and generate new revenues through tax reform.
But accomplishing either likely requires a bipartisan effort that has yet to surface in Congress.
“The American people are expecting us to (work together),” Berkley said.
Compromise might be the appropriate word here, but Berkley made it clear that while she supports some spending cuts in order to help reign in the federal debt, she is not willing to offer up Medicare as a sacrificial lamb.
“Nevada needs the kind of senator that has the right priorities, such as … not slashing Medicare benefits to pay for more taxpayer giveaways to big oil companies already making record profits,” Berkley said.
In response, Heller’s campaign signaled the kind of heated rhetoric that voters can expect to hear more of as Election Day 2012 nears.
“Congresswoman Berkley has voted for every liberal, job-killing, big government program for 13 years,” Mike Slanker, a consultant for the Heller campaign, said in an email. “Bail outs, failed stimulus, Obamacare, record unemployment, job-killing debt – now running for U.S. Senate she says she’s fighting for jobs? Priceless.”