Working uphill: Wyoming delegation unifies on legislation in D.C.
Casper – U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis says the current Congress has been a very challenging body in which to serve, where neither the Speaker of the House nor the Majority Leaders acknowledge the Republican Party.
“A lot of what’s happened in Congress on the House side over the last 18 months involves bills drafted in the Speaker’s office that skip the committee process and rules committee and go to the floor as bills that no one has read and that no one has had the opportunity to amend,” says Lummis.
“I think America’s people have had enough of that, and are ready for Congress to resume what is the normal order of process. I’ll be encouraged when January roles around and the American people have had the chance to weigh in with their opinions in November on the manner in which Congress is currently conducting its business,” she continues.
On the House Ag Committee meeting Lummis hosted in Cheyenne in early May, U.S. Senator Mike Enzi says, “One thing we try to do is get people from the East to come to the West to see what Wyoming’s like. They’re usually astounded at how rural we are, and anytime we can do that, it really helps.”
“We get 50 percent more done by working together, and most of the other delegations don’t do that,” says Enzi of how he and Lummis, together with U.S. Senator John Barrasso, cooperate in Washington, D.C. “Of course, we are the only entirely Republican delegation,” he adds.
“We are the most conservative delegation in the Congress of the United States, and Mike Enzi is our leader,” says Lummis. “He regularly convenes our delegation at a little restaurant in Washington a block away from the Capitol Building. In addition, our staffs meet regularly about issues affecting our state.”
“A number of things happened this year,” notes Enzi. “The largest spending bill in the history of the United States was passed. We’re a little disappointed with the $797 billion.”
“We went from that to health care reform,” he continues. “I know from letters, phone calls and emails that you’re not pleased with it, and that’s because you understand it. While we were working on the legislation a company sent some letters about it to people in Florida, and they were chastised for letting people know what was in the bill.”
In addition, Enzi adds in early June the federal government mailed out, at taxpayer expense, misinformation intended to explain the health care bill.
“A lot of us had plans that met all the President’s goals but didn’t run up the debt, but we’re operating under Chicago-style politics right now,” says Enzi. “We’re given a bill, told to take it or leave it, or tweak on it a little bit if that means we’ll vote for it. Most of these are comprehensive bills that are way too big to take in, and I think that’s intentional.”
From health care Enzi says Congress moved to financial regulation. “You should all be concerned about that,” he says. “Nobody knows what’s in that bill, because there isn’t much in the consumer protection section of the bill. They form a whole new bureau under the Federal Reserve, but they get no jurisdiction. That’s not the worst part. The worst is that every bank has to keep your financial records for three years and submit them regularly to this new consumer protection bureau. They get to write their own rules, do their own enforcement, and there’s nothing that says exactly what they’ll do. I put in an amendment that would require some privacy and require them to get your permission to look at your records.”
On matters specific to the West, Lummis says she has sponsored a bill that would set up pilot projects for bark beetle timberfall mitigation in each National Forest in the Western states. The projects would begin to address the 100,000 trees falling every day in Western forests because of the insect.
“The Forest Service will take the protection of national parks into consideration when deciding where to place the pilot projects, and the bark beetle is migrating from the north end of the Bridger Teton National Forest toward Yellowstone National Park, so I hope the Bridger Teton would be among those considered,” she notes, adding that the Medicine Bow also has a good chance for projects.
“The pilot project areas would give the Forest Service more flexibility to attempt some methods that might mitigate the spread of the beetles, or at least begin to harvest some down timber in ways that could prevent catastrophic fires,” says Lummis.
Addressing the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), Lummis says it’s garnered considerable attention in Washington, D.C. in recent months. “That law has been hijacked by groups that file briefs in opposition to all kinds of grazing lease renewals and other regular activities that occur on BLM and National Forest lands,” she says. “Consequently, some environmental groups have turned into litigation shops funded by the federal government, while ranchers, who have to defend the federal agency’s issuance or renewal of a grazing lease, have to spend money to defend the agency in addition to paying taxes to pay the environmental groups that the federal government reimburses.”
A bill introduced by Lummis would create a database of all payments made and would allow for the determination of whether abuses have occurred, and what to do about them after the situation has been adequately documented.
“The information would be available on a database available for review on what environmental groups are pursuing these courses of action in a regular manner, rather than as the law was intended, which was for individuals and small businesses to seek redress and do so in a manner that allows them to recover fees and costs,” said Lummis, cautioning against throwing the baby out with the bathwater. “We do want to ferret out the abuse that seems to be hijacked in the area of natural resources.”