Wyoming Lawmakers Wary of the President’s New Agenda

Feb 15, 2013

President Obama laid out a sweeping agenda in his State of the Union address that would have a big impact on Wyoming if enacted. Matt Laslo caught up with Wyoming lawmakers in Washington and reports on their reactions to the controversial plan.

MATT LASLO: State of the Union addresses are kind of like that list you wrote to Santa as a youngster: you knew you weren't going to get everything on it,but it never hurt to ask. The same is true with President Obama's speech on Tuesday. He's asking for an increase in the minimum wage, preschool for all, overhauling the U-S immigration system and a host of other items. To get any of that passed the president knows he’ll need help from Republicans like those in the Wyoming delegation.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  “The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interest before party.”

LASLO: Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis says she enjoyed attending the president's annual address.

CYNTHIA LUMMIS: “As speeches go it was a good speech with President Obama’s classic delivery, which is fun to listen to.”

LASLO: Lummis supports the president's plan to end the Afghanistan war next year.  But beyond that... she says it was quite an audacious wish list.

LUMMIS2 “It was lah-lah land.”

LASLO: Lummis says on the surface she likes some of the president's ideas, such as his call for setting up new technological and energy hubs to help spur U-S manufacturing.

LUMMIS4 :“So when he talks about new technologies I get excited, especially as the chairman of the energy subcommittee on the Science and Technology and Space Committee. That makes me very excited.”

LASLO: But Lummis says the devil is in the details.

LUMMIS3 “But I fear the that the type of technology he’s talking about is government subsidized wind and solar.”

LASLO: Lummis points to Solyndra - a solar company that was propped up with half a billion dollars in government loans that went bankrupt.

LUMMIS5 “That is not what we should be doing. We should make sure that we’re using technologies that are ready for primetime. And that make energy affordable as well as abundant.”

LASLO: Besides energy the president also called on Congress to pass his jobs act. It includes funding for transportation, first responders and educators in Wyoming. And the president says he wants to pay for it with modest reforms to Medicare and closing tax loopholes.

OBAMA2 “Nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It is not a bigger government we need but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad based growth.”

LASLO: Wyoming Senator John Barrasso brushes aside the president's claim that his proposal is deficit neutral.

JOHN BARRASSO1 “Well, it was a laundry list of additional ways that the President wants to spend money, money that we don’t have.”

LASLO: Democrats see it differently. Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal says the nation needs investments in areas like jobs training in order for the economy to roar back to what it once was.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL1: “Central to this speech, which made the economy the centerpiece, was the idea of bringing back manufacturing. Manufacturing and make it in America…are really what is central to our economic recovery and growing jobs and growing the middle class, and that’s why this speech was so important in invoking that new spirit.”

LASLO: But Barrasso says the president and his party aren’t taking the nation’s sixteen trillion dollar debt seriously.

BARRASSO5 “The American people aren’t going to be fooled a second time. He said with the health care law it wouldn’t add a single time to the deficit and we know that it’s way, much more expensive than anything that was told and I think the same thing is happening here.”

LASLO: Barrasso says he’s now waiting to read the fine print from the president.

BARRASSO6 “I’m still interested in seeing his budget. How much are each of these things going to cost and how does he expect to pay for it? The deadline for submitting the budget has passed and he hasn’t done it yet.”

LASLO:   Before the president can move on to his jobs agenda he’ll have to work with Republicans on a fiscal deal …or else billions of dollars will be indiscriminately slashed from the budget in March.
For Wyoming Public Radio, I'm Matt Laslo in Washington.