Wyoming's Delegation reacts to the President

Jan 25, 2013

Wyoming’s congressional delegation isn’t happy with what they heard in President Obama’s second inaugural address. Matt Laslo reports from Washington the state’s three Republicans in Congress are already preparing to blunt what’s being both hailed and decried as a liberal second term agenda.

REP. CYNTHIA LUMMIS: I was very surprised by his tone. He was addressing issues that he has not raised as emphatically in the past. It was non-conciliatory in its tone. It was, I thought, an abrasive, in your face, ideological message.

LASLO: The president’s call for combating global warming shocked many people, especially those from energy producing states like Wyoming. Mr. Obama used his second inaugural address to call for drastically curbing carbon emissions. Lummis says that’s going to cripple the president’s relationship with Republicans...

LUMMIS: Areas of such contention and disagreement that it was totally antagonistic to a working relationship on energy issues and environmental issues more specifically related to clean air, clean water, clean land.

LASLO: Lummis and other Republicans, who control the House, are focused on expanding oil and gas drilling and ending some renewable energy tax breaks. That’s why the chair of the Senate environment committee, Barbara Boxer of California, wants the president to bypass Congress altogether and use the power of the Environmental Protection Agency.

SEN. BARBARA BOXERL EPA has control over probably about more than 70% of the problem. Electrical sources are responsible for a good portion, industrial sources and transportation.

LASLO: Lummis says bypassing Congress will just lead to more anger…along with protracted court battles. She says it’d be better if the administration sought to find a middle ground with Congress.

LUMMIS: The EPA has been slapped down by the courts for exceeding their authority. If the president’s tone is going to play out at the regularity level, I’m convinced that we’re going to see a lot more lawsuits where the courts are going to have to reign in the EPA.

LASLO: Wyoming’s senators were also stunned by the president’s inaugural message, specifically by what they didn’t hear on Monday. John Barrasso’s says something important was missing.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: The president mentioned neither the word spending nor debt in spite of the fact that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the greatest threat to our national security was our debt.

LASLO: Barrasso says the address drew a stark line in the sand.

BARRASSO: So Democrats in the Senate are now going to have to make a choice? Do they agree with the president that spending is not a problem or do they agree with their constituents at home who are focused on the fact that they are burdening our children and grandchildren with a mountain of debt, burying them under that mountain of debt.

LASLO: Wyoming’s senior senator, Mike Enzi, says it’s even worse than that.

SEN. MIKE ENZI: We talk about how we’ve mortgaged the future of our grandkids. Actually we’re up to the point where we’re already mortgaging the future of our kids, and we’re about to finish off the seniors.

LASLO: Enzi is sponsoring legislation called ‘No Budget, No Pay.’ The concept is as simple as the name: if there’s no budget lawmakers don’t get paid. Last year the entire Senate rejected the president’s budget and Senate Democrats didn’t even release their own. Enzi says it’s time for leadership on fiscal issues.  

ENZI: We talk about the $16 trillion in debt. Nobody’s talking about the way that that’s increasing, not only a $1 trillion a year, but we’re never decreasing it.”

LASLO: Enzi says he’s already dubious about what he’s hearing from the president.

ENZI: Now he’s said that he’s not going to meet his legal deadline for submitting a budget.

LASLO: Enzi says when that budget does comes out he’ll be looking to see if the president is honest with the American people about how expensive his agenda really is.

All told, Congresswoman Lummis says she’s not very optimistic about how Washington is going to function in the coming years.  

LUMMIS: So I anticipate a very hostile relationship with the Obama Administration based only on his remarks in his acceptance speech.

LASLO: This week House Republicans extended the nation’s debt ceiling without demanding an equal amount of spending cuts. That gives the two sides some breathing room before the next clash over spending consumes Washington. And if Wyoming’s lawmakers are any indication the next battle promises to be a bloody one.

For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Matt Laslo in Washington.