Sen. Mike Enzi

Sen. Mike Enzi applauds a speaker during an August 2013 tea party rally in Emblem.

File, Star-Tribune

Senate dysfunction has stomped an annual recognition of American cowboys backed by U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming.

Despite bipartisan support, a resolution designating July 22 as the National Day of the American Cowboy failed — for the first time since 2005, according to Enzi’s office.

The resolution is normally passed through the Senate’s unanimous consent procedure, whereby noncontroversial items like post office names are automatically approved. But because Democrats are forcing debate and roll call votes on every item brought to the floor, the resolution died.

“Unanimous consents aren’t getting passed right now,” said Enzi spokesman Max D’Onofrio.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said last week that Democrats were obstructing standard Senate procedure in order to oppose GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Enzi has been closely involved with crafting the Republican health care legislation. When Enzi’s official Facebook page posted an image commemorating National Day of the American Cowboy, several people used it as an opportunity to attack his health care policies.

“(M)any of these poor cowboys will soon be without health (insurance),” Julie Renneisen wrote. “(B)eing bucked off a horse can be expensive, so what will they do?? they won’t be able to come to you for help.”

While the Republican health care legislation is currently stalled, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that tens of millions of people would lose health insurance under the bills that have been proposed. But advocates of replacing the ACA, also known as Obamacare, argue that doing so is necessary because of rising costs and to increase options for patients.

D’Onofrio said that resolutions like the declaration of Cowboy Day do not detract from that work.

“These resolutions aren’t necessarily a time-consuming process, so it doesn’t impact his ability to do any of the important other things he’s working on,” he said.

And, D’Onofrio added, “The cowboy image is something people in Wyoming care about.”

That the late U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyoming, began the Cowboy Day tradition two years before he died in office made the resolution especially meaningful, D’Onofrio said.

Enzi began introducing the resolution the year after Thomas’ death from cancer and said in a floor speech at the time that the longtime Wyoming politician had embodied the cowboy spirit.

“As he went through his leukemia treatments and still worked, he showed us what it was to cowboy up, to focus around pain and to do the job at hand,” Enzi said.

Thomas himself had noted that he sought to recognize the cowboy ethos as more than the literal cow wrangler.

“Trying to define a cowboy is like trying to catch the wind, but you can certainly recognize one when you see one,” Enzi said, quoting Thomas.

The resolution’s co-sponsors this year all hailed from states where cowboys are still part of daily life, including the Dakotas, Idaho and Montana. Six of the 14 co-sponsors were Democrats.

Enzi, however, was unable to rope the support necessary for the resolution to pass. D’Onofrio said that despite the current impasse on unanimous action, staff had worked to pass the bill and that Enzi thought it might break through the partisan split.

“Always hopeful — Sen. Enzi is an ultimate optimist,” D’Onofrio said.

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Star-Tribune reporter Arno Rosenfeld covers local government, with a focus on Casper and Natrona County.

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