John Barrasso and Mike Enzi were two of 37 senators voting against a resolution to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen’s civil war — two dissenters in what some have considered a rebuke of a Trump White House that has supported the Saudis despite public outrage over the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
According to the bill text, the resolution denounces the actions of the Saudi military — which the United States has supported financially — in its role in the Yemeni Civil War which, according to the bill text, has involved “the deliberate targeting of civilian populations or the use of civilians as human shields,” among other humanitarian crises.
Both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis argued the case for continued U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen in a closed briefing to members of the Senate earlier this week. They contend American involvement in the region will help reduce Iran’s influence in the region and lower the risk of terrorism in the Arabian peninsula, arguments most of the Senate, as made evident by Wednesday’s vote, weren’t buying.
They were enough for Barrasso however, who in two Fox News interviews last week said that the United States needs to find a proper response to Khashoggi’s murder — which he characterized as “against all of our values” as Americans — without “fracturing the relationship” with Saudi Arabia: a longtime, if uncomfortable geopolitical ally in the region.
“[Saudi Arabia] really is a source of stability as opposed to Iran, which is a source of incredible terror,” Barrasso told Fox News’ Dana Perino, who in a later interview explained his vote by saying the United States needs to maintain the relationship long-term and increase its efforts for a diplomatic solution in the region and that the United States has been working to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.
Enzi, in a written statement to the Star-Tribune, largely concurred.
“While it is appropriate to review U.S. policy regarding the Yemen conflict, the resulting humanitarian crisis and our security partnerships in the region in light of recent events, I believe it was important to consider our national security and diplomatic leaders’ opinions on how this resolution could affect U.S. national security interests in the Middle East,” he said. “I believe the United States, as a symbol of freedom, should address human rights violations, but Secretaries Mattis and Pompeo advised us that it would be difficult to say with any confidence that ending the United States limited involvement in Yemen would allow for a desirable end to the conflict.”
The resolution will now proceed out of the Foreign Relations Committee and go before the full Senate for a vote. According to a news release, the Senate will have an opportunity to debate and potentially amend the resolution before a final vote would occur. An exact date for when that debate would take place is unclear, according to media reports.
Criminal justice reform moves forward: After misfiring on criminal justice reform in 2017, the Wyoming Legislature will be taking up a number of reforms this winter aimed at addressing the state’s rising prison population.
The bills, which largely address “community corrections” efforts to treat offenders in parole and probation, are intended to reduce rates of recidivism among nonviolent offenders, many of whom end up back in prison due to their issues with substance abuse or other parole violations.
Backed by research from the Council of State Governments, the research-based legislation proposes spending more on treatment and less on incarceration. The bills, which would potentially save the state money, have given hope to many lawmakers that this year could be a banner one for criminal justice reform.
Legislators, however, will have plenty to talk about once the bills come across their desks. Eric Wodahl, an associate professor at University of Wyoming’s criminal justice department, agreed that the proposals contained in the bills are evidence-based and that, in regards to criminal justice reform, the state is approaching policy in the right way.
“Looking at investing in treatment options is certainly on-par with what the evidence shows is successful,” he said in an interview last week. “The only way to change behavior long-term is through treatment, but it certainly has to be through reinvestment.”
However, the success of the program, he said, will largely come from the Legislature’s willingness to fund the program at a sufficient level, including considering the difficulties that may come with keeping treatment accountable and effective in a rural state like Wyoming.
“I think we have to be realistic about the resources in the state,” he said. “We’re rural, and don’t have the resources other urban areas have. We have to be realistic about the gaps and the services we can provide.”
But Wodahl said that criminal justice reinvestment can serve as a less-expensive way to change the culture of corrections in Wyoming; a system focused not just on locking people up, but ensuring they don’t get locked up again.
“Treatment can be punishing,” he said. “It’s not easy. Oftentimes it’s more difficult than spending time locked up.”
Wyoming Promise misses signature requirement: Campaign finance reform group Wyoming Promise failed to get enough signatures to get an initiative on the ballot to ban corporations from election spending in Wyoming politics.
However, the group isn’t giving up, according to a press release from Wyoming Promise Chair Ken Chestek. With 25,327 signatures collected across the state, the group feels encouraged that its efforts can gain additional traction in the general session this winter.
“We will be moving our efforts to Cheyenne and the upcoming general session of the Wyoming Legislature, hoping to convince the legislature to enact our proposed bill,” Chestek said in a press release. “Hopefully your representatives will hear all of the voices represented in this impressive stack of paper.”
Eye On Washington
appeared on Fox News earlier this week to oppose legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation of the conduct of President Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election on the grounds he hadn’t seen “any indication of any firing.” The Senate also voted on the confirmation of judicial nominees, many of which came down to close, partisan votes.
penned a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator William Long this week, demanding further investigation into “excessive” overhead costs and contractor markups seen in the disbursement of disaster relief funding for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Rep. Liz Cheney
has been taking her new role as a Republican Party figurehead in stride. This week alone, Cheney commended the president’s decision to withdraw from an arms treaty with Russia and went to bat for President Trump, claiming he was “serious” about pushing for a government shutdown if $5 billion for border security, including funding for construction of a border wall, is not approved by Congress. (Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader, said he would support $1.9 billion in funding, to the disappointment of many in the party.) A bill she had crafted to eliminate three wilderness study areas also advanced out of the House Committee on Natural Resources and will now be up for consideration in the full U.S. House.
The Week Ahead
Wyoming’s Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee meets in Casper. Health Facilities Committee meets in Cheyenne. Gov. Matt Mead holds a press conference on his final budget in office.
Gov. Matt Mead will be visiting the Casper Star-Tribune newsroom from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for a group interview. After, he will be speaking at a Wyoming Stockgrower’s event.
I go on vacation! I’ll be home in New York until Dec. 17. If anything urgent comes up, call the newsroom at 307-266-0500.
The governor will attend the 2018 2-Shot Goose Hunt in Goshen County.
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Wyoming delegation finds itself at center of increasing tensions between US and Russia:
“On Monday, Sen. John Barrasso placed his name on a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations bill, condemning Russia for its actions in the Kerch Strait, joining seven other members of the committee… In Congress, Rep. Liz Cheney — a member of the House Armed Services Committee — joined Sen. Tom Cotton, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, in introducing bills of their own based on recent allegations that Russia had violated a current arms treaty with the United States.” (via Trib.com)
Election leaves major shortage of women in office in Teton County:
“Women captured eight of 23 public offices in Teton County, but most were uncontested or faced other women. None gained seats in the most powerful governing bodies: Teton County Commission, Jackson Town Council and Wyoming Legislature.” (via The Jackson Hole News and Guide)
Legislators show little interest in tackling crossover voting:
“Conservatives in Wyoming have been sounding the alarm on the practice of crossover voting for years. After more than 6,000 Democrats changed their party affiliation to Republican in the months surrounding this year’s primary elections, conservatives are once again sounding the alarm on the trend, arguing that the practice of switching parties in election season undermines the very principle of having a party primary.” (via Trib.com)
County offices could have one-year residency requirement for candidates:
“Wyomingites seeking a county elected position could have new residency requirements in place when they go to sign up for an election.” (via Wyoming Tribune-Eagle)
Wyoming legislative committee moves forward with transparency reforms, though some have reservations:
“Once again, the state Legislature will be taking up public records legislation in the 2019 session.” (via Trib.com)
Supreme Court picks at airport’s records argument:
A Cheyenne attorney says Jackson Hole Airport’s professed exemption from the Wyoming Public Records Act could have broad ramifications, eliminating paper-trail transparency now thought to be required by political subdivisions around the state. (via The Jackson Hole News & Guide)
Wyoming congressional delegation advocates for trona:
“Wyoming’s delegation is pressing the U.S. Trade Representative to stump for Wyoming’s trona ahead of trade negotiations with Japan.” (via Trib.com)
Trial unlikely in UW gun ban case: “
Only the Legislature, not state agencies, can restrict gun rights in Wyoming, Laramie attorney Jason Tangeman is arguing in a lawsuit against the University of Wyoming. Tangeman is now representing a Uinta County man, Lyle Williams, in a challenge to the legality of UW’s gun ban in a civil case filed in Albany County. Williams was cited in April after carrying a gun on the Laramie campus during the Wyoming State Republican Party Convention in April.” (via The Laramie Boomerang)
Climate change risks lose political sting for Wyoming delegation: