When Sen. Mike Enzi announced his retirement earlier this month in Gillette, the conversation immediately focused not on what Enzi would do in his final 18 months in office, but who would step up to replace him.
While much stock was placed in several key phrases in his retirement announcement – whether Rep. Liz Cheney would become Speaker of the House or not, for instance – little attention was paid to one of the more personal excerpts about Enzi’s future: what he wanted. Specifically, the senator told reporters he wanted to avoid another campaign season in order to tackle an issue he has made the centerpiece of his career in Washington:
Tackling the nation’s budget crisis.
Those efforts began in earnest last week as Enzi – the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget – rolled out the first of several weeks of hearings to field ideas on reforming and improving the nation’s budget process and, ultimately, finding a bipartisan consensus on ways to avert a looming fiscal crisis.
“One thing is clear – we have a problem,” Rachel Vliem, a spokesperson for Enzi, said in an email. “Senator Enzi believes that Congress can’t keep avoiding its basic duties or ignoring the real impacts on our country from a broken budget process. He believes the first steps toward action must be framing the scope of the problem and highlighting where we agree.”
His first hearing last Tuesday included two former Senate Budget Committee chairmen, Senators Judd Gregg, R-N.H., and Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and, in the coming weeks, other insiders will be brought to testify on the nation’s budgetary dysfunction.
Enzi’s concern with budgetary issues is longstanding. Since the federal budget framework was established in 1974, Congress has managed to pass only four on-time appropriations bills, with the last one coming in 1997 – Enzi’s first year in office.
Since then, Enzi has regularly introduced some form of budgeting reform into the record, including a massive reform proposal in March and, prior to that, a bill designed to end government shutdowns initiated by impasses in the budgeting process.
His office hopes one of those ideas will stick this time.
“These hearings will help begin to focus on meaningful solutions as Senator Enzi thinks about reform efforts and the best way to go about enacting them through legislation to address these problems,” Vliem said.
The Week Ahead
Monday: Gov. Mark Gordon chairs a special meeting of the State Building Commission in Cheyenne to discuss the Capital Construction Project.
Tuesday: Gov. Mark Gordon and First Lady Jennie Gordon will be keynote speakers at the Safehouse Wyoming luncheon in Cheyenne. Safehouse is a private, nonprofit organization that provides services to victims or survivors of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, elder abuse and human trafficking.
Have an event you’d like highlighted here? Email me with the date, time, and place!
Last week, Wyoming State Treasurer Curt Meier penned a letter to President Donald J. Trump asking him to advance “stable and secure” domestic uranium mining after six straight years of decline for one of Wyoming’s less discussed extractive sectors.
In the letter, Meier said he hopes for an expanded international market and an increased reliance on nuclear energy production in the United States.
“The uranium mining industry in Wyoming welcomes the opportunity to compete in a fair global marketplace,” said Meier. “In fact, the industry would flourish in an open market committed to worker safety and environmental safeguards.”
State lawmakers to take on voter I.D. requirements, crossover voting, again: A pair of failed bills from the 2019 general session intended to improve the “integrity” of Wyoming elections will be getting a second look from state lawmakers this interim. (via Trib.com)
Wyoming’s Tomorrow rises from ashes to focus on state’s higher education initiatives: Despite dying twice in the Legislature’s general session earlier this year, a task force designed to look into ways to make two years of higher education as close to free as possible is moving forward. (via CowboyStateDaily.com)
Dems ask Fremont County to investigate voting difficulties on the Wind River Reservation: The Wyoming Democratic Party has asked the Fremont County Attorney’s Office to investigate allegations that voters on the Wind River Reservation encountered difficulties during the 2018 election. (via Trib.com)
Wyoming Rodeo Ministry denied a vendor booth at 2019 National High School Finals Rodeo: “The Sweetwater Events Complex has denied our application and are enforcing what has been in their vendor contract. ‘Exhibitor agrees not to use the Exhibit Space for any political or religious purpose,’” Mike Sain, the group’s president, wrote. (via SweetwaterNow.com)
UW plans to restart technical education teacher program that was eliminated two years ago: The University of Wyoming will restart a program that trains future career technical education teachers, which the school’s board had eliminated two years ago amid stiff budget cuts. (via Trib.com)
Lawmakers still looking for ways to prevent early coal plant closures: Four of Wyoming’s coal-fired power plants have been identified as potential targets for early closures to save money. And state lawmakers have worked to put up as many roadblocks as possible to keep Rocky Mountain Power from turning off the lights at those aging plants. (via The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle)
A major coal company went bust. Its bankruptcy filing shows that it was funding climate change denialism: Bankruptcy disclosures from Cloud Peak Energy, a Wyoming-based coal mining corporation, revealed that the company maintains financial ties to many of the leading groups that have sowed doubt over the human causes of global warming. (via The Intercept)
To control forest fires, Western states light more of their own: Tramping over a charred mountainside here one foggy morning, Matt Champa glowed with satisfaction. “Deer and elk will love this,” said the U.S. Forest Service “burn boss,” gesturing to a cluster of blackened trees that eventually will fall and create more space for forage plants. (via Pew Charitable Trusts)
Wyoming AG’s opinion sends municipalities scrambling on health care: State lawmakers are scrambling to adjust after a confidential attorney general’s opinion issued last week ruled that municipalities could choose to enroll in the state’s employee health insurance plan. (via Trib.com)
Eye On Washington
Sen. John Barrasso joined several senators in filing an amicus brief to the Supreme Court regarding groundwater regulation. In the brief, the senators explain that Congress only intended for the Clean Water Act to require federal discharge permits where pollution travels directly from a point source to a water of the United States.
Sen. Mike Enzi signed onto a bill to amend title 18, United States Code, to permit certain individuals complying with state law to possess firearms in certain scenarios. For instance, in Wyoming, individuals possessing a firearm legally on the highway would be in violation of federal law if they came within 1,000 yards of a school.
Rep. Liz Cheney spoke at an event at the Hudson Institute on foreign policy. She also remained under siege by the national press for attacks she made on Democratic colleagues Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who made comments many in the media assert conservatives have taken out of context and made to sound anti-Semitic.
From the author: As you read this, I will be somewhere in the Rockies on a week-long road trip with my younger brother, who just graduated from the State University of New York at Oneonta with a degree in geology. As such, there will be no newsletter next week. 307 Politics will return on June 3! Have any tips or suggestions to make this newsletter better? Let me know! Call me at 307-266-0634, email me at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter, @IAmNickReynolds