Congresswoman Hageman Highlights Early Weeks in Washington in Series of Town Halls: “We’re Just Getting Started”

In her first trip home since assuming office, Hageman touted her work to date — and teased developments to come

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Jan 23, 2023

Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) appeared at a town hall event in Casper on Saturday, her third meeting with voters in a span of two days. (Wyoming Truth photo by Shen Wu Tan)

By Jacob Gardenswartz and Shen Wu Tan

Special to the Wyoming Truth

CASPER, Wyo. — Though it’s been barely two weeks since Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) was officially sworn into office, Wyoming’s new Congresswoman was back in her home state this weekend to highlight her achievements to date.

Eschewing her typical “gothic cowgirl” attire for an emerald green suede dress, Hageman’s Casper stop was her third town hall in just two days, and it came on the heels of a grueling intra-party battle over House Speaker — one which extended longer than any such contest since before the Civil War.

Yet in remarks to a small group of supporters at Gruner Brothers Brewing on Saturday, Hageman framed the debate as one that was good for her party and her country, and sought to project unity as Republicans face miniscule margins and a number of daunting challenges to come — including a looming showdown with Democrats over the debt ceiling.

Hageman supporters Max (left) and Gary Jacobson praised their new congresswoman, noting she “puts Wyoming first.” (Wyoming Truth photo by Shen Wu Tan). 

“This process itself has forced us to sit there and engage with each other,” Hageman said. “There’s a lot of people in Congress right now who want to fix what’s going on in this country. And so I was extremely— I am extremely optimistic.”

Standing before a fireplace and with snow piled on the ground outside, Hageman warned the several dozen attendees of Washington’s ills: “Washington, D.C., I knew it was bad. But after having been back there a couple of weeks, I can tell you, it’s even worse than I knew.”

But she also positioned herself as capable of addressing the challenges at hand, discussing the need to disempower “unelected bureaucrats” and promote local control.

“We’re going to have to change the way that our government works,” Hageman said. “And a lot of that has to do with taking power out of Washington, D.C. and returning it here.”

Criticizing Biden — and some in her own party

As was frequent throughout her congressional campaign, Hageman had strong words for President Joe Biden on Saturday, taking particular issue with his administration’s sale of oil from the strategic petroleum reserve to foreign countries, including China, and his immigration policies.

“Joe Biden is the largest drug dealer and the largest human trafficker in our history,” Hageman said. “He is a failed president. His administration is a failed administration.”

Noting she’d been seated on the House Natural Resources and Judiciary Committees, Hageman stressed her desire to pursue aggressive investigations into the Biden administration — scrutinizing its COVID-19 response, handling of classified materials, Jan. 6 investigations and other matters.

She also teased that she may soon join a select committee tasked with investigating the “weaponization” of the government.

“I am hoping that I will be on that committee,” Hageman told the crowd. “I have asked to be on that subcommittee. And I think that there will be an announcement next week as to who the members are.”

But her criticisms were not reserved to Biden or the Democrats. Despite her defense of the speaker’s race process, Hageman had choice words for Republican senators who’d voted late last year for the $1.7 trillion federal spending bill.

“They took away our power to use the purse strings,” Hageman said. “They saw us coming in and they saw us as unruly. They saw us as the ones that were the problem.”

“Eighteen Republicans voted in favor of that $1.7 trillion monstrosity,” she continued. “And in part, it was to disenfranchise me and my fellow class members and the rest of Congress from being able to make those kinds of decisions before September of this year… We have put the Senate on notice that if you’re going to send that kind of nonsense to us, it’s D-O-A — dead on arrival.”

A looming showdown on spending

Central to Hageman’s town hall remarks were impassioned arguments in favor of cutting federal spending. She repeatedly highlighted the burgeoning federal debt and spoke of the government heading towards a “fiscal cliff.”

In an interview with the Wyoming Truth, Hageman refused to state whether she’d support shutting down the government or allowing a default on federal debt in order to force such cuts. The Treasury Department began implementing “extraordinary measures” to stretch funds last week, with officials suggesting a default is likely by June absent Congressional action on the debt ceiling. 

“Nobody wants a government shutdown,” Hageman told the Wyoming Truth. “But as you heard me talk about today, we’re headed for a fiscal cliff. We’re going to have to reform the way they do business in Washington, D.C. There isn’t a choice.”

Seeking to reframe the debate, Hageman put the ball in the Democrats’ court: “We have tools to make sure we don’t default. The Democrats and Biden are the ones that have to step to the table to make sure that we don’t.”

Biden has said he will not sign anything other than a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling with no additional cuts.

Town hall attendees back their new representative

Of the roughly 35 Wyomingites in attendance, most were big fans of their new congresswoman.

“What has already been done in just the first few weeks, I’m pretty impressed,” longtime Casper resident Linda Lensert told the Wyoming Truth.

“She definitely puts Wyoming first, and the American people first,” echoed Max Jacobson, a preschool teacher in Casper.

But while they supported Hageman’s actions thus far, some were mixed on her support for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) during the speaker’s race; many far-right lawmakers, including Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), initially backed alternatives.

“I think everybody knew all along that Kevin McCarthy was gonna end up being the speaker, but that group just held him back long enough to get the concessions they wanted, which was a good thing,” said Jacobson’s husband Gary.

“I guess time will tell about McCarthy,” Lensert added. “We don’t really know how strong he will hold up.”

Town hall attendees pointed to a range of issues they hoped Hageman would address during her tenure, from strengthening border security to funding federal programs (such as Medicare and Social Security) to outlawing abortion.

But one thing many agreed on: their former representative Liz Cheney has no political future in the state.

“Liz Cheney has finished in politics as far as I’m concerned,” Lensert said.

Whatever Cheney’s political future may be, Hageman is just getting started. She said it’s a job she trained for her whole life.

“When I grew up, we didn’t have a TV,” she told the Wyoming Truth. “I spent a lot of time with my dad, and we talked policy. . . . I miss my father very, very much.”

Her father, James Hageman, who served for many years in the Wyoming House of Representatives, passed away in 2006. She said it was only “natural” that she went into politics herself.

“It’s up to us to fix our government. If government isn’t working for us, we need to fix it,” Hageman said. “I can’t ask someone else to do that if I’m not willing to step up and do it myself.”

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