Harriet Hageman’s First 100 Days on Capitol Hill (Part 1)

As she works to take Washington out of Wyoming, the new congresswoman is becoming an operator in both locales

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: May 02, 2023

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

As Wyoming’s new congresswoman, Rep. Harriet Hageman, celebrated her 100th day in office, the Wyoming Truth sat down for an exclusive, in-person interview with the representative to discuss her transition to Washington, her time in Congress so far and what’s on the horizon. Excerpts and insights from that conversation will run in a three-part series today through Thursday. Check back tomorrow for part two.

WASHINGTON — It was a Friday morning in late April and the congresswoman was already behind schedule.

In her first 100 days in office, Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) has demonstrated a deft ability to navigate complex intra-party tensions. (Wyoming Truth photo by Jacob Gardenswartz)

Making her way down the long hallway on the fifth floor of the Longworth House Office Building — smaller than the Rayburn complex but no less confusing to navigate — the click-clack of her shoes echoed throughout the empty chambers. The place was mostly deserted, save for a few staffers dressed in khakis and plaid shirts for casual Friday.

With the House out of session, most lawmakers were gone for the weekend, back meeting constituents in their districts or home with their families. But not Rep. Harriet Hageman. There she was, clad in her signature black dress and turquoise jewelry — the “gothic cowgirl” look she has perfected — as she strutted confidently into her Washington office for a day of work. 

Despite representing the nation’s least-populated state, Hageman, 60, has become something of a household name in Republican circles as a kingslayer of her predecessor: She was introduced to cheers at a recent CPAC forum as “the woman who made Liz Cheney a former congresswoman.”

Her 2022 primary campaign was among the most-watched in the nation, and she placed at the top of the list of small-dollar fundraisers among GOP House candidates, raking in upwards of $2.4 million — enough to give every Wyomingite four bucks each and still have some left over. According to her most recent financial disclosures, Hageman’s campaign brought in an additional $175,000 since she took office and has over $300,000 cash on hand with the reelection race over a year away.

I’d been trying to meet with Hageman for months, but getting time on the congresswoman’s schedule was no easy feat, especially representing a nonpartisan news organization outside the traditional conservative media landscape. Hageman has become a fixture in right-wing news, making almost-daily appearances on channels the likes of Newsmax, OAN and, of course, Fox News.

(After the surprise firing of Fox host Tucker Carlson last week, Hageman’s campaign sent a fundraising email to supporters noting that “TUCKER stood up for American patriots when NO ONE ELSE DID.”)

In our hour-long conversation, the Hageman many conservatives have come to know and love shined through. She spoke of her policy priorities: gutting environmental regulations, shrinking the size of the government and “securing” the border. She lambasted progressives’ “cultural rot” and blasted the “deep state” for undermining former President Donald Trump. And she took no qualms laying into Cheney, who she claimed “in reality [has] very little ties to Wyoming,” going on to denounce her as a “very ineffective representative from Wyoming.”

“She had a name and that was kind of, from what I can tell, the extent of it,” Hageman said of her predecessor.

Yet despite Hageman’s firebrand antics which have endeared her to a Trump-loving base, speaking one-on-one with her revealed a politician more tactical and calculating than she lets on, an operator who in just a few short months has demonstrated a deft ability to navigate intra-party tensions, leadership battles and complex messaging debates.

This is the story of how Harriet Hageman learned to embrace the Washington she so often decries.

Hageman ‘in the middle’

The trouble for Hageman began before she was even seated as a congresswoman. California Republican Kevin McCarthy’s 14 failed votes to become Speaker of the House weren’t just damning for his leadership prospects. They also put conservative lawmakers like Hageman in a tough bind, torn between activist constituents who saw McCarthy as a “RINO” (Republican in Name Only) and the political reality that his speakership was all but assured.

Yet despite being ideologically aligned with many of the so-called “Taliban 20” — right-wing rebels who withheld their votes for McCarthy until the fifteenth ballot — Hageman remained in lockstep with leadership, supporting the would-be speaker on every vote.

“[Speaker] Kevin [McCarthy] supported me in the primary, and then obviously in the general election as well,” Hageman told me candidly. “Kevin knows very [much] how I’m aligned, in that I’m definitely on the more conservative end of the spectrum.”

She said she spoke with McCarthy before the votes began to share the commitments he’d need to make to earn her vote, among them the ability to bring amendments to bills on the floor, establishing a 72-hour minimum period to read bills before a final vote and a promise that the speaker’s office wouldn’t be “dictating what our agenda is.”

Rep.-elect Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., nominates Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., before the tenth vote in the House chamber as the House meets for the third day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Throughout our discussion, Hageman was careful not to paint herself as too close to leadership, something which could prove dangerous to a grassroots base far less loyal to the establishment. “He’s terribly busy, so I don’t see him very much,” she said of McCarthy.

But during the speaker’s race, “I can tell you I was very aligned, kind of, with everybody in the room,” Hageman recalled. “If you go back and look where I sat, I kind of sat right in the middle. You know, here’s the more conservative side over here and some of the others over here. I just kind of worked back and forth between them.”

Indeed, there she was in a bright fuchsia dress, seated between the speaker spoilers and those closest to him. Ultimately, Hageman said, she backed McCarthy because he kept his word. So she felt compelled to keep hers.

“Those were all the things that he agreed to ahead of time, and so I agreed to support him,” Hageman said of McCarthy’s concessions. Attesting to her loyalty, she added: “I’m not gonna go back on my word on something like that.”

Not your average freshman

Whatever the reasoning, Hageman’s loyalty paid off. She earned placements on two key committees: Judiciary, where many investigations into President Joe Biden’s administration are housed, and Natural Resources, crucial to the Wyoming energy industry. She earned a subcommittee chairmanship overseeing the Indian and Insular Affairs panel. And she was also tapped as the only freshman representative to serve on the coveted select subcommittee probing the alleged “weaponization” of the government — a post which provides prominent media opportunities to be broadcast attacking Biden appointees and policies.

Already, she said she’s done a lot. Speaking to her successes to date, Hageman was resolute in her confidence, scanning through stacks of paper to point out her most prized accomplishments: her Combating Obstruction Against Leasing (COAL) Act was included in H.R. 1, the signature energy policy measure passed by House Republicans in March. Two measures she sponsored through the Natural Resources committee — one to remove the grizzly bear from the list of endangered species and one to empower Native American tribes with more autonomy in their land ownership — are making their way through committee. She’s been very engaged, she said, with the development of Republicans’ new border security bill, which is set to be released in the coming weeks.

And that’s not to mention the many times she’s appeared on conservative cable news outlets, excoriating the Biden administration’s alleged corruption. Listing her actions thus far, Hageman’s commanding voice suddenly paused as she quickly slid a Ricola into her mouth.

“Excuse me,” she croaked. “I talk so much anymore [sic] that it is really affecting my voice. And I kind of have a deep voice, and I think that it’s harder on my on my vocal cords.”

“Maybe I should stop talking?” she posed.

“I would never encourage that,” I countered.

I asked what she thought about her uniquely-strong record on committee placements, why a freshman representative such as herself had earned such sought-after posts. Hageman credited her origin story.

“From my standpoint and [from a] Wyoming standpoint, I was able to talk about my background, my history, my agenda, my priorities, and as a result, I think that that’s why I was successful,” she said.

Hageman noted it “isn’t entirely unheard of” to chair a subcommittee as a freshman. But as her smile peeked out, she acknowledged, “it’s pretty rare.”

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