Harriet Hageman’s First 100 Days on Capitol Hill (Part 2)

On policy matters, the Wyoming congresswoman prioritizes regulatory rollbacks and tribal affairs

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: May 03, 2023

On policy matters, Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) has prioritized rolling back environmental regulations and empowering local Native American tribes. (Francis Chung/POLITICO via AP Images)

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 through Thursday. Part one is available here; check back tomorrow for part three.

WASHINGTON — To understand Wyoming Rep. Harriet Hageman’s policy priorities, one needs to look no further than at the decor of her Capitol Hill office.

Her large wooden desk is piled high with papers: notes and documents from recent hearings and research into upcoming bills to be introduced, she said.

On the walls are maps of her home state, and the windowsills are filled to the brim with small blocks featuring insect specimens preserved in resin, positioned next to intricately-beaded jewelry in the style of Wyoming’s Native American tribes. (Hageman’s chief of staff, former Trump campaign official Carly Miller, declined to allow the setup to be photographed. “No doubt” there’d be online sleuths zooming in to look for sensitive data, Miller suggested.)

House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) arrives for a hearing on Capitol Hill April 19, 2023. (Francis Chung/POLITICO via AP Images)

Indeed, since taking office Hageman has made tribal affairs and environmental matters central to her brand, two issues crucial to the Equality State. According to publicly-available figures, the congresswoman has introduced seven bills and cosponsored 82 measures, many of which have focused on indigenous affairs or rollbacks of environmental regulations.

But unlike her predecessor Liz Cheney — who, along with her anti-Trump turn, began to soften some on social issues, supporting legislation to codify same-sex marriage rights and impose new gun control regulations — Hageman has positioned herself further to the right on culture matters. She frequently attacks “woke” ideologies. In doing so, she has supported bills that empower the federal government with powers even she said may not be warranted, but for the unique situation in which she sees the nation.

Frankly, I’m not so sure that it is a federal issue,” Hageman said of her support for H.R. 5 in a late-April interview. The “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” recently passed by Republicans, would provide public school students’ parents with greater oversight and involvement in educational and curricula decisions.

“Except right now, it’s a statement of policy because of how crazy things have gotten in this country,” she added.

A ‘strong voice’ on GOP energy policy

Hageman’s work as an environmental lawyer has been central to her prioritization of energy policy, something she stressed throughout her campaign and in the 13 town halls she has held for constituents since taking office.

Hageman was closely involved with the development and rollout of H.R. 1, House Republicans’ signature energy policy bill, multiple GOP sources familiar with the matter told the Wyoming Truth. If passed, the measure would waive environmental review requirements for new development, eliminate restrictions on the import and export of oil and natural gas, protect the use of hydraulic fracking, rollback penalties for pollution and decrease subsidies for green energy development.

Hageman — and House Republicans more broadly — have framed the legislation as a response to the Biden administration’s alleged “war” on American energy. “This administration has placed what amounts to an embargo on domestic energy production, while ensuring that our enemies are the only ones allowed to produce the energy that we need to power our economy,” she said in a March 30 statement after the measure was passed. “To say that this approach is wrongheaded is an understatement, being downright dangerous to the security of the United States of America.”

President Joe Biden has already threatened to veto the bill were it to make it to his desk. The White House, in a Statement of Administration Policy, claimed it would “pad oil and gas company profits… and undercut our public health and environment,” and the Democratically-controlled Senate shows no signs of taking it up anytime soon.

Political observers see the measure as foreshadowing GOP messaging in 2024 and beyond, as Republicans hope to capitalize on voters’ distaste for high energy costs. But messaging or not, that a freshman representative played such an instrumental role in the bill’s development speaks to Hageman’s unique influence on energy policy matters.

“In just her first 100 days as a member of Congress, Rep. Hageman has become a strong voice in our conference,” House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) told the Wyoming Truth in a statement. He noted she’s “part of a small advisory group of members that I meet with weekly to plan the direction of the House,” adding that she made “strong contributions” to H.R. 1 and helped roll it out to fellow members.

Just this week, Hageman announced she was named co-chair of the House Coal Caucus, which works to promote domestic coal production and technological development of an industry in rapid decline — though Wyoming remains the largest coal-producing state in the nation. Cheney had similarly prioritized coal production during her time in office, once citing the Coal Caucus members as among her closest allies in Congress. Hageman, meanwhile, used the announcement of her co-chairmanship to attack Biden’s green energy policies.

“America must have accessible and affordable energy, and coal is a prime source of that energy now – and will be needed for generations to come,” she said in a Monday statement. “We cannot allow the Biden bureaucrats and ‘green bad deal’ fanatics to continue threatening our ability to use clean, reliable, and affordable American coal now or in the future.”

On Indian Affairs panel, politics at play

Hageman began her tenure chairing the Indian and Insular Affairs subcommittee on the House Natural Resources panel with a focus on bipartisan efforts to empower indigenous land ownership. “The message I’m getting from the tribes that I meet with both in Wyoming as well as folks who come here [is that] autonomy is really important to them right now,” she told me. “I think that they’re pretty tired of being under the thumb of the federal government.”

Some Democratic members on the panel have signaled support for two measures Hageman sponsored that attempt to rectify those problems. But since the bills have yet to come up for a full committee vote, it’s unclear whether Democrats will actually sign off.

And though Hageman said she’s found the Democrats on Natural Resources to be “very supportive,” claiming during our conversation she’d “just met” with her Democratic counterpart on the tribal affairs subcommittee, some tell a different story.

“I appreciate the Congresswoman’s service on the Committee and her role as Chair of the Indian and Insular Affairs Subcommittee,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, told the Wyoming Truth in a statement. “However, to the extent that any working relationship of ours has translated into her supporting policy positions we can agree on, I’m afraid we have a ways to go.”

“Wyoming is home to some of our country’s most prized public lands and outdoor recreation opportunities, but my Republican colleagues seem intent on selling them off to their Big Oil friends for cheap,” Grijalva added.

Representatives for Rep. Theresa Leger-Fernández (D-N.M.), the ranking Democrat on the Indian Affairs subcommittee, did not respond to a request for comment on her relationship with Hageman.

To be sure, while Hageman has pursued some bipartisan tribal measures, her work on the Natural Resources panel more broadly has been squarely at odds with policies supported by Democrats and environmentalists.

She cosponsored the House measure attempting to overturn Biden’s “Waters of the United States” rule, an EPA regulation seen as a keystone of the president’s climate agenda. And her measure to remove grizzly bears in Wyoming and Montana from the list of animals covered by the Endangered Species Act has earned fierce pushback.

The bear population has rebounded to a point beyond the original threshold set to merit protection. But environmentalists’ suits have prevented their removal from the endangered list to date — something Hageman seeks to rectify.

“They’re also so terribly dangerous,” she said of the bears. “You’re going to start seeing more and more attacks because they’re vying for limited areas and limited habitat.”

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