Wyoming Delegation’s Role in 118th Congress Begins to Take Shape

While Wyoming’s Senators have pursued some bipartisan measures, Hageman has shown no interest in compromise

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

Wyoming Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis were joined by new Rep. Harriet Hageman for a tele-town hall Wednesday evening, as the Equality State delegation's role in the 118th Congress has begun to come into focus. (Photo via Twitter / Rep. Harriet Hageman).

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

WASHINGTON — After a slow start to the 118th Congress, the role of Wyoming’s three-person delegation in Washington is coming into focus.

Republican Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis are joined by new Rep. Harriet Hageman to represent the country’s least populated state in the nation’s capital, at a time when Equality State issues are central to the national conversation, from debates concerning energy policy to the proposed regulation of digital currencies.

In the Senate, lawmakers returned to Washington in late January after an extended recess, and finalized committee assignments this week. Barrasso retained his role as top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and will also serve on the Finance and Foreign Relations panels. In addition to serving as Chairwoman of the Senate Western Caucus, Lummis will also serve on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee and the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

“My focus in Congress has always been ‘all Wyoming, all the time,’ and I look forward to continuing to serve on these important Senate committees that have jurisdiction over issues that impact the lives of people in Wyoming each and every day,” Lummis said in a statement.

After beginning the year with an historic battle for the speaker’s gavel, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) passed his first major leadership test Thursday when Republicans successfully voted to oust Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from her seat on the coveted Foreign Affairs Committee, citing her previous criticisms of Israel and tweets which had invoked antisemitic tropes. Though Omar had apologized for her past comments, Republicans stripped her from the committee.

“She will not serve on Foreign Affairs,” McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday. “[Democrats] can choose another committee for her.”

Members on the Republican side of the House Judiciary Committee, from left, Rep. Laurel Lee, R-Fla., Rep. Nathaniel Moran, R-Texas, and Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo., listen to amendment proposals as the panel meets to pass its operating rules under the GOP majority, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Democrats were unanimous in their support of the progressive congresswoman, with some lawmakers who initially took issue with her comments coming to her defense. They highlighted the fact that Republicans, under McCarthy’s leadership, reinstated committee assignments for Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), whom Democrats and some Republicans had previously voted to strip of their committee assignments due to threats against fellow lawmakers and welldocumented antisemitism.

“A blatant double standard is being applied here,” Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said on the House floor Thursday. “What is the difference between Representative Omar and these members? Could it be the way that she looks? Could it be her religious practices?”

Though some Republicans had initially threatened to oppose the measure over concerns about the double standard, the 218–211 vote proceeded along party lines, with one Republican voting “present.” Hageman supported Omar’s ouster, despite her opposition to holding Gosar — with whom she serves on the House Natural Resources committee — to a similar standard.

During an interview with the Wyoming Truth at a recent town hall in Casper, Hageman was pressed about her previous comments to the Jewish Insider suggesting that those espousing antisemitic views should be held accountable.

“I’m willing to serve with anybody on whatever committee they’re put on. I’m not the one who gets to make the decisions about any of the members,” Hageman told the Wyoming Truth. Of Gosar, she noted that “the people of Arizona voted for him and they want him to be their representative. They’re the ones who get to make the decision.”

Divided government encourages bipartisan measures, endangers partisan ones

With Democrats maintaining narrow control of the Senate and Republicans holding a razor-thin majority in the House, neither party is expected to deliver significant actions without the support of colleagues across the aisle.

But that hasn’t stopped some in Wyoming’s congressional delegation from trying. Already, lawmakers have introduced a slew of measures that appear unlikely to gain broad traction.

On the Senate side, Lummis and Barrasso recently signed on to three measures intended to bolster the rights of gun-owning citizens. The “SHORT Act” and a proposed Congressional Review Act resolution would strike down a new Biden administration rule requiring gun owners to register firearms with attached “stabilizing braces” — something federal officials contend makes them more lethal. The “Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act,” meanwhile, would enable those who can legally carry a concealed weapon in their home state to do so anywhere which allows that kind of gun ownership. None of those measures is expected to pass the Senate.

In the House, Hageman has cosponsored several partisan bills, from a measure to begin impeachment proceedings for the Secretary of Homeland Security to one stripping the World Health Organization of federal funding. Those measures may be able to pass the Republican-led House, but they’re effectively doomed in the Democrat-controlled Senate.  

Hageman has shown no interest in bipartisan compromise. During her campaign, she once mused that “if bipartisanship means agreeing with the policies that brought us rampant inflation, a crisis at our southern border and $30 trillion in national debt, then count me out.”

But beyond some highly conservative policy proposals, both Lummis and Barrasso also have signaled an intent to pursue bipartisanship if it aligns with their policy priorities. In recent weeks, one or both of the senators have signed onto bipartisan Senate bills to expand access to subsidized housing for low-income families, improve labeling requirements for beef, modernize Medicare provisions concerning rural health clinics and extend federal Pell Grant eligibility.

Wyoming lawmakers keen on checking Biden’s power

Wyoming’s congressional delegation has also signaled their intent to serve as a check on President Joe Biden, pursuing both investigations into his administration and oversight of his agencies’ rulemaking.

In addition to pushing back against Biden’s gun regulations, Lummis and Barrasso both recently signed onto a Senate measure aiming to overturn Biden’s proposed student loan forgiveness plan, which would have forgiven  up to $20,000 for some borrowers. That measure is currently on hold pending legal challenges.

“President Biden’s attempt to cancel millions of dollars in student loans undercuts hardworking Americans who are responsibly paying off their debt,” Barrasso said in a statement. “Our bill will hold the administration accountable and make sure no taxpayer in Wyoming or across the country is stuck paying off someone else’s student loans.”

Hageman, meanwhile, was tapped to serve on a new select subcommittee to investigate the “weaponization” of the government, as committee leaders have spoken publicly about their intent to use the panel to investigate inquiries into former President Donald Trump’s alleged wrongdoing, as well as Biden-related scandals.

In a speech on the House floor Wednesday, Hageman decried alleged prejudice against conservatives on social media and by the Biden administration, promising to use her committee post to “fight to end this bias.”

The panel is set to meet for the first time on Feb. 9.

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