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Wyoming's Congressional Delegation Doesn't Expect Much Will Get Done This Year

Wyoming lawmakers are laying down their legislative priorities for the New Year, but the state’s Republicans doubt they can get much done with a Democrat in the White House.

President Obama is fresh off a quick campaign style jaunt across the nation where he tried to rally support for his agenda, which ranges from gun control to finding a cure for cancer. But Republicans, like Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, said that the president started the year on the wrong foot by announcing he was taking executive action on gun-control.

“We view them as illegal, but the president has continued to do this – running around, beyond Congress, beyond the elected representatives. He tried to do it with his executive amnesty. We were able to stop that in the courts. And we’re going to continue to do that with his 2nd Amendment efforts.”

2015 ended with a slew of bipartisan compromises on everything from cyber security to scrapping No Child Left Behind. Barrasso says he thinks the two parties will be able to come together on other issues this year.

“We tried to do that last year with the transportation bill, with the education bill, I want to move forward with bipartisan energy legislation. It’s come out of the energy committee with overwhelmingly bipartisan support. It’s important for Wyoming and I’m going to work in a bipartisan way to get that passed.”

Others in the GOP aren’t predicting such a rosy outlook. Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis said this year in Washington will be focused on next year.

“I think that a lot of the major legislation that we want to shape is not going to be acceptable to President Obama and will have to wait until there’s a new president in 2017.”

Besides his gun-control executive action, President Obama did try to strike a bipartisan chord on everything from education to technology issues. In his State of the Union address a couple weeks ago, the president also extended an olive branch to the GOP by saying he was ready to cut red tape for those in the private sector.

“I don’t believe for a minute that President Obama really believes that or intends to do that,” said Lummis.

In the Senate, there are plans afoot to make some institutional changes that could have a lasting impact. Republican leaders are discussing making some tweaks to the filibuster rule, in order to foster more debate in Washington. Meanwhile, Senior Senator Mike Enzi, who chairs the Budget Committee, wants to change the way Washington does its budgeting.

“We need to do one budget at a time and have the people that are particularly interested in that one get to talk about the unintended consequences of that kind of spending and spend a little more time on prioritizing and eliminating.”

Enzi also wants to make budgets last for two years like they do in Wyoming. He said that the proposal is picking up steam.

“One of them would be the tough ones to pass and we’d cover those six right after an election and then we’d cover the six easy ones just before the election. And that way the appropriators get to do something both years and that seems to be a little more favorable to them than working hard one year and then not having anything to do but oversight the next year.”

But since it’s an election year, it’s unlikely the president will have many bills hitting his desk prior to November. 

Based on Capitol Hill, Matt Laslo is a reporter who has been covering campaigns and every aspect of federal policy since 2006. While he has filed stories for NPR and more than 40 of its affiliates, he has also written for Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, The Daily Beast, The Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Guardian, The Omaha World-Herald, VICE News and Washingtonian Magazine.
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