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Wyoming Lawmakers Want To Find Common Ground

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The president's State of the Union address included him laying out his vision for U.S. energy policy, which had Wyoming Senator John Barrasso standing and clapping wildly - in part because he was on the GOP leadership team that spent two years focused on unwinding basically any regulations they could.

"The state of the union is very strong. We're strong economically, we're strong militarily. And you see it around the world. The president really did focus on energy and the energy dominance of the United States, and so much of it is related to our policies," said Barrasso.

While many Democrats were upset that the president didn't mention climate change, Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said he was fine with that omission.

"Probably just as well because had he mentioned climate change he probably would have mocked it, but it's a sad state of affairs when a president of the United States won't talk seriously about an issue that concerns at least 70 percent of the population and is a rising global concern," said Whitehouse.

On Thursday Whitehouse joined freshman New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to roll out what they're calling the Green New Deal, which is a plan to get the nation completely off of fossil fuels in the future. Whitehouse said the reason Trump and Wyoming Republicans aren't focusing on combating climate change is for one reason:

"There is a mismatch and the explanation is the role of the fossil fuel industry and its money and threats in the Republican Party," said Whitehouse.

But Barrasso dismisses those charges and said the president struck the right tone.

"Well, it seems the Democrats are going to criticize President Trump almost no matter what he does."

Barrasso spent part of the day after the State of the Union at the White House for a meeting on energy policy.

"As the president said in the State of the Union we are now a net exporter of energy, with crude oil exports as well, so this has really helped us as a state and as a nation," Barrasso said.

Then there was the president's renewed call for a big infrastructure bill, which Democrats have also called for. Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney said much of the president's address focused on areas where the two parties should be able to find common ground.

"I thought that it was an excellent speech. I thought he laid out the priorities and where we can all work together."

Cheney said the first big test will be whether both sides can work together to avoid another government shutdown. She says the outcome will be telling on what's in store for the next two years.

"We'll see what happens. I think that what's going on right now in terms of immigration and whether or not we can get funding for border security is a really important test case," said Cheney.

The president's call for unity didn't find a sympathetic audience in Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Coons.

"It was a slap in the face with an olive branch."

Many Democrats were offended that Trump used the address to double down on his wall and that he focused on other divisive issues like abortion. But the president did lay out a new proposal "to defeat AIDS in America" while also calling to combat childhood cancer. Both goals won broad standing ovations. Still, Coons is waiting for Trump to flesh out his ideas.

"In a number of passages the president made some bold proposals, but with absolutely no details," said Coons.

Those criticisms make Republicans like Cheney bristle, and she said Democrats have to learn to compromise with Trump.

"So I think what the president did is say, 'Look, here's what I'd like to do. I'd like us to all work together. I think it's important to move past partisanship.' But you know, it takes two parties to do that," said Cheney.

Now that the speech is over, Congress and the president have less than two weeks to fund the government and avert another shutdown.

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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