Wyoming Lawmakers Hope For Big Reforms Under Trump

Dec 16, 2016

Credit Gage Skidmore

With Republicans preparing to control the House, Senate and White House for the first time in a decade, Wyoming Republicans are moving up the ranks and will wield significant power in the coming Congress. 

President-elect Donald Trump is a businessman who promised to shake up the federal bureaucracy. To do that he’ll need allies on Capitol Hill, and he’s got one in Senior Senator Mike Enzi. As chair of the Budget Committee Enzi is putting his training as an accounting into action. One of the first proposals he’s hoping to get through is to move Congress from doing an annual budget to doing biennial budgeting like they do in the state legislature.  

“They’re going to have to get a lot closer to being like Wyoming if we’re going to save this country, and biennial budgeting is one way to do that.”  

Enzi is also hoping that under unified Republican control Congress can enact broader reforms when it comes to the nation’s budget.

“One of my most frustrating things is that the president’s budget and the budget committee’s budget and the spending committee’s budget are all different, and it seems to be intentional. So that you can’t follow the dollars, and we’ve got to change that so you can actually do oversight.”

Enzi also wants to streamline the congressional committees that oversee the executive branch, because he argues Congress has allowed agencies to duplicate programs unnecessarily.

“Housing for instance. We’ve got 140 different housing programs. How can you have 140 housing programs? Worse yet they’re administered by 20 different agencies. So there’s nobody really in charge, nobody sets the goals, so we don’t really know if we’re accomplishing anything with the dollars we’re spending.”

Enzi said he believes President-elect Trump will be receptive to his calls for reform, in part because Enzi’s former staffers are now working with the incoming administration.

“When Trump was running he called me and asked if I had a good budget person. I was the budget chairman, of course I did. So I released my best budget person. He got a hold of me later to find out if I had a good tax person.  So I released a tax person to him. And he listened to them and I heard some of my words coming back through his speech – the good words.”

Wyoming’s junior Senator, John Barrasso, is moving up the ranks on a committee that’s vital to the state: The Environment and Public Works Committee. The committee has an expansive portfolio that touches everything from bridges to wildlife, and has a big energy portfolio.

“The issues that the committee, that are under its control, are significant but they’re things that Donald Trump has talked about.”

Democrats and environmentalists fear that Barrasso will enable Trump to unwind the efforts President Obama took to combat climate change. Virginia Democrat Don Beyer said he’s worried about what he’s hearing from Republicans on the Hill, but also what’s coming out of Trump Tower.

“Especially with the rumors out there that his transition team has asked him to reverse everything Obama has done by executive order on the first day. That would be terrible for the climate. We really are going to have to be depending on states and local governments and the rest of the world because just because the U.S. retreats form the Paris Accord doesn’t mean all the other nations of the world will.”

Barrasso said he’s going to try to balance the concerns of the environmental community with the oil and gas interests he represents.

“Making it easier to use American energy in a way that helps our economy and do it in ways to protect, make sure we continue with clean air and clean water. That’s what everyone wants, we want to do it in ways that we don’t hurt our economy.”

One of the first tasks ahead of Barrasso in the New Year will be to approve Trump’s pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt who sued the agency when he was Attorney General of Oklahoma. Barrasso says he hopes to get Pruitt confirmed swiftly.

“I want to get an administrator on the ground quickly.”

Liz Cheney will also be joining Barrasso and Enzi in the House of Representatives where she’s hoping to serve on committees that deal with Wyoming’s energy and other natural resources.