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Delegation applauded by legislators, scolded by constituents

Wyoming’s congressional delegation faced reactions ranging from applause to scolding when reporting to their state during a congressional recess last week.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and Sen. Mike Enzi earned ovations when speaking in the Wyoming House. But Sen. John Barrasso got an earful criticizing his environmental stand at a Sheridan County town hall, according to a video and press reports.

Casper and Jackson denizens took the delegation to task at Town Halls featuring empty seats representing the absent delegation. The Jackson gathering featured portraits of the delegation painted by muralist Greta Gretzinger, a local favorite.

Cheney got a warm reception in the Wyoming Legislature, winning applause in the House for passing a resolution that would roll back an environmental planning initiative for BLM land. Statewide input about “the devastating impact that rule would have had on us,” enabled her to move the measure to the U.S. Senate, she said. Cheney hopes for a Trump signature “within the next several weeks,” she said.

But a standing-room-only crowd of about 200 people in Jackson heavily criticized the all-Republican delegation, tongue-lashing Gretzinger’s portraits of Enzi, Barrasso and Cheney for an hour Friday. In Casper, another town hall of criticism drew 70 persons, K2 Radio reported.

Complaints also are flooding Enzi’s office as the Trump administration roils the political landscape, the senator told the Wyoming House. “We’re getting our phone lines jammed, our offices jammed,” he said.

But it’s not likely the calls would move him, the senator said, dismissing them as harassment from outsiders.

“I’m pretty sure most of them are not Wyoming people because I’m sure Wyoming people wouldn’t treat us that way,” he said of the callers. “And you know from being in the Legislature when somebody comes up to you and stands toe-to-toe and yells at you and insults you, you’re probably not going to do what they want.”

Cheney talks policy

Cheney gave the House a policy rundown predicting President Trump and Congress will begin “to free up the ability of our energy industry to operate and to get access to … resources.”

Obamacare replacement will include a refundable tax credit, expanded access for health savings accounts, high-risk pools, no exclusion for pre-existing conditions, and kids staying on parents’ insurance plans until age 26.

“The system is collapsing; we aren’t in a situation where we can fix around the edges here,” Cheney said. “Not just Obamacare is collapsing but our insurance markets are at risk of collapsing.”

She predicted overhauls on the tax and immigration fronts and expects a supplemental defense budget, she said. “We cannot lose that superiority edge,” she said of the country’s military.

Cheney focused on Wyoming’s federal landlord, which owns 48 percent of the state. “We have to work every single day to return power from the federal government,” she said. “That will absolutely be a guiding principle in everything I do.”

Many attendees at the Jackson Town Hall were of the same mind, but the discourse was civil, if not emotional, as dozens challenged the Wyoming delegation. Portraits of the two senators and Rep. Liz Cheney , none of whom attended, were erected on empty seats. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile)

Many attendees at the Jackson town hall were of the same mind. The discourse was civil and at times emotional as dozens challenged the Wyoming delegation. Portraits of the two senators and Rep. Liz Cheney, none of whom attended, were erected on empty seats. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile)

Cheney told WyoFile in Cheyenne that she had met with constituents and “they’re very pleased [President Trump’s] following through on what he promised in his campaign.” A commitment in Cheyenne kept her from attending the Jackson Town Hall, she said. Nevertheless, residents there gave her portrait a different message from what she said she had been hearing elsewhere.

At the Jackson town hall Vince Procter, who brought a driver’s license and passport in protest of police policies, said he understood the delegation could not make the last-minute invitation. So, he got out a calendar of five upcoming congressional recesses declaring, “We expect you to meet with us one of these times.” Organizers said Barrasso was in town for a fundraiser.

Delegation in pantheon of pop art

Part political theater, part humor and two parts emotion, the Jackson town hall drew criticism of the GOP across its political agenda. “None of us are paid, we’re just people,” organizer Susan Mick said. Many speakers complained about a lack of access to the delegation, or receiving what they called canned responses.

Musician Phil Round asked the cut-out figures to care for the environment. “These are federal lands to be managed for all Americans,” he said, not just for values prioritized by Wyoming residents and industries.

This ad ran in the Casper Star Tribune asked the Wyoming delegation why members could not attend town halls this week. Sen John Barrasso attended a meeting in Sheridan but gatherings in Jackson and Casper were held in front of three empty seats, symbolizing the absent representative and senators. (Casper Star Tribune)

This ad ran in the Casper Star Tribune Feb. 26 and asked the Wyoming delegation why members could not attend town halls this week. Sen John Barrasso attended a meeting in Sheridan but gatherings in Jackson and Casper were held in front of three empty seats, symbolizing the absent representative and senators. (Casper Star Tribune)

A health-care navigator who helps people sign up for health insurance, Joe Albright worried about the Affordable Care Act he said covers 2,812 residents of Teton County. Artist and former emergency medical worker Diane Benefiel called herself the poster child for Obamacare because she requires expensive treatments.

Without the federal system, she was looking at insurance costs of $1,600 a month and a $25,000 deductible. Such expenses would put her out of house and home, she said.

“If I didn’t get these treatments, I would die,” Benefiel said to the portraits. “I don’t know why you don’t like people and why you don’t like people to be healthy.”

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People asked for visas, not deportation, to allow immigrant workers throughout the recreation industry to have security in Teton County. “Without this, our town will fall apart,” one speaker said.

Sporting a shock of pink hair, Conor Butler said Wyoming needs innovation, but that rejection of the LGBT community stymies that. Innovation happens in other states because “they’re accepting of all people,” he said.

Special education teacher Jessica Jern contacts each member of the delegation “every single day,” she said. Because of an agenda targeting public education, “it is really scary to be a teacher right now,” she said.

Cheney told the Wyoming House she would listen to those who contacted her. “Let me know what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong,” she said.

Andrew Graham contributed to this story.

This story was corrected to say Barrasso attended a meeting in Sheridan County, not Sheridan — Ed.

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About the Author

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Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at [email protected] or (307) 690-5586. Follow Angus on Twitter at @AngusThuermer

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5 Responses to Delegation applauded by legislators, scolded by constituents

  1. Lee Sansoucie March 1, 2017 at 7:11 am #

    We need to stop Cheney, Barrasso, and Enzi. Is anyone organizing? I want to help.

    Casper, Wyoming

  2. Anita Edington February 28, 2017 at 10:02 am #

    Senator Enzi, I have always respected you and thought that you were doing what you thought best for the state even when I have disagreed with you. I have called, e-mailed, and written you about various issues over the years. It is very disheartening to see the following:

    “Complaints also are flooding Enzi’s office as the Trump administration roils the political landscape, the senator told the Wyoming House. “We’re getting our phone lines jammed, our offices jammed,” he said.

    But it’s not likely the calls would move him, the senator said, dismissing them as harassment from outsiders.”

    So you arbitrarily dismiss my concerns because they are contrary to yours therefore I must not be from Wyoming. For the record, I have called Wyoming home for over 45 years and would remind you that you are elected to represent all of the people, not just the ones with whom you agree.

    Gillette, Wyoming

    • Mandy Langfald February 28, 2017 at 11:27 am #

      I absolutely agree. I have called on numerous issues and find it disheartening that he refuses to listen just because we disagree. How dare he suggest that all Wyomingite will fall in line behind him and only “outsiders” disagree. For the record I leave my full name, address, and phone number so he damn well knows I’m from Wyoming!

      Cheyenne , Wyoming

  3. Chuck Resor February 28, 2017 at 8:03 am #

    What was the nature of the criticism of Barrasso in Sheridan?

    Jackson, Wyoming

    • Editor February 28, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

      Reporter Thuermer reports that some of criticism at the Sheridan County event was over environmental issues, but several other items were brought up. When Barrasso supporters said it was a Chamber of Commerce meeting about business, Barrasso critics persisted, saying their businesses were dependent on a healthy environment, according to the video shared on Facebook.

      Casper, Wyoming

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