Barrasso stops in Newcastle

Bob Bonnar

Bob Bonnar

NLJ Editor


Fresh off a convincing victory over his Democratic challenger in last week’s general election, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso stopped in Newcastle for a Republican fundraiser on Saturday as part of a tour that saw him make appearances in more than a half dozen communities across the sprawling state in just a handful of days.

During a 15-minute address broken frequently by applause, Wyoming’s junior senator, who holds the position of Republican Policy Committee chairman and is the fourth-ranking Republican in the Senate, provided encouragement to local party members who were disappointed that Democrats had taken control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday evening. He indicated that continued Republican control of the U.S. Senate protects one of the most important advantages conservatives hold in Washington, D.C.

“We’ve grown our numbers in the Senate,” Barrasso said. “We are going to work to continue to nominate and confirm conservative judges who will be on the court for a long time.”

He said Senate Republicans are committed to confirming the appointment of judges who “apply the law” instead of “legislating from the bench,” and indicated that the party’s dedication to only confirming these types of judges to lifetime appointments will “make consequential differences for the nation for decades.”

Barrasso indicated that Republicans in the Senate recognized the importance the power of confirmation gave them at the end of former President Barrack Obama’s term.

“Once we took the majority [in the Senate] the last two years of Obama’s term, when an opening occurred we would just keep that opening open, planning on a Republican becoming president,” he confirmed.

That strategy paid off, as the Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed a significant number of conservative judges appointed by President Donald Trump, beginning with Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by Trump shortly after taking office to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died almost a year earlier.

“The Republicans stood resolute in saying we will not fill that slot. That’s a slot for the American people to fill,” Barrasso said, indicating that he and fellow Senate Republicans believed it was important for the voters to be heard in the process to fill a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court by allowing them to select the President who would appoint the judge.

As a result, that justice ended up being Gorsuch, a man with Wyoming connections whose grandfather was once the proprietor of the renowned Wolf Hotel in Saratoga.

Senate Republicans celebrated another victory with President Trump when they voted to approve Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy last month. The confirmation came at the end of a contentious battle that centered on sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh from his teenage years. The allegations only surfaced after he was nominated for a spot on the Supreme Court more than 30 years later.

Barrasso saluted Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who cast the deciding vote in that confirmation, for taking a stand against “mob rule,” and indicated he voted to confirm only after reading all of the FBI reports that had been compiled regarding the allegations, and finding no “correlating evidence” in them.

“We believe in the presumption of innocence,” he said, noting that the fiery battle over the confirmation should serve as a reminder that “when passion is most enflamed, fairness is the most in jeopardy.”

While judicial appointments have dominated the headlines recently, Barrasso said that maintaining Republican control of the Senate was also important from the perspective of that body’s responsibility to confirm appointments to the President’s cabinet. A number of vacancies already exist, and there are indications that more spots could be opening up in the wake of the mid-term elections.

“It’s hard to know what the President is going to do about all of those things,” Barrasso stated.

While those confirmations will likely create headline-grabbing battles in the Senate in the weeks to come, Barrasso expressed confidence in the ability to produce results for American people with a divided Congress. He predicted that meaningful legislation could be presented for President Trump’s signature through a Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.

The Wyoming senator, who chairs the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, pointed to America’s Water Infrastructure Act, which was signed into law by President Trump last month, as an indication that bi-partisan work is still accomplished in Washington, D.C., despite reports to the contrary.

“The thing you don’t get to see if you watch national TV is a lot of the good work we are doing,” Barrasso said. The truly bi-partisan Water Infrastructure Act passed a unanimous voice vote in the House, and sailed through the Senate on a 99-1 vote, and the senator reported that Wyoming will enjoy significant benefits from the legislation.

“There’s 15 projects in there that are important for Wyoming,” Barrasso said.

He also applauded bi-partisan work that produced the FAA reauthorization, eliminated the “pharmacist gag rule” so healthcare consumers can determine the lowest cost prescriptions available, and he tipped his hat to Wyoming’s other senator, Mike Enzi, for his work to approve Perkins grant money for career/technical education.

“There’s a lot that is being done,” he said of bi-partisan efforts in Congress, noting that both parties are working to finish the Farm bill and combat the opioid crisis in America as well.

“If it’s good for Wyoming, I’ll work with anybody. If it’s not good for Wyoming, I’ll fight with anybody,” Barrasso pronounced.

While the senator believes the two parties will find consensus and move forward on some of the challenges facing the country in the next two years, he renewed his pledge to continue the effort Republicans launched after President Trump was elected two years ago.

“We knew what we needed to do. Cut taxes, get rid of some burdensome regulations and unleash some energy,” he said to a round of applause from the Wyoming conservatives who gathered in the large meeting room at The Newcastle Lodge and Convention Center on Saturday night. He promised to continue to carry their message to the nation’s capitol even though the balance of power has tilted a bit in the wake of the mid-term elections.

“My word to Washington is just leave us alone,” Barrasso professed. “Our air, our water, our guns, our lives, just leave us alone.”


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