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SHERIDAN — U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, stopped in Sheridan on Saturday to serve as keynote speaker at the Wyoming State Convention of the Jaycees, an organization that promotes leadership and community service for people ages 18-41.
Enzi said he was honored to be speaking for the organization that launched him into politics. As president of the Wyoming Jaycees in the early 1970s, he was approached by Sen. Alan Simpson after giving a speech at a state convention in Cody on the importance of good leadership.
“He comes up to me and says, ‘I don’t even know what party you’re in, but it’s time you put your money where your mouth is,’” Enzi said.
Enzi took his advice and became mayor of Gillette during a major boom when the city doubled in size. He then served in the state Legislature before running for one of Wyoming’s two seats in the U.S. Senate, which he has held since 1997.
Earlier this year, Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, began a campaign against Enzi for his Senate seat that launched Enzi into a national campaign of his own. Cheney has since dropped out of the race due to family health issues, but Enzi said he plans to continue his campaign.
“Once you set a national campaign in motion, though, there are a whole bunch of obligations you already have going regardless of what your opponent does. I intend to utilize the resources that I’ve put in place to put the word out on what I’m doing, what I have done, and most importantly what I’m going to do,” Enzi said.
Enzi said his campaign will also focus on working with other GOP candidates on a national basis so that the Senate can gain a Republican majority. That way, he will be able to be chairman of a committee of his choosing due to his seniority in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, the Budget committee and the Small Business committee, as well as his positions as chairman of the Tax Reform Subcommittee and as the only accountant on the Finance committee.
At this point, Enzi said his primary focus in his bid for re-election is budgetary concerns.
“I’m appalled at the budget that just passed — one and one-tenths trillion dollars with no opportunity to amend. Somewhere in there there had to be some duplication and some waste — actually I could show them $900 billion worth of duplication and waste, but they weren’t interested in even small amounts,” Enzi said. “At some point, we’ve got to quit overspending.”
Enzi said he has a “Penny Plan” that would balance the budget in two years by cutting one penny off every dollar spent by the federal government, in conjunction with sequester.
“We’ve got to start paying down some of our debt because if the interest rate goes up, we’re not going to be able to afford government. And the interest rate will go up. That’s just history repeating itself,” Enzi said.
Enzi also said he’d like to see the Senate operate the way it is supposed to with committees doing hearings on bills and making amendments from both sides of the aisle before bills go to the floor to be amended by Senators not on the originating committee. He said the 44 senators who are in their first term have never seen the Senate operate properly.
“We’re operating in a system now where any amendment that doesn’t agree with Harry Reid either ends the bill or can’t be brought up, and then we’re called obstructionists. You’re not an obstructionist if you’re doing your job,” Enzi said.
Speaking of Reid, Enzi noted that an issue likely to arise soon in the Senate is a bill to raise the minimum wage, which he does not support.
“Minimum wage is just a tax increase for everybody in the United States. It doesn’t help anybody. You need increased job skills to get more money,” Enzi said.
If minimum wage is raised 20 percent, everyone else will have to receive a 20 percent raise, too, Enzi said, which will cause businesses to charge more in order to pay for wage increases. If businesses charge more, people’s increased wages won’t buy any more than they did before.
“But, everybody’s in a higher tax bracket. That’s the purpose of that bill. It’s a way to raise taxes without letting the people know. No transparency, but a real heart grabber,” Enzi said.
Touching on a few local issues, Enzi said the recent ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency that stated Riverton and all other towns within a 50-mile radius of the current boundary of the Wind River Indian Reservation are actually part of the reservation was wrong.
“It’s a total overreach, and it’s a sham for the tribes,” Enzi said.
“As I look at it, I think their primary attempt there was to shut down energy development in the Pinedale area,” he continued. “Here’s the way it will work: the tribes can make a recommendation, and the EPA will decide on it for any development that happens in the reservation or in this 50-mile buffer. After the EPA has made their decision — which doesn’t have to be the same way the tribe recommended it — if the EPA decides that they didn’t make a good decision, they can appeal it — to themselves. This is a way for the EPA to get three shots on every decision on the deals of any kind of development in that area.”
Addressing a meeting of local school officials happening today, Enzi said he is not in support of requiring President Barack Obama’s “common core” curriculum nationwide.
“My role with education is to keep it as local as possible,” Enzi said. “We tried to, in the Education committee, to revise ‘No Child Left Behind.’ The Democrats have a 2,200-page bill that institutes a National School Board, makes ‘Common Core’ required and sets up a teacher evaluation system that hasn’t been approved by any state. The Republicans on the committee have a 220-page bill and it just returns things to state’s rights.”
Enzi said local educators should fight to keep education issues at the school, county and state level where people know what’s best for Wyoming’s students.