SHERIDAN — Wyoming Republicans will choose between very different philosophies when they select the party’s nomination for the state’s sole U.S. House of Representatives seat in the primary election later this month.
Incumbent Rep. Liz Cheney will face two challengers in the primary, Rod Miller, a Buford resident calling for a shift in Congress’s priorities, and Blake Stanley, a Constitutionalist from Cheyenne.
Cheney, who is wrapping up her first term in Congress, said the platform she ran on aligned with the priorities of the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress and, as such, she is proud of much of the legislation Congress passed during her first term.
She points to the passage of the Republican tax bill, the repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act, which tightened regulations on the country’s financial sector, and lifting regulations that have targeted the extraction of fossil fuels as achievements in her first term.
If re-elected, Cheney said she would continue to pursue a similar agenda by working to remove regulations on the energy industry and making permanent the tax cuts Congress passed for citizens last year, which are due to expire in 2027.
She also listed securing funding for a border wall as one of her priorities going forward.
While Cheney is proud of many of the actions Congress took during her first term, Miller is running because he thinks Congress is broken and sees Cheney as part of the problem.
Miller said he decided to run primarily because he believes Congress has surrendered fundamental constitutional authorities and responsibilities to the executive branch. Over the past several decades, Miller argues, the United States’ polices in areas like foreign affairs, immigration and national security have increasingly been formulated by the president.
“Congress has demeaned itself by doing that, I think,” Miller said. “I would like to see a lot stronger Congress take on these national issues that are so important, debate them, legislate them, as is their responsibility, and give that legislation to the president to carry out, which is his responsibility.”
Miller hopes he can be part of a new wave of legislators committed to changing the way Congress functions. He said he believes there could be upwards of 100 new members of Congress after the mid-term elections and, if elected, hopes he can work with freshman lawmakers from both parties to enact change.
“It’s not going to happen overnight; it’s taken decades for us to get to this point,” Miller said. “But we’ve gotta start somewhere and I think, start with the new kids on the block. If we wanna drain the swamp, let’s drain the swamp, baby. Here’s how we do it.”
Cheney and Miller have also advocated very different approaches on issues related to federal lands in the state and health care reform.
According to his website, Stanley identifies as a “blue-collar conservative” who believes he will represent Wyoming’s residents better than a career politician. His campaign did not respond to an interview request.
Though Cheney has not said the state should take control of the federal lands within its borders, she believes the authority to manage those lands should be given to local authorities.
“I think the key is how federal lands are managed and what we saw during the Obama administration in particular, and even back before that, is there has been real damage to our federal lands because of complete federal mismanagement,” Cheney said.
In addition, Cheney said she would like to see more wilderness study areas, a designation that requires the lands be managed to protect wilderness characteristics until Congress decides whether to designate them as wilderness or to direct the Bureau of Land Management to manage them for other multiple uses, released from that designation.
Miller, though, criticized a bill Cheney introduced in Congress in December that authorized more heli-skiing on a wilderness study area in Teton County as preempting local input on what to do with the land. He argues the bill went around efforts by the Wyoming County Commissioners Association and the Public Lands Initiative to review possible uses for the land.
“She stepped in and tried to impose a solution from Washington,” Miller said. “That kind of imposition of the will-of-Washington on our public lands really rankles me.”
He also expressed concern about rhetoric coming from the “right-wing of the Republican Party” advocating the state takes control of federal lands. If that happens, Miller said the state’s constitution would require it sell the lands to the highest bidder, which could restrict public access to them. That course of action, Miller said, would be “idiocy.”
But Cheney insists there are no plans to sell off the public lands and calls the concern a “straw man argument.”
Cheney was a strong supporter of the American Health Care Act, a far-reaching bill that, broadly, would have repealed some programs established under the Affordable Care Act — such as Medicaid expansion — and relied on competition among private insurance companies to provide affordable coverage in their place, which went before Congress last year and passed in the House but failed in the Senate.
If re-elected, she said she will continue to advocate for that plan and work to ensure any changes to health care would protect people with pre-existing conditions.
“Ultimately, the challenge for us is getting the kind of reform we need passed through the Senate; given the Senate rules, it’s been very challenging,” Cheney said. “We have to get more Republicans elected and I would advocate changing the filibuster rules in the Senate so that we can get legislation dealing with health care passed through the Senate as well as the House.”
Miller advocates taking a more gradual approach to reforming health care. He argues that one of the reasons so many plans to reform health care have failed is because they aim to be comprehensive and ultimately bite off more than they can chew.
Instead of pushing for an omnibus health care bill, Miller said he would like to see Congress focus on reforming individual aspects of health care.
To start, he would look to pass legislation that would reduce drug costs by making it easier for generic drugs to come onto the market and by placing stronger regulations on the pharmaceutical industry. If that succeeds, he said Congress could move on to legislation that would reduce hospital costs and eventually look at addressing insurance, which will likely be the most difficult area to reform.
Ultimately, these differences will be resolved by Wyoming’s voters.
The primary election will be held Aug. 21.