By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Former U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi was a tireless worker on behalf of Wyoming’s interests in Congress and in Wyoming’s Legislature, other elected officials said Tuesday.
Enzi, 77, died late Monday after suffering serious injuries in a bicycle accident in Gillette on Friday.
Enzi served as a U.S. Senator for four terms and was replaced by U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis after his retirement in 2021.
Lummis, who served as a member of the U.S. House for nine years while Enzi was a senator, recalled Enzi as someone who could work with both parties to accomplish important work.
“He was a soft-spoken leader, but the legislative wins he delivered loudly attest to the impact of his service,” she said. “At a time of increasing political incivility, Mike Enzi managed to tactfully navigate the upper chamber, producing results that will be felt for generations to come.”
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, who served with Enzi in the Senate for 13 years, described Enzi as “one of the most consequential public servants of our time.”
“Whether he was serving as mayor of Gillette, in the Wyoming Legislature or in the U.S. Senate, you could not have asked for a stronger champion for Wyoming and our country than Mike Enzi,” he said.
Barrasso, who lost his first bid for the Senate to Enzi in 1996 before being appointed to the seat left open with the death of Sen. Craig Thomas in 2007, reflected on Enzi’s reputation as someone who was able to solve problems in Congress.
“Mike was a problem solver through and through,” he said. “More than 100 Enzi bills were signed into law by four U.S. presidents. Many passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. As the first accountant to chair the Senate Budget Committee, Mike secured a legacy of cutting wasteful spending and making government more accountable to American taxpayers.”
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, whose first campaign for federal office was a campaign against Enzi in 2014, remembered the Republican as a mentor and teacher who was always guided by principle.
“Mike was a straight-shooter, an honest broker, and a soft-spoken but powerful advocate for the causes he cared deeply about,” she said. “Whether it was pushing for fiscal discipline as head of the Senate Budget Committee or fighting for the needs of Wyoming’s energy industry, Mike was always guided by principle and conviction.”
Also sharing fond memories of Enzi was Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the wife of the late former U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who served with Enzi on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The two men traded positions as either ranking member or chair of the committee, depending on which party was in power.
However, the Republican Enzi and Democrat Kennedy always worked together on the committee regardless of which party held the reins in the Senate, she said.
“When it came to Mike and Ted’s work together, majority control did not factor into the equation – mutual respect did,” Kennedy said. “And as a result, the committee followed regular order to report out more than two dozen pieces of legislation that passed the full Senate with broad bipartisan support. At least 17 of those bills ultimately became law.”
The secret to the abililty of the two to work together was their reliance on Enzi’s “80/20” rule — a decision to work together on the 80% of the issues they knew they could agree on.
“Mike Enzi’s 80/20 rule is one we all should strive to live by,” Kennedy said. “The Senate would certainly be a more productive place. And most important, our interactions with each other wold be more civil. I can’t think of a better legacy than that. Thank you, Mike, for showing us the way.”