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Wyoming Lowest In Nation For COVID Vaccinations; Barrasso Says Get Vax, Lummis Says Personal Decision

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

With news from the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) that Wyoming ranks the lowest in the nation for coronavirus vaccinations, the state’s two U.S. senators have differing thoughts on what residents should do about it.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, a physician by trade, is encouraging individuals to get vaccinated while U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis said the decision is a personal one.

“Vaccines work,” Barrasso said. “If you want to protect yourself and your family, the best thing you can do is get vaccinated. I’m a doctor and I have been vaccinated, as has my wife and my adult kids. I’ll continue to encourage folks across Wyoming to talk to their doctor and get the vaccine if they are eligible.”

Barrasso spokeswoman Laura Mengelkamp told Cowboy State Daily that Barrasso has visited vaccine clinics across the state, written a column on the importance of being vaccinated, advocated for vaccines on TV, participated in public service announcements and repeatedly encouraged people on social media to get the vaccine.

A spokeswoman for Lummis said although the senator has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, she feels it is a decision that should made with input from a doctor, not the government.

“She is hopeful that with the recent full authorization of the Pfizer vaccine, people in Wyoming will discuss the risks and benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine and make the decision that is best for them and their families,” spokeswoman Abegail Cave told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

She noted Lummis recently signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill proposed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, which would prohibit the federal government from requiring citizens to carry proof that they have been vaccinated — so-called vaccine passports.

According to the CDC, Wyoming had 201,863 unvaccinated adults in the state, 45.36% of its population, the highest rate of unvaccinated people in the country.

West Virginia and Mississippi each owned the distinction of having the highest share of unvaccinated residents in the nation for months until Wyoming recently surpassed each state.

West Virginia is in 49th place with 44.36% of its citizens being unvaccinated while Mississippi is next at 44.20%.

Texas actually had the highest number of unvaccinated adults, with 6.6 million, but that amounted to only 30.8% of its population.

Spokespeople for Gov. Mark Gordon and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment.

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Lummis Supports Bill Preventing Vaccine Mandate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis announced her support on Friday for a new bill that would prevent federal vaccine mandates.

Earlier this year, Lummis and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Braun (R-Indiana) introduced legislation to prohibit such federal requirements.

“Much like Obamacare, a federal vaccine mandate would insert government into what should be a personal decision between a patient and their doctor,” Lummis said Friday. “Any vaccine mandate will further divide our country, instead of uniting us. That’s why I’m supporting the No Vaccine Passports Act, which would keep the federal government from forcing anyone to get a vaccine approved under Emergency Use Authorization, like the COVID vaccines.”

President Joe Biden has not implemented a nationwide vaccine mandate, although earlier this week, he announced that federal employees would be required to either obtain the vaccine or be tested regularly for coronavirus and would be required to use masks and practice social distancing.

In May, Gov. Mark Gordon officially banned state agencies, boards and commissions from requiring “vaccine passports” to access state spaces and services. Other states have implemented similar bans against vaccine passports.

“Vaccine passport programs have the potential to politicize a decision that should not be politicized,” Gordon said. “They would divide our citizens at a time when unity in fighting the virus is essential, and harm those who are medically unable to receive the vaccine. While I strongly encourage Wyomingites over the age of 16 to get vaccinated against COVID-19, it is a personal choice based upon personal circumstances.”

The new directive also encouraged Wyoming’s counties, cities and towns, as well as private business, to follow the state’s example in providing access to public spaces and services to all.

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Barrasso, Lummis Ask Biden To Not Revoke Ability To Expel Immigrants From Infectious Countries

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis joined a group of senators this week in asking President Joe Biden to leave in place a rule allowing the U.S. to expel undocumented immigrants who came to America from countries with high coronavirus infection rates.

“Ending this order will have a dire impact on the crisis already engulfing our southwestern border,” the senators wrote in a letter to Biden.

Title 42 allows the government to expel immigrants who have been in a country where a communicable disease is present. According to political website The Hill, the rule was implemented under former President Donald Trump and has been used to expel around 100,000 immigrants every month.

Reports have indicated Biden is thinking about revoking the rule, perhaps as early as the end of July.

In their letter to Biden, the senators highlighted how immigration facilities are already overcrowded and overwhelmed, and ending Title 42 will further exacerbate the crisis at the southern border.

“We urge you in the strongest possible terms not to take this action…Immigration facilities are overwhelmed,” the letter said. “Revoking the authority of officials to rapidly expel illegal migrants under Title 42 without a clear plan in place to handle the stress this population will place on the system and on border communities will further exacerbate the crisis at the southwestern border.”

The senators added that limiting the number of individuals held in close quarters through expulsion is a justified measure while dealing with the persistent threat of the coronavirus, which is highly transmissible.

“The administration’s first priority must be to protect the American homeland,” the group wrote. “Allowing political considerations to overrule the clear public health threat created by the spread of COVID-19 at the border is reckless and irresponsible.”

Other than Barrasso and Lummis, the group of 30 senators who signed the letter included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo and South Dakota Sen. John Thune, to name a few.

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Lummis Praises Court’s Decision To Allow People Under 21 To Buy Guns

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis is praising a federal court’s decision this week to allow adults under the age of 21 to own a handgun.

A panel of judges for the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down the decision on Tuesday in favor of arguments that that federal laws preventing law-abiding 18-,19-, or 20-year-olds from owning a firearm violated the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

“The Second Amendment is a constitutional right,” Lummis said. “There is no reason a law-abiding 18-year-old adult should be denied that right solely based on their age. If we trust them to defend our country, we should trust them enough to purchase a handgun. I applaud the decision of the Fourth Circuit.” 

Judge Julius Richardson of the Fourth Circuit wrote in the decision, “When do constitutional rights vest? At 18 or 21? 16 or 25? Why not 13 or 33? In the law, a line must sometimes be drawn. But there must be a reason why constitutional rights cannot be enjoyed until a certain age. Our nation’s most cherished constitutional rights vest no later than 19. And the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms is no different.” 

In April, Lummis introduced a bill that would allow adults under 21 to purchase firearms.

The Second Amendment Mandates Equality Act of 2021 would repeal the law that currently prohibits people under the age of 21 from buying a handgun and reinstate the right of adults between the ages of 18 and 20 to purchase a handgun from a federally licensed dealer. The bill was co-sponsored by a number of Republican senators, including Montana’s Steve Daines, Idaho’s Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer.

“The Second Amendment is a constitutional right, and does not treat 18-year-olds as second-class adults,” Lummis said at the time. “In keeping with the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, the SAME Act would overturn our current restrictive anti-handgun statute and ensure equal treatment under law for adults under 21.”

“Ultimately, if we trust 18-year-olds enough to defend our country and to choose our elected officials, we should trust them enough to purchase a handgun,” she added.

The senators argued that people age 18 to 20 are considered adults and can get married, serve in the military and form business contracts, therefore, they should have the right to buy a handgun.

“Sen. Cynthia Lummis’ Second Amendment Mandates Equality Act (SAME Act) is true ‘common-sense’ gun legislation,” Gun Owners of America spokesman Aidan Johnston said. “The current 18–20-year-old handgun ban is antiquated and keeps honest, young adults disarmed – sending the message that the Second Amendment is a second-class right.”

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Lummis Calls For End of Mask Mandate For Vaccinated Americans on Airplanes

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Sen. Cynthia Lummis on Wednesday said it is time to end mandates for the use of face masks on airplanes and public transportation for Americans who have been vaccinated against coronavirus.

In announcing her support for the bill which would eliminate the mask mandate for vaccinated people in airports, commercial airplanes, buses, and rail systems, Lummis said the mandate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is no longer necessary and needs to rescinded immediately.

“Outside of the beltway, the country is going back to normal. Wyoming and most other states lifted their mask mandate months ago,” Lummis said.

“The only place most Americans are wearing masks now is in airports and on airplanes,” she said. “[Transportation] Secretary Buttigieg even said that the mandate is not actually about the science, but instead about ‘respect.’ If there’s no science backing it up, it’s time for the mandate to go.”

Other Republican senators from the more conservatives and moderate wings of the party also spoke in support of the bill stating that the mandate has outgrown its usefulness as more than 150 million Americans have been fully vaccinated.

“Americans should be able to travel to celebrate Independence Day with their friends and loved ones without having to follow an outdated and unnecessary mandate,” Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said.

“I recently spoke with two flight attendants about the mask mandate for air travel,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). “Given the horrendous and unthinkable violence that has occurred on flights, one of them was frightened by what would happen if she tried to enforce the mandate.”

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Lummis, GOP Senators Introduce Resolution Highlighting Importance of Free Speech

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis joined other Republican senators this week in introducing a resolution confirming the importance of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech protections.

Lummis joined North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer, Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, among others, to introduce this legislation.

“I am an ardent defender of the U.S. Constitution, and the liberties it protects,” Lummis said. “People in Wyoming don’t always agree on everything, but we are always proud to defend the right of others to voice their opinions. Everything exceptional about America can be traced back to the protections granted under the First Amendment. We must all work every day to reaffirm those principles, especially that those we disagree with still have a right to be heard.”

In the resolution, the senators pointed out a number of examples where people’s freedom of speech rights were suppressed for some reason or another.

These included an Oregon high school student who was suspended for wearing a shirt supporting former President Donald Trump, a person being suspended from e-sports competitions for wearing a mask supporting protests in Hong Kong and a New York Times opinion editor who resigned six months after editing and publishing a controversial editorial piece by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton.

The senators noted that “freedom of speech is one of the most basic values of the United States,” and “the ability of all people of the United States to speak, protest, and express their opinions publicly is central to the democratic process and to a free society.”

If passed, the resolution would certify that the Senate “recognizes that freedom of expression and freedom of speech are sacred ideals of the United States and should protect the freedom to peacefully express thoughts and opinions without fear.”

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Lummis Promotes Grizzly Delisting While Questioning Biden Nominee

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

After questioning President Joe Biden’s nominee for assistant secretary of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis remains unsure about whether she will vote to confirm the woman to the post, according to her office.

An aide to Lummis to the senator said while Lummis appreciated Shannon Estenoz’ statements during a Senate committee hearing that the state management of grizzly bears is central to continuing the species’ recovery.

“Wyoming, Idaho and Montana first achieved all of the grizzly bear’s recovery objectives set by the federal government in 1997, more than 24 years ago,” the aide said. “The committee will vote on Estenoz’s nomination in coming weeks (the date has yet to be determined). Sen. Lummis is still considering how she will vote on her nomination.”

Lummis asked Estenoz during the hearing whether grizzlies should be removed from the Endangered Species List, given the fact the recovery of the bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the greatest success stories of the Endangered Species Act.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Bush administration, the Obama administration and the Trump administration’s all agreed that the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear population has recovered and should be delisted,” Lummis said. “Do you believe we should keep species on the list?”

Estenoz agreed that the Yellowstone area grizzly “is doing very, very well.”

“I believe when species meet the definition of delisting or down-listing, then we should delist or down-list,” Estenoz said.

“It’s really important for folks to feel supported and listened to and that we have the right tools in the toolbox to help folks live and exist with a recovering predator species, and state management and state expertise as I said before is absolutely central to this approach,” she said.

Estenoz said if she is confirmed, she will prioritize working with communities to “recover,” or delist, predators in particular.

In 1975, there were 136 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In 2019, there were 728 bears, evidence of an effective conservation effort. At this point, grizzly numbers have been in the 700s for a number of years. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team’s analysis suggests that the park is at or near its ecological carrying capacity for grizzly bears.

Lummis is a sponsor of the Grizzly Bear State Management Act of 2021, which would remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the Endangered Species List and shift management of the grizzlies to wildlife scientists in the states. U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

Bears have become so populous in the park and Yellowstone area that it is common for tourists to encounter them every summer. This week, a woman was charged by a grizzly while filming three bears running around.

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Lummis Blasts Biden For Being Partisan On Infrastructure

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis this week questioned the motives behind President Joe Biden’s latest infrastructure bill, noting that the legislation only has support from congressional Democrats.

During a speech on the Senate floor Monday, Lummis called on Biden to unite the two parties in Congress so they can work together on the proposed $2 trillion package.

“Honestly, I am hard pressed to remember a time when infrastructure was not bipartisan,” she said. “In 2021, this should be no different. If President Biden wants to truly unite the nation, he can start by working with Republicans on the most basic bipartisan issues.”

She said it was “perplexing” that Biden, who campaigned on a message of bringing the nation together, was pushing a “blatantly partisan bill.”

“While much divides Congress these days, infrastructure, as that term is understood by most Americans, is a bipartisan issue,” Lummis said. “As such one would assume President Biden would want to find some common ground in order to build relationships in Congress and address the needs of every citizen.”

The infrastructure package focuses on job creation, traditional infrastructure spending and investment in certain areas such as funding for care workers and for childcare to be offered at workplaces.

In particular, Lummis addressed the current backlog in funding that the nation’s highways and bridges face. 

“Right now, we have a highway trust fund that we can’t actually trust,” she said. “Since 2008 we have been relying on general fund transfers to pay for our roads and bridges, instead of fixing our user fee model to keep the trust fund solvent.”

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Lummis Introduces Bill That Would Allow People Under 21 to Buy Handguns

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis introduced a bill this week that would allow adults between the ages of 18 and 20 to purchase a handgun from a federally-licensed dealer.

The Second Amendment Mandates Equality Act of 2021 would repeal the law that currently prohibits people under the age of 21 from buying a handgun. The bill was co-sponsored by a number of Republican senators, including Montana’s Steve Daines, Idaho’s Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer.

“The Second Amendment is a constitutional right, and does not treat 18-year-olds as second-class adults,” Lummis said. “In keeping with the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, the SAME Act would overturn our current restrictive anti-handgun statute and ensure equal treatment under law for adults under 21.”

“Ultimately, if we trust 18-year-olds enough to defend our country and to choose our elected officials, we should trust them enough to purchase a handgun,” she added.

The senators argued that people age 18 to 20 are considered adults and can get married, serve in the military and form business contracts, therefore, they should have the right to buy a handgun.

“Arbitrary age restrictions barring law-abiding adults from legally and lawfully purchasing a handgun are unconstitutional and out of line with our country’s foundational beliefs,” Risch said. “The SAME Act will reinstall the constitutionally guaranteed Second Amendment rights of 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds and expand access for Americans seeking to purchase firearms legally.”

The SAME Act is supported by Gun Owners of America and the National Association for Gun Rights.

“Sen. Cynthia Lummis’ Second Amendment Mandates Equality Act (SAME Act) is true ‘common-sense’ gun legislation,” Gun Owners of America spokesman Aidan Johnston said. “The current 18–20-year-old handgun ban is antiquated and keeps honest, young adults disarmed – sending the message that the Second Amendment is a second-class right. GOA commends Senator Lummis for standing for the Second Amendment rights of young adults.”

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Lummis Scoffs At Biden’s Order to Quit Using Phrase “Illegal Alien”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis scoffed at President Biden’s order that federal agencies can no longer use the phrase “illegal alien” when describing immigrants who are not in the United States legally.

The phrase, which is used throughout U.S. immigration law, is not the issue, Lummis said. Rather, it’s the calamity at the U.S. – Mexico border, where tens of thousands of migrants have illegally entered the United States with the change of presidential administrations.

“While President Biden should be focused on the crisis happening at our southern border, it’s disappointing to see him instead focusing on semantics,” Abegail Cave, a spokesperson for Lummis, told Cowboy State Daily. “Immigrants who come across our border illegally are, in fact, illegal immigrants.”

The president earlier this week directed all U.S. immigration divisions to stop using the term “illegal alien” and to instead use the phrase “undocumented noncitizen”.

“We enforce our nation’s laws while also maintaining the dignity of every individual with whom we interact. The words we use matter and will serve to further confer that dignity to those in our custody,” the memo reads.

Like Lummis, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney said the issue is the crisis at the border, not terminology.

“People who attempt to enter the country illegally are not simply non-citizens,” Cheney said. “[Biden and Harris’] decision to embrace open borders has resulted in a humanitarian, public health and national security crisis. Migrants who unlawfully enter our country are, by definition, illegal aliens.

“President Biden needs to reverse course and put in place the policies that will secure our border and put an end to the surge of illegal immigration,” she added.

While Sen. John Barrasso did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for a comment, he has previously criticized the president’s approach to immigration.

“It’s not just one crisis: it’s a double crisis. It’s a national security crisis as well as a humanitarian crisis,” the senator said on the Senate floor earlier this month. “We spoke to the Border Patrol agents. They told us their jobs got an awful lot harder on Jan. 20, when Joe Biden became president of the United States.”

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