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Natrona County Rep. Chuck Gray Announces Run Against Cheney

in Liz Cheney/News/politics

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Natrona County legislator has announced he will run against U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in her re-election bid next year.

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, announced his campaign for Congress on social media early Thursday.

“We’ve all had the conversations around the kitchen table, at the counter in the local diner, and at the pumps filling up our cars with gas . . . Wyoming deserves better representation in Washington, D.C. than we’re currently getting,” Gray wrote in a letter to voters on his new campaign website. “Many of you have even reached out to share this frustration with me. That is why I have decided to run for Congress.”

Gray is the second Wyoming legislator to announce a bid against Cheney during the 2022 primary. Cheyenne Rep. Anthony Bouchard announced in January he will run against Cheney, partially due to her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.

Cheney’s impeachment vote was also something Gray has vehemently opposed.

He noted that as a Christian, he values integrity above all else and gives back to his community by serving others before himself.

Gray got involved in politics by creating radio shows to “speak up for the voiceless,” and has been in the Wyoming Legislature since 2017.

“I’ve been a constant defender of liberty, economic freedom, limited government, and our shared, conservative values in this role,” Gray wrote. “Since the beginning, my number one priority has been Wyoming. After all, the role of a public servant is to serve those who they represent.”

Gray is also opposed to big government and tax increases and is pro-life.

“Wyoming is at a crossroads. To the left, we have the status quo — a career politician who looks at the job as a Member of Congress as her birthright that can be leveraged at her own discretion to further her own goals, values, and objectives,” Gray said. “To the right, we have the path towards prosperity.”

He added that he was a supporter of Trump’s “America First” policy, something Bouchard also said when he announced his congressional run.

“You have my word . . . this campaign will be about our shared values and the future of our Great State,” Gray said. “I look forward to spending more time with you over the coming months to discuss the issues that matter most to your family and plan our collective future together.”

Barrasso: COVID Relief Bill Is “Packed With Pork”

in Coronavirus/News/politics

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso said the coronavirus relief bill headed to the U.S. Senate this week gets a grade of “F” from him because it is “packed with pork.”

He criticized the bill in two different venues on Tuesday, on the Senate floor and during an appearance on Fox Business with Maria Baritromo.

“This whole coronavirus so-called relief bill is packed with pork,” Barrasso said on Fox. “This is a piece of legislation that is the wish list of liberal Democrats for a long, long time. This whole bill, in my opinion, gets an F grade.”

Barrasso was referring to certain provisions of the bill, including one raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 (something both he and U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis have been vocal in opposing), another providing money for “failing pension funds” and a third funding what he called “bailouts for blue states.”

Congressional Budget Office report estimated the legislation, if passed, would increase the cumulative budget deficit by $54 billion in the next decade. Prices for goods and services would also increase as a result of paying workers more, the report said.

But the report also estimated the minimum wage increase would pull 900,000 workers out of poverty and pump $333 billion back into the economy.

Barrasso said on the Senate floor that he opposed the billions of dollars being spent on issues unrelated to the virus.

He also mentioned that the bill would subsidize health insurance, allowing people who make significant amounts of money to still get government aid for health care which they do not need.

“Government aid is supposed to be for those who need it — people who can’t make it on their own. But that’s not been the focus of the Democrats with this legislation,” Barrasso said on the floor. “This legislation is not about coronavirus, not about coronavirus testing and vaccination. This new proposal with these additional subsides is just going to get us this much closer to one-size-fits-all, socialized medicine.”

He added that Republicans wanted to lower health care costs, but Democrats wanted to raise what the government pays and that the party was pressuring states to expand Medicaid, something Wyoming has declined to do during numerous legislative sessions.

“I think only one dollar out of 11 of this $1.9 trillion bill actually goes to help get people back to work, kids back to school, focuses on the health care components of the coronavirus,” he said. “Republicans are offering the American people a stronger economy and opening schools. That’s what we ought to be focusing on.”

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Lummis, Barrasso Criticize Proposed $15 Minimum Wage

in Cynthia Lummis/News/politics

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis criticized the proposed $15 minimum wage included in the latest coronavirus relief bill, calling it an inappropriate and irresponsible addition.

“The Biden Administration’s $15 minimum wage increase may work in New York and California but it does not work for states like Wyoming,” Lummis said in a statement. “Placing that one-size-fits-all standard on every state is irresponsible.”

On the Senate floor, Barrasso gave a more impassioned speech about the wage increase.

“The bill includes a mandate from Washington D.C. to double the minimum wage, nothing to do with coronavirus. In fact, it would actually make things worse,” Barrasso said.

Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, which has been in place since 2009. The proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill includes not only a stimulus payment for residents, but a proposal to boost the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025.

Barrasso maintained federal studies showed the increase would do more harm than good.

“The Congressional Budget Office took a look at this and said what would the impact be on the economy? They say that 1.4 million people who have jobs right now would lose their jobs if the federal government came in with a mandate to double the minimum wage,” Barrasso said. “That’s not a stimulus.”

According to Business Insider, Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, two of the party’s most moderate politicians, have both said they are opposed to using budget reconciliation — a maneuver that allows the majority party to speed through high-priority fiscal legislation without support from the minority party — to pass the minimum wage hike.

Manchin, along with other moderates and most conservatives, said he is worried that the incremental wage increase could end up doing more harm than help. 

Manchin has said he would support something “responsible and reasonable” when it comes to raising the federal minimum wage and has proposed a smaller increase to $11 an hour. 

Congressional Budget Office report estimated the legislation, if passed, would increase the cumulative budget deficit by $54 billion in the next decade. Prices for goods and services would also increase as a result of paying workers more, the report said.

But the report also estimated the hike would pull 900,000 workers out of poverty and pump $333 billion back into the economy.

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Bouchard Unsurprised By Multiple Cheney Censures

in Liz Cheney/News/politics

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Cheyenne Sen. Anthony Bouchard isn’t surprised his congressional opponent has received multiple censures from Republican parties across the state for her vote on the impeachment of former President Donald Trump.

Bouchard, who has announced he will run against U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in 2022, on Friday spoke out against her and talked about his views on immigration, guns and more during an interview with New Right Network.

Bouchard added that he has explained this viewpoint to potential voters across the state, campaigning against Cheney’s vote, something he and other Republicans consider as a “stab in the back.”

“That’s what happens, we have people who go back to Congress and don’t talk about what’s happening,” he explained to host Jason Roberge. “They just come here and electioneer and they don’t tell people what’s going on.”

Cheney voted to impeach former Trump last month on allegations he incited a riot at the U.S. Capitol in early January as Congress met to confirm the Electoral College’s votes in the presidential election, in which now-President Joe Biden beat Trump.

While the House, with Cheney’s vote, approved articles of impeachment, Trump was acquitted of the charges last weekend in his Senate trial. U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis both opposed the impeachment.

Cheney has now been censured by multiple Republican parties since her vote, most recently by the Laramie County Republican Party earlier this week.

Last month, Bouchard announced his run against Cheney for her House seat, which she has held since 2017. The primary elections will take place next year.

“Representing the people is the most important thing, that’s the integrity of the system,” Bouchard said in his interview. “We’re losing it when we have people who go back to Washington and work to play the swamp games.”

Bouchard added that Cheney wasn’t a “real” Wyoming resident and couldn’t properly represent its residents.

“I think she’s working for the people of Virginia more than the people of Wyoming,” he said.

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Barrasso Wants Republicans to Come Together to Take On Biden

in News/politics

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso this week called for unity in the Republican party in order to challenge President Joe Biden’s administration.

While talking with Fox Business host Stuart Varney on Wednesday, Barrasso lamented the fact that the party has become so divided in recent years, partially due to the polarizing personality of former President Donald Trump.

“We need to stick together because of what we see happening with the Biden administration,” the senator said. “Right now, they’re killing millions of great jobs here in America. The administration is spending trillions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars that we just can’t afford to spend.”

Barrasso was referring to the recent moratorium Biden placed on oil and natural gas leases on federal lands and a proposed coronavirus relief bill totaling $1.9 trillion.

He noted that as a doctor, he had a prescription for the nation to get back on the right track: the Republicans should stick together so they can dominate the 2022 elections.

“[We can stop] this runaway freight train, which is the far-left liberal agenda of the Biden administration,” Barrasso said.

Currently, in addition to the White House, the Democrats hold a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

This isn’t the first time Barrasso has called for unity in his party, although the last time he did so, it was in reference to both the Republicans and Democrats coming together to pass the last coronavirus relief bill in December.

At the time, Barrasso accused Congressional Democrats of politicizing the pandemic, adding that House and Senate Republicans had tried “40 times” to get a bill accepted to “provide relief for the American public.”

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Barrasso Slams Biden’s Proposed Gun Reform

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso slammed President Joe Biden’s call for “commonsense” gun reforms on social media Tuesday, calling the Democrat’s ideas an assault on Second Amendment rights.

“I won’t let @JoeBiden threaten the right of people in Wyoming to keep & bear arms,” Barrasso said on his Twitter account early Tuesday afternoon, retweeting an article from political website The Hill about Biden’s reform.

Biden called for Congress to enact commonsense gun law reforms, including a requirement for background checks on all gun sales, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and the elimination of legal immunity for “gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets.

Biden’s comments came in a statement on Sunday, the three-year anniversary of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, the deadliest in American history.

“The time to act is now,” Biden said.

While Barrasso agreed that the United States must find ways to control violent crime and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, Biden’s attack on the Second Amendment wasn’t the way to do so.

According to The Hill, gun sales have been on the rise across the nation in recent weeks, an increase attributed to concerns that Biden will act on gun control in his early days in office.

Biden regularly spoke on the campaign trail about his passion for gun law reform and regularly said he would implement some type of background check legislation.

The new administration hasn’t appointed a new head to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is the department that enforces gun laws.

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Laramie County GOP to Discuss Cheney Censure on Tuesday

in Liz Cheney/News/politics

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Laramie County Republican Party could soon join the ranks of other Republican party groups across Wyoming that have censured U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.

According to an email sent from an address belonging to the Laramie County GOP, a resolution to censure Cheney was submitted for consideration during the party’s meeting Tuesday.

The unidentified party official who responded to questions from the Cowboy State Daily said he or she was not sure how the resolution would fare.

“While I normally have a good read on where the votes on resolutions will fall, this one is definitely going to have mixed votes and will likely be pretty split with whichever way it falls,” the email said.

When asked for a name, the person did not respond.

A censure is an expression of disapproval and has no binding effect on its subject.

Multiple Republican parties across Wyoming, including the Wyoming GOP itself, have censured Cheney over the last month in response to her impeachment vote.

Cheney voted to impeach the former president after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. She said at the time that her vote was based on the fact she believed Trump had incited the mob to action.

Five people died as a result of the attack.

Earlier this month, congressional Republicans voted overwhelmingly to keep Cheney in House leadership by a 145 – 61 margin.

“This is just an example that the Republican Party is a very big tent, everyone is invited in, and when you look at the last election, we continue to grow and in two years, we’ll be the majority,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.

The Wyoming Republican Party wasn’t as supportive, however.

“Representative Cheney has aligned herself with leftists who are screaming that what happened last Wednesday is the ‘worst thing ever in our history’ (or similar such claims). That is absurd and shows their lack of knowledge of history as well as their willingness to skew the facts to further their corrupt agenda,” the Wyoming GOP said in a statement.

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Barrasso: Democrats Aren’t Focusing on Real Issues

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso believes congressional Democrats aren’t focusing on the real issues the nation is facing and are instead focusing all of their attention on impeaching former President Donald Trump.

Barrasso shared these thoughts during an appearance on Fox News with Stuart Varney on Thursday, not long before Trump’s Senate impeachment trial resumed.

“They’re impeaching a former president,” Barrasso said. “They’re not focusing about the issues that I hear back home in Wyoming, which is getting back to work, getting kids back in school and getting this virus behind us.”

He again criticized President Joe Biden for the executive orders stopping production of the Keystone XL pipeline and the moratorium on oil and natural gas leases on federal lands, a move Barrasso and other Wyoming officials have spoken out against.

Varney also asked Barrasso’s medical opinion on the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention’s recent recommendation for people to wear two masks to prevent even further spread of the virus.

“The CDC is saying ‘Let’s do some things that we can protect ourselves with until everybody gets vaccinated,'” the senator said. “I think we ought to listen to the CDC.”

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Carbon County GOP Chairman on Cheney Censure: “The People Are Saying Something”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The chairman of the Carbon County Republican Party believes U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump will have far-reaching implications, including Cheney’s possible loss in her next re-election bid.

This subject was one of a number addressed by Joey Correnti IV during a 45-minute interview with FYNTV, a Georgia-based media outlet, on Thursday morning.

“I understand people [think the censures against Cheney] doesn’t mean anything, that it’s a slap on the wrist,” Correnti said. “Well, that shows their own ignorance of when you get slapped on the wrist by the hand that feeds you. The people are saying something.”

The host of the program asked Correnti if he thought it was appropriate for Cheney to “vote her conscience” instead of voting for how she thought Wyomingites would want her vote.

“I don’t expect our representative to take a poll of the entire electorate of Wyoming every time they have a decision to make,” Correnti responded. “But she didn’t have to take a poll. Wyoming took a poll on November 3.”

The Carbon County GOP was the first of multiple Wyoming GOP organizations to criticize Cheney for her vote to impeach Trump following the attack on the U.S. Capitol in early January. The Wyoming Republican Party followed up with its own vote for her censure last weekend.

A censure is an expression of disapproval and has no binding effect on its subject.

Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach the president on allegations he helped incite the riot.

Correnti expressed disappointment and frustration that Cheney was quick to make a judgment about the riot and that she was not available for any form of contact the night of the riot, which saw Congress reconvene to confirm electoral college results giving President Joe Biden victory over Trump in November’s general election.

Cheney’s lack of availability was one of the major reasons the Carbon County GOP decided to censure her, Correnti said.

“I couldn’t get ahold of our representative, and the people do have a voice, we ended up putting together a resolution,” he said.

Trump’s Senate trial is taking place this week, but both U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis have indicated they will not vote to convict the former president.

Correnti added that there was no evidence that Trump helped incite the riot and that Cheney was only trying to further her own interests with her impeachment vote.

“She said she voted her conscience based on her constitutional duty,” he said. “That, to me, sounds like an accusation.”

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UW Researchers Find Major Impacts Due to Political Division

in News/politics/University of Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The polarization between the two major political parties has far-reaching impacts on American life, University of Wyoming researchers have found.

A paper by researchers from UW and five other universities who looked into all the impacts of political polarization was published in January in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing of the American Marketing Association.

The study concluded the impacts go far further than most had expected, touching even on mental and physical health, said Dave Sprott, dean of the UW’s College of Business and one of the paper’s authors.

“I think we’re all aware of how political polarization has affected our elections and system of government, but the impacts go far beyond the political arena,” he said. “Ultimately, polarization harms mental and physical health, financial welfare, relationships and societal interests through its impact on psychology, marketing and public policy outcomes.”

The researchers referenced previous studies that suggested political polarization in the United States is more pronounced now than in the past, at least among members of the nation’s major political parties, with Democrats significantly more likely to identify as liberal and Republicans as conservative.

Additionally, those questioned for the studies indicated they believe the parties ideologies overlap less now than they did in previous years, and the portion of people who hold extreme political opinions is increasing.

Research also showed that political identities, such as Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative, help determine people’s behavior, attitudes and perceptions.

Those identities can be reinforced by people selecting social groups with shared belief systems, consumption of media that only align with those beliefs and even creation of a “group-specific shared reality,” the researchers wrote.

From a public policy standpoint, political polarization makes it more difficult for elected officials to effectively govern, the paper asserted. This is due to a number of factors, including a lack of trust in scientists in policymakers and prevalence of misinformation.

“For instance, as society has become increasingly polarized, politicians’ objectives diverge and their animosity toward the opposition grows, thereby reducing opportunity for compromise,” the researchers wrote. “Partisan incivility is a major reason for failed dialogue: Uncivil exchanges result in disagreement and greater polarization regardless of the evidence presented.”

This political polarization is reflected in the marketplace, as consumers connect with brands that they perceive reflect their values and beliefs.

“In effect, activist consumers will increasingly expect brands to help spur social change, and will be more likely to respond to brand actions through a political lens,” the researchers wrote.

For example, they noted that the expressions of support for former President Donald Trump by the CEO of Goya Beans, a Latin food company, resulted in liberal consumers boycotting the company’s products and conservatives promoting them during 2020.

Similar situations arose for companies including My Pillow, Home Depot and Chick-fil-A when their corporate leaders expressed support for conservative causes.

Even when companies aim to be apolitical, the nation’s polarized environment increases the chances that they will be viewed as being political, the researchers said.

“As the population becomes more polarized, initiatives that were previously viewed through an apolitical lens may be viewed as favoring one political identity over another, as a polarized population is more likely to view corporate actions through a political lens,” the researchers wrote.

Ultimately, according to the researchers, consumer welfare suffers because of political polarization in these areas:

Finances: With political positions influencing decisions, people may sacrifice wages, lose out on jobs, make suboptimal purchases and disregard opportunities to save. For example, research has found that employees accept lower wages to work for politically like-minded entities, and people may select higher-priced products or ones that offer less-functional value.

Relationships: Polarization has the potential to prevent neighbors or colleagues of opposing parties from developing friendships. This ultimately deprives individuals of intellectual diversity, among other things.

Health: Obstruction of social relationships stemming from political polarization can cause both mental and physical harm. Additionally, “the politicization of coronavirus prevention techniques has seemingly slowed their adoption and obscured dissemination of scientific facts, thereby amplifying the spread of a deadly disease.”

Societal interests: For instance, beliefs relating to global warming, affirmative action, wealth inequality and gun control often tend to reflect individuals’ political affiliations rather than a deliberate processing of relevant information that results in evidence-based decision-making.

“In addition, the broader negative impacts of these policy areas on society as a whole have the potential to harm individual mental and physical health over the long term,” according to the researchers.

The researchers suggest a number of potential measures to limit the effects of polarization, including reducing the spread of misinformation, using messaging techniques to try to bridge the different values of liberals and conservatives and limiting the length of political campaigns.

At the same time, the researchers acknowledge that some level of conflict is good and natural for society, and that polarization has been shown to increase voting and political participation.

“Future research should consider the possibility that while political polarization can be harmful, there may be silver linings and reasons for hope,” the researchers concluded, suggesting inquiry into “what types and levels of societal conflict result in positive versus negative outcomes.”

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