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Barrasso, Lummis Look Forward To Meeting With Biden’s Supreme Court Pick

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis both said on Friday they look forward to meeting with President Joe Biden’s nominee to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated by Biden on Friday to become the next U.S. Supreme Court justice, succeeding Justice Stephen Breyer, who will retire at the end of his term, when the court takes its summer recess. Breyer has served as a Supreme Court justice since 1994 and was nominated to the post by former President Bill Clinton.

Jackson is the first Black woman to be nominated for a Supreme Court justice. Only two Black men, Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, have served as justices.

Barrasso said the Senate would focus on Jackson’s legal decisions of the past in making its decision on confirmation.

“We won’t follow the radical Democrat playbook of baseless character assassination and personal attacks,” Barrasso said. “Our next Supreme Court justice will make decisions that impact Wyoming and our country for generations. That’s why it’s important to confirm a justice who will apply the law, not legislate from the bench. It is critical that the Senate takes all the time it needs to thoroughly evaluate Judge Jackson’s record and past decisions. The American people cannot afford for this process to be rushed.”

Barrasso said he looked forward to meeting with Jackson in person soon and learning more about her judicial philosophy and understanding of the U.S. Constitution.

Lummis echoed similar sentiments in a tweet she posted on Friday.

“I’m looking forward to meeting Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as we consider her nomination to the Supreme Court,” Lummis said. “It’s important that we have a justice who impartially interprets the Constitution, maintains separation of powers & federalism and who upholds our constitutional rights.”

Jackson is a Harvard Law School graduate and has been serving as a district court judge since 2012, when she was nominated by former President Barack Obama.

Former President Donald Trump nominated two Supreme Court justices during his term, Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s spokesman Jeremy Adler did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Friday.

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Cheney, Barrasso Mourn Slain U.S. Capitol Officer

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso mourned the loss of a U.S. Capitol police officer who was killed in the line of duty on Friday.

A person rammed a vehicle into a police barricade on Friday, killing one officer and injuring another. The names of the officers and the suspect have not yet been released.

“Our deepest condolences to the family of the @CapitolPolice officer who was killed today defending our Capitol,” Cheney wrote on Twitter Friday. “US Capitol Police put their lives on the line to protect us and our republic. They deserve our unwavering support.”

The suspect was killed by police after exiting the vehicle and brandishing a knife at officers. One officer was reportedly stabbed in the incident.

“Bobbi and I are heartbroken to hear that one of the Capitol Police officers protecting the US Capitol today has passed away. Praying that the other officer injured recovers,” Sen. John Barrasso said.

The National Guard was also deployed to the Capitol on Friday.

This is the second attack this year on U.S. Capitol police, the first being the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 in the wake of Congress counting the Electoral College votes that would solidify President Joe Biden as the victor over former President Donald Trump.

One officer was killed in the attack, and multiple others died.

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Wyoming’s Delegation Oppose Biden’s Infrastructure Plan; “Out-Of-Control Socialist Spending Spree”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s congressional delegates have all come out against President Joe Biden’s newest infrastructure plan, calling it “out-of-control” and a “political football.”

The $2 trillion 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.

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis wrote a short comment about the plan on Twitter, retweeting an article from political website “The Hill.”

“Everyone agrees that we need to update our transportation infrastructure. Biden wants to make it a political football,” she wrote. “We can do better.”

Her congressional colleagues had much more to say, though.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso called the plan an “out-of-control socialist spending spree.”

“This proposal…will hike taxes and spend trillions of dollars on the left’s radical agenda,” Barrasso said. “Democrats are offering to hamstring the economy with higher energy bills and higher taxes for families in Wyoming and across the country. Republicans want to protect our energy dominance, and let hardworking Americans keep the money they earned.”

“President Biden should change course and look to our bipartisan highway bill from the last Congress if he is really interested in improving our infrastructure,” Barrasso added.

Biden also intends to hike taxes on corporations, which would offset the bill’s spending in about 15 years.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney called the plan the “largest tax hike in history” and said it would destroy jobs and increase the nation’s debt.

“These tax increases would hurt middle-class Americans, taking more of their hard-earned money at a time when our economy is still recovering.” Cheney said. “The Biden plan would eliminate the pro-growth policies that reduced unemployment to historic lows and led to the creation of one of the strongest economy’s our country has ever seen.”

She added congressional Democrats admitted the plan was more about fulfilling “Green New Deal fantasies” rather than helping the nation.

“Once again, President Biden has shown that he does not appear to be serious about working across the aisle,” Cheney said. “I hope Congress will reject the far-left outline he put forward today and instead work in a bipartisan manner to pass targeted infrastructure legislation that both parties agree we need.” 

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Barrasso Blames Biden For Border Disaster Ahead of Texas Trip

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso blamed President Joe Biden and his administration for the immigration crisis happening at the U.S./Mexico border during an appearance on the Senate floor this week.

On Tuesday, Barrasso spoke on the Senate floor about how Biden’s policies are squarely to blame for the border crisis. The senator actually intends to travel to Texas this week to see the situation firsthand.

“In the month of February, federal agents apprehended more than 100,000 illegal immigrants crossing our Southern border. That’s more than double the number from last February,” Barrasso said. “Illegal immigration usually goes down in the winter. It rises in the spring and then peaks in the summer.”

Since immigration usually declines in the winter, Barrasso and many of his colleagues are concerned there will be an uptick of people attempting to illegally cross the border in the spring and summer months.

Barrasso blamed Biden policies and campaign promises, such as a claim where Biden guaranteed “lavish” taxpayer benefits for undocumented immigrants (which couldn’t be substantiated), for the surge in immigration over the last two months.

He also criticized Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ stance that people in the U.S. should receive healthcare, no matter their documentation status.

He also pointed to Biden’s immigration-related executive orders (including restoring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) as making the U.S. more friendly to undocumented peoples.

“Even the Biden administration admits, we’re on pace this year for the most illegal immigrants in two decades,” Barrasso said. ““You can come here illegally and get a free vaccine against the coronavirus. Free health care, No wonder illegal immigrants are rushing our borders.”

The senator noted that under former President Donald Trump’s administration, immigration declined.

“It was because he sent a clear message to the world. He said, don’t come here illegally or we will send you right back home. That message was heard around the world,” Barrasso said.

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Barrasso: Impeachment of Trump Will Do Nothing

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso made his feelings about the Senate impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump clear with his vote to end the process on Tuesday.

“Democrats now control the White House and Congress, yet their top priority is an impeachment trial for a president who no longer holds office,” Barrasso said. “This partisan crusade will cost time and energy while doing nothing for jobs, for vaccines, or for getting kids safely in classrooms.”

The senator added that he swore an oath to the U.S. Constitution, which provides for impeachment to remove officials from their seats, not to be used as a weapon for members of Congress to punish political opponents.

“Consistent with my duty to the Constitution, I voted to certify the electoral votes sent by the states to Congress,” Barrasso said. “And consistent with my duty to the Constitution, I oppose the impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate of a private citizen and former president.”

Trump is facing an impeachment trial on allegations he incited the mob of people that stormed the U.S. Capitol in early January as Congress met to certify the results of the electoral college vote, which confirmed President Joe Biden as the victor in November’s presidential election.

Barrasso and U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis both voted against the impeachment trial, but U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the former president in the final days of his administration.

“This is an unconstitutional impeachment,” Lummis told the Casper Star-Tribune on Tuesday. “You can’t convict a private citizen, and that’s a constitutional provision.”

However, a majority of senators voted to rule the impeachment trial constitutional Tuesday, meaning that the proceedings could move forward.

“My focus remains on the needs of the people of Wyoming as I work to put the pandemic behind us and rebuild our economy,” Barrasso said.

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Barrasso Calls For End to Storming Of U.S. Capitol

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso joined Wyoming colleague U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis on Wednesday in criticizing the crowds who invaded the U.S. Capitol as members of Congress prepared to certify the results of Electoral College votes from November’s election.

“This violence and destruction have no place in our republic,” Barrasso wrote in a Twitter post. “It must end now.”

Laura Menglekamp, Barrasso’s spokeswoman, said Barrasso and his staff were safe following the incident that forced the evacuation of the Capitol earlier in the day.

An undetermined number of protesters described as supporters of President Donald Trump breached the Capitol shortly after noon Wyoming time. The incident occurred shortly after Trump hosted a rally to encourage members of Congress to reject the Electoral College’s vote in favor of Democrat Joe Biden.

Barrasso and Lummis were on opposite sides of the Electoral College issue. Lummis joined 10 other Senate Republicans in announcing she would object to certification of the votes until an audit could be conducted of the elections in six states where Trump has alleged voter fraud occurred.

Barrasso, expressing opinions similar to those of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, said he would vote to certify the results because their rejection would mean Congress was selecting the next president rather than the voters.

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Barrasso Votes to Certify Electoral College Decision

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

While expressing disappointment with the outcome of November’s presidential election, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso voted Wednesday to certify the results of the Electoral College vote that put former Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office.

Barrasso said he felt the Constitution outlines a process by which the states, not Congress, elect a president.

“Our founders entrusted the election of our president to the people, acting through the Electoral College, and not Congress,” Barrasso said in a statement. “The founding fathers wisely wanted each state, including low-population states like Wyoming, to have their voices heard and votes counted. The Constitution and federal law are clear that the power of Congress is limited to counting electoral votes submitted by the states.”

Barrasso said his vote to certify the Electoral College results follows what the Constitution dictates.

“In Wyoming, we pride ourselves on being guardians of the Constitution,” he said. “We must maintain that commitment as we protect and defend our Constitutional freedoms.”

The question of certification for Electoral College votes has led to a divide among members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation.

While Barrasso voted to certify the votes, U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis joined 10 colleagues in vowing to object to certification unless an emergency audit is conducted in states where questions have been raised about the legality of votes cast.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney advised her fellow Republicans not to object to the Electoral College votes, voicing many of the same objections as Barrasso — primarily that if the objection stops certification of the votes, Congress will select the next president rather than the voters.

Barrasso said he has heard from people across Wyoming concerned about the outcome of the election and agreed that work needs to be done to fix improprieties in the election process.

“There is serious work that needs to be done to reform the election process and protect the integrity of ballots,” he said. “We should all be committed to that effort now.”

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Four Thousand Sign Petition Calling for Barrasso to Object to Electoral Vote

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

More than 4,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that U.S. Sen. John Barrasso object to the certification of votes cast by the Electoral College.

The petition found on “standupforfairelections.com” was created by Rebecca Bextel, a Jackson business owner who said Barrasso and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney are not paying attention to the wishes of their constituents.

“It doesn’t seem like they’re even paying attention and I think that’s why the petition is so popular,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “People are saying they’re not even acknowledging their calls. Sen. Barrasso and Rep. Cheney are not representing the people of Wyoming.”

The votes cast by members of the Electoral College, which seem to point to a victory in the presidential election by former Vice President Joe Biden, are to be certified by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis has joined 10 other Senate Republicans in saying she will object to that certification until an emergency audit of votes cast in states where allegations of election irregularities have been raised can be completed.

Cheney has said such action would improperly put the power to decide elections in the hands of Congress. Barrasso has said he would like to see an investigation into the irregularities that surfaced during the election, but he has also said he believes the Democrat Biden will be the next president.

Bextel’s petition, which had been signed by 4,028 people as of noon Tuesday, states that if Barrasso does not object to the certification, those who have signed will not vote for his re-election in 2024.

While Bextel has not launched a similar petition aimed at Cheney, she mentions the representative several times on her website.

“I didn’t make a petition for Cheney because I know she doesn’t care what we want,” she said.

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Barrasso: Masks Need to be Worn in Theaters

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Sen. John Barrasso on Friday criticized AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron for not requiring theater-goers to wear masks while in the chain’s theaters.

Barrasso, speaking on CNBC, said Aron’s decision didn’t make sense.

“He’s in the business of trying to get people to come and see a movie, I think people are going to be reluctant to spend their money to sit in a confined space for a couple hours breathing the same air with a lot of folks who aren’t wearing masks,” Barrasso said.

Aron told Variety that his decision was based on political concerns rather than public health issues.

“We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” Aron said. “We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary. We think that the vast majority of AMC guests will be wearing masks. When I go to an AMC feature, I will certainly be wearing a mask and leading by example.”

Barrasso likened the movie-going experience to being on an airplane where masks are required.

“You are talking about a confined space where people are there for extended periods of time and breathing the same air. It’s like being on an airplane.  I was on two flights yesterday getting back to Wyoming,” he said.

“When that happens and the increased risk is there, people ought to be wearing masks in those situations,” Barrasso said.

The senator went on to say he was concerned about an “explosion of lawsuits” from individuals exposed to the coronavirus in different business settings and protections should be there for those businesses “that are following the prescribed guidelines.”

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Bipartisan legislation introduced to delay health insurance tax hike

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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s costly health insurance premiums can make it difficult for independent businesses to provide policies for employees, a National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) spokesperson said.

“Premiums are not decreasing — they’re increasing, and they have been for years,” said Tony Gagliardi, the NFIB state director for Wyoming and Colorado. “It makes it harder and harder for small employers to continue to provide the benefits for their employees.”

As a result, Gagliardi is welcoming a move proposed by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and some of his colleagues to delay implementation of a tax on health care premiums created by the Affordable Care Act.

Wyoming Department of Insurance Senior Health Policy Analyst Denise Burke said the majority of Wyoming residents rely on health benefits provided by employers.

“We have a very high percentage of Wyoming residents who receive their insurance from their employer,” Burke said. “It’s about 59 percent. That’s above the national average.”

If the federal Health Insurance Tax takes effect as planned in 2020, anyone paying insurance premiums, including Wyoming’s employers, will see a jump in premium costs.

On Wednesday, Barrasso joined a bipartisan group of legislators trying to ensure health insurance premiums don’t jump up in 2020.Barrasso and Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, Doug Jones, D-Alabama, Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, introduced the Health Insurance Tax Relief Act to provide a two-year delay of the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) created by the Affordable Care Act, a news release from Barrasso’s office says.

If the delay fails, the tax could increase premiums by about 2 percent or $196 per person in the individual market, $479 per family in the small-group market, $458 per family in the large-group market and $157 for Medicaid premiums on average nationwide, the news release says.

“We’re very pleased and thanked Sen. Barrasso for pushing against HIT,” Gagliardi said. “Should that tax be implemented, it will be passed on to the policy holders.”

The NFIB is a non-profit organization, which represents small businesses in Washington, D.C., and each of the 50 state capitols. It was created 75 years ago and boasts approximately 325,000 members across the U.S. Gagliardi said the organization has been active in Wyoming for decades and represents about 2,300 small business owners throughout the state.

“Increased health insurance premiums themselves may not affect a business opening or closing,” he said. “It does have a workforce effect. Oftentimes, the inability of an employer to offer good health insurance affects their ability to attract good employees.”

Burke said Wyoming’s health insurance premiums are the second costliest in the nation, with only Iowa ranking more costly. 

“Across the board, rural health insurance is more expensive,” she explained. “Wyoming has higher than the national average smoking rate and a higher than average elder population, and all of those contribute.”

Currently, tax on premiums offered within the state is set at 3 percent, Burke added. Estimates within her department place the rate of Wyoming’s uninsured residents between 13-18 percent, and she said the national average was about 13 percent.

“Anecdotally, we are thinking the people who are leaving the market are the young and the healthy,” Burke said. “The way insurance works is balancing the cost pool between the healthy and the unhealthy, so without healthy people in the pool, the cost will go up.”

If the HIT takes effect in 2020, Gagliardi said the potential 2 percent increase to premiums could have serious ramifications for Wyoming’s workforce.

“The HIT tax could be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.

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