Q&A with Sen. John Barrasso
PINEDALE – After speaking to students at Pinedale Elementary School on March 29, Sen. John Barrasso took time to answer a few of the Roundup’s questions. Here is a transcribed version of that conversation.
Editor Brady Oltmans: I know you visited the State Capitol today; what were some of the things you mentioned to the legislature?
Sen. John Barrasso: I talked to them about the fight to make sure, the efforts against Wyoming oil and gas, and energy. We’re going to keep fighting every day to make sure that we can use the resources that we have here in Wyoming. In many ways, oil and gas is our bread and butter. So, that’s the fight we’re up against. We have a Secretary of Interior who wants to keep all carbon-based fuels in the ground. We need the energy. The country needs the energy. We don’t want to be more dependent on foreign sources. It does seem we’re spending a lot of time trying to educate folks on the realities of the energy needs. There are people who believe we can power the country by solar panels and wind turbines and it just cannot be done. They want to tax energy and gas prices are already up.
I gave a speech to the House, Senate and Legislature. I talked about how we’re Wyoming, we’re strong, we’re resilient, we’ll get through this. I talked to an old rancher who said, “Eh, we’ve been through a lot more than this.” So we will do well. We’ll have to fight every day to make sure we will do well.
Oltmans: Pretend your other senators read the Roundup. What’s one thing that you’ve learned through another election year that other senators just don’t understand about Wyoming and its pertinent issues?
Barrasso: There are some senators who are so fixated and bought into the rhetoric of impending doom of climate change that they refuse to realize the reality of the energy needs of the nation. And that’s one of the biggest battles we have here. Because we’re right on the economics and they’re on a very different side on the emotions. That’s the battle that we’re in with some of these senators.
There’s simply no substitute for making sure the right person wins the election. Because if somebody gets to the Senate and has run on a very liberal agenda of climate change as the governor of Washington State did and the senator from – Ed Markey from Massachusetts, they’re not going to change once they get there. My goal is to educate as much as possible. And also to make sure people get elected who have a much better understanding of the needs of each of the states and the rights of states to make their own decisions. I’m a guy who wants to build the economy and we have Democrats who want to build the government. I want to grow the economy; they want to grow the government. It’s just a philosophical difference of how we see life. It’s divisive now because there are these two different views.
I told the Legislature, and Albert (Sommers) was there, that the lessons I learned in the Wyoming Legislature are that we do best if we have limited government, limited in size and scope and in spending. We want low taxes and reasonable regulations and don’t spend all the money. We now have an administration who added $1.9 trillion to the debt and is going to go more on another government giveaway program. So there’s fundamental differences.
Oltmans: With social media and PR firms out there, I’m curious. As a senator, do you think personal branding can get in the way of governing?
Barrasso: Good and the bad. Good, bad and ugly of anything. The technology, for one, has led to more polarization. You can call it “technology-enhanced aggression.” You see cyber-bullying, all the things that happen. It was a simpler time when people weren’t as connected. The connections have helped but it’s not all been specifically for the good. I think it was easier to make deals in the past without people tweeting out during the discussion. It’s a little better when you were sitting there and trying to negotiate out a solution.
Oltmans: I’ve got one more for you. You’ve talked about the Constitution and swore to uphold it. The last week brought up gun rights and voter rights, both of which are enshrined in the Constitution. Can you explain how one of them gets more legislative restrictions than the other?
Barrasso: There are folks that actually don’t want Americans to buy, sell, transport or use firearms. And I fight them every step along the way. There’s a bill in the House now, they want every firearm in the house to be registered. That’s not going to happen. Three hundred million guns in the United States, they’re not coming into our homes and doing that. Because they seem to be focusing on law-abiding citizens as opposed to be trying to identify people who need help for mental illness and other areas. It’s interesting whenever there is an unfortunate, terrible incident, what you hear them saying is, “Go take the guns away.” And that’s not the solution to mental illness, the mental health problem that we have.
On the voting issue, Ed Buchanan is our Secretary of State and oversees voting issues, Wyoming does it right. People want election integrity. They want to know it’s fair and free of fraud. And to me that means voter identification. You need to show a driver’s license to get on a plane, you need to show ID to rent a car, why shouldn’t you have to have ID to vote? And the states make the rules. I don’t think we need Washington to tell Wyoming how to run elections. That’s what’s happening now in Washington, they want a one-size decision that doesn’t necessarily work for Wyoming in terms of how we do things. It works in Wyoming if you request a ballot, send it out to them and they send it back. As opposed to what Pelosi wants to do, which is everyone who’s ever been registered to vote, send them ballots – “What if they’re dead?” – Too bad, send them anyway – “What if they don’t live here and they left the state?” – There’s no way, you could go through the list. People should register to vote. Under this bill, anybody who applies for Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment and illegal immigrants registering for a driver’s license gets registered to vote. Well, people in Wyoming would say, “First you need to be a citizen of the United States. And then you should show an ID. There’s another 30 things wrong with the Pelosi bill, but in terms of just talking to people in Wyoming, you have 100 people in a room and you ask them if to vote you have to be a citizen of the United States, every hand will go up. And you ask how many need to show they are who they say they are, every hand would go up. But Pelosi wants to eliminate both of those.