U.S. Senator John Barrasso spoke with Riverton resident Mike Yowell during last week’s meeting. Yowell expressed concerns that those charged in the January 6 incident were not getting their day in court fast enough, which he felt was an injustice. (Photo by Sarah Elmquist Squires)

By Sarah Elmquist Squires

Managing Editor

United States Senator John Barrasso visited Riverton last week, when he spoke to local Kiwanis Club members over lunch at Central Wyoming College, sharing updates on state and national issues spanning health care, energy, inflation, and more. 

Political polarization on Capitol Hill is nothing new, Barrasso explained, but it has reached a new high in recent years. “My job is to protect Wyoming,” he said. “There are a lot of challenges in Washington … There are the same issues, but they’re on steroids” now, he added. Government intrusion, bloated federal spending, heavy-handed bureaucrats, and more and more presidential executive orders have made for political theater from leaders who can’t see the real issues faced by American families, he said. “They don’t get it. They don’t understand Wyoming,” Barrasso explained of many congressional leaders.  

Barrasso voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill because, he said, it simply added too much to the country’s debt. It does some good for Wyoming, he admitted, but, like just about every bill these days, there’s something in it that would appeal to just about anyone. It’s still too much spending in an economy already suffering from massive inflation, he explained. 

A bright line in Congress is the bipartisan bill authored by Barrasso and Minnesota Democrat Senator Tina Smith, co-chairs of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, which was approved and signed by President Joe Biden last week. Barrasso explained that the State Offices of Rural Health Reauthorization Act of 2022 is aimed at providing relief for rural communities struggling to provide quality health care. “It’s hard in rural America to recruit physicians a lot of the time,” Barrasso said. As a doctor himself, he’s intimately familiar with the challenges many Wyoming communities face when it comes to medical care and finding quality staff to provide it. The bill extends five more years of a program that provides State Offices of Rural Health with the financial resources needed for information-sharing, technical assistance, and care delivery in rural areas. 

Another health care measure that has assisted Wyoming communities includes allowing physician’s assistants to practice under a physician who isn’t on-site. Barrasso said a perfect example is Dubois, which lost its doctor, and had trouble recruiting another, leaving the remaining physician’s assistant unable to practice. “Rural health care is always a challenge,” he explained, but bringing solutions to Congress that address the unique problems in Wyoming communities is his mission.

Barrasso took issue with the liberal mandate to put an end to fossil fuels and push renewable energy, regardless of the cost. He recounted a time when President Biden traveled to Montana to laud the construction of solar panels on a fish hatchery there, which would save $2,500 per year, but take 87 years to pay for the cost of the panels. Their lifespan? Twenty-five years, Barrasso said. “[Biden] would tell a story rather than do math,” he said. 

In an interview, Barrasso addressed the problem of inflation. He said there are two major issues that have caused the steep inflation plaguing American families. “One was the Biden attack on American energy, because gas prices went up to over $5 a gallon all around Wyoming,” he said. “And President Biden was proud of the attack. His first day in office he killed the Keystone XL Pipeline. He signed a number of executive orders, basically shutting down oil and gas production, they’ve broken the law on oil and gas lease sales, and the only way they were able to bring down gas prices was by releasing all of this petroleum in the strategic petroleum reserve – a million barrels a day – which was there for emergencies. And they have to refill that. We’re now at the lowest level of emergency fuel since we started putting fuel into that.” 

U.S. Senator John Barrasso spoke with Kiwanis Club members last week in Riverton. (Photo by Sarah Elmquist Squires)

Couple that with massive government spending on straight party-line votes, he said, and you have a perfect recipe for inflation. “You have Democrat economists saying ‘This is going to cause inflation.’ And Joe Biden saying ‘Oh, it’s going to be transitory. It’s going to be temporary.’ Prices are still up about 15% since the day he took office. And it’s stuff that people need to buy, whether it’s gas or it’s groceries – today the story is eggs are up dramatically … it’s cereal, it’s milk,” Barrasso said. “Families have been hit all across America, and it was a strict, party-line decision on their climate agenda, by trying to kill fossil fuels, and massive government spending.”

How can America combat inflation? The spending is already done, Barrasso explained, but Democrats need to reverse their position on fossil fuels. “People want available, affordable, and reliable energy. And we have an administration that [like] John Kerry in many ways with his smug superiority, is saying ‘You’ve got to do it my way’ … [The administration] is still focused on renewable energy regardless of the cost and regardless of the consequences. And we need it all.” Barrasso said we can’t power America or its economy on wind and solar alone. “I want to make energy as clean and as fast as we can without raising costs on consumers,” he said. “That’s the big fight going on in energy and it’s a clear dividing line between folks who are realistic and who do the math on energy and how much we need, and these folks for whom climate is a religion. And they want to do things dramatically and unilaterally and immediately, for very little if no benefit whatsoever.”

Had Republicans won the Senate, Barrasso would have likely been the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, and he said a Republican majority would have peppered the president’s desk with American energy bills. “We’re the energy breadbasket of the country, in terms of what we have here,” he said. “I will contend and will argue with anyone: We do it better here than they do it in all the places Biden goes for energy. We do it better in Wyoming than Biden’s choice of Saudi Arabia. We do it better in Wyoming than Biden’s choice of Venezuela. We do it better in Wyoming than his choice of Iran. We do it better in Wyoming than his choice of Russia. I don’t understand why he wants to buy energy from all those places but won’t let us get it out of the ground here.”

The nuclear plant planned for Kemmerer, Barrasso said, should be something that Democrats and Republicans can agree on – it’s the only source of power that has zero carbon emissions. “And yet some of those resisting what we’re trying to do here are liberals, who don’t want nuclear power, either. They want wind and solar and they can’t do math, because they think they can power our country on windmills and solar panels, and you can’t,” he said. “That’s wishful thinking.”