CHEYENNE – In an interview Thursday, U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., discussed her opposition to many of the federal policies pushed by President Joe Biden in his address to Congress this week, stating Democrats are trying to “fundamentally change the American social structure” through reckless spending.
The state’s newest federal delegate spoke with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle the morning after Biden delivered his first speech before a joint session of Congress, in which he outlined his priorities and stated “we have to prove democracy still works.” Lummis, the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Wyoming, did not attend the speech in person, unlike the state’s other two delegates, instead watching from home, though she criticized the limited seating allowed as an unnecessary COVID-19 precaution.
“Everybody who wants to be vaccinated is vaccinated in the building, so I considered it just political theater to have that few people attend and have them continue to bump elbows and wear masks when that’s no longer necessary in the U.S. Capitol building,” Lummis said.
Just over 100 days into her six-year term in Washington, D.C., the senator hit on a wide range of topics during her interview with the WTE, criticizing the Biden administration’s spending policies, the Democrats’ infrastructure proposal and the overall climate in the Capitol.
On Wednesday, Biden unveiled a $1.8 trillion proposal called the American Families Plan, which would expand community college and pre-K opportunities, reduce the cost of child care and offer new health care credits, and would be financed through additional taxes on the highest income earners. Lummis bashed the plan as a “progressive grab bag” that would cause everyday citizens and the next generation of Americans to foot the bill, arguing it would also lead to tax hikes on middle-income earners.
“It turns pre-kindergarten and community colleges into new entitlement programs, and you know our country can’t afford that right now,” Lummis said. “We can’t even dig out of the hole we’ve already dug for ourselves, and the tax increases would slow down and, in some cases, actually wreck elements of our economy.”
Explaining the parties’ divergent approaches, Lummis contrasted Republicans’ focus on “equality of opportunity” with something Democrats have spoken of: equity.
“Equity is the thing where we all have equal pay, regardless of whether we’re working or not, or what jobs we do,” Lummis said. “It’s about a concept that is more akin to socialism, and I know that Republicans get accused of being overreactive when we use terms like socialism as applied to the progressive agenda, but we’re not wrong.”
Wyoming’s junior senator also offered her support for a Republican counterproposal on infrastructure funding, which came in response to Biden’s roughly $2.3 trillion proposal, known as the American Jobs Plan. The president’s proposal, which would be funded through increased corporate income taxes, outlines money to rebuild 20,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges, along with investments aiming to reduce global climate change.
Meanwhile, a group of Senate Republicans, including U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., have countered with a proposal calling for $568 billion in new spending largely raised through higher fees on certain drivers, with about $300 billion of that going to repair roads and bridges.
Lummis backed their proposal, noting her support for “an infrastructure bill that includes real infrastructure,” namely roads, bridges, wastewater treatment, water pipe replacements and rural broadband expansion. She also noted her own sponsorship of a separate bill, which has a pair of Democratic co-sponsors, that would update aging and failing infrastructure for drinking water and wastewater nationwide.
While Democrats have majorities in both chambers, Lummis was unsure whether Biden’s infrastructure proposal would pass through the House and Senate, or whether a compromise may be reached.
“I’m anticipating that they will move with a much larger proposal in the House, because (Speaker) Nancy Pelosi has a complete lock on her membership in the House, but in the Senate, it’s a different story,” Lummis said. “Even this morning, Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, is quoted as saying that the Biden proposal makes him uncomfortable, because it’s so much money, and this after we had already passed on a fully one-party vote in the Senate, a (COVID-19 relief) bill that spent $1.9 trillion already. ... That was passed before the last COVID bill in the Trump administration in December had even been distributed.
“There’s so much money sloshing around in the economy already that throwing more on just overheats the economy,” she added. “It’s unhealthy economically, what the Democrats are trying to do.”
In an uncommon moment of agreement with the Biden administration, though, Lummis reaffirmed her support for the president’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by later this year. While her position puts her at odds with Wyoming’s sole congresswoman, Rep. Liz Cheney, Lummis argued the withdrawal fits squarely within her “America First” platform.
“I have friends who fled Afghanistan and came to the United States, and they allege that the United States is propping up the wrong government in Afghanistan, and that government doesn’t have the support of the Afghani people,” Lummis said. “So as long as we are propping up a government they don’t support, we are going to fail. It doesn’t matter if we stay another 10 years, 20 years or 50 years. In the context of Afghani history, we are going to fail, because we are propping up a government that the people of Afghanistan do not support.”
The senator added she remains committed to a strong military, as well as an approach of “peace through strength.”
“There’s two components to that phrase – we have to have strength, but the goal of that strength is peace. The goal of that strength is not to be a world policeman or a world bully,” Lummis said. “Our goal should not be to reshape the governments of other countries at the same time that we ignore the progressive reshaping of the United States.”
The politics in Washington, D.C., have taken a turn in recent years, said Lummis, who served as Wyoming’s sole U.S. House representative from 2009 to 2017.
“When I left on Jan. 20, 2017, I didn’t think I’d ever come back, but coming back, there’s something that has just been absolutely remarkable – and sad, to be honest – and that is the state of hatred that Americans have for each other in Washington,” Lummis said. “You can see the hatred on people’s faces. You can hear it in their voices, and that did not exist when I left here in 2017. So, our country has a lot healing to do, and it’s extremely divided on emotional lines.
“I think when people try to draw Americans apart based on race, based on police brutality and distrust of each other, that if you preach that gospel enough, you reap what you sow,” Lummis said. “I think that has happened.”