Frequent complaints raised during Enzi’s “listening session” in Powell concerned the country’s $16.5 trillion debt, the federal health insurance overhaul sometimes called “Obamacare,” U.S. aid to foreign countries, illegal immigration and proposed new restrictions on guns and clips.
After listening to the remarks, Enzi expressed solidarity with what he’d heard.
“This is great reinforcement for what I’ve been saying in Washington,” he told the audience Wednesday at The Commons. “I’ve been delivering that message and will continue to deliver that message.”
Enzi bemoaned the fact that Congress has been unwilling to pass a budget for the past four years and noted — to applause — a proposal he’s made to strip legislators of their pay in years they don’t pass a budget.
He faulted Obama for not backing a deficit-reduction plan proposed by former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson of Cody and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles in his 2011 State of the Union address or budget proposal.
“If he (Obama) would have done that, we probably would have passed that by about May (2011) and we wouldn’t be facing the dilemma that we’re facing right now,” Enzi said, referring to looming across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. “But Washington for the last four years has been living on contrived crises: You build a crisis, you get the media to cover the crisis, you put a specific date on the crisis, and then the amount of national publicity for it escalates as you get up to that crisis.”
Enzi said Congress needs to deal with the budget and other issues instead by going through committees and following the regular law-making process in a bi-partisan manner.
“My mantra in Washington is, quit deal-making and start legislating,” Enzi said. “Then you don’t have those cliffs, you don’t have those contrived crises.”
In other remarks:
• Enzi called the financial regulation reform bill known as Dodd-Frank “one of the biggest violations of your rights that I’ve ever seen.” He said a Consumer Protection Bureau created by the bill can look at your personal financial records any time they want and can cancel any loans up to 180 days after they’re issued.
• On the Farm Bill, which spells out federal policy on basically all things ag, Enzi said a new version of the bill “absolutely has to get done. I don’t know how people can plant their crops unless they know what’s being done on the Farm Bill.”
Enzi said the current set-up of the bill, set to expire at the end of September, is too large. He noted WIC (nutrition assistance for women, infants and children) and SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) both are included in the bill. As for continuing policies to protect domestic sugar (such as that from sugar beets) against imports, “our delegation so far has been able to fight off most of the attacks on sugar, but we have to do it every year,” Enzi said.
• Enzi said he’s learned the money the U.S. Postal Service will save by closing Wyoming post offices “didn’t amount to a hill of beans in the Post Office budget” and blasted the inefficiency of big city offices versus rural ones.
Concerns about both the Farm Bill and Postal Service were mentioned by residents during about 40 minutes of comments.
“The No. 1 statement is, just tell people back there to keep their nose out of our business, keep their fingers out of our gun barrels and basically stay out of our lives,” said Wes Westfall of Clark.
Buck Wilkerson of Cody accused the Democratic Obama administration of lying and chipping away at Republican philosophy.
“Why don’t our senators stand up and take him to task?” Wilkerson asked. “Is it because our people are afraid to be called racist because they disagree with the president? Our country is at such a tremendous risk right now that we should not let anything deter us ... from getting up and getting in their face; and when they’re lying, tell them they’re lying; and when they’re not lying, listen to them.”
Other speakers conveyed similar urgency in their remarks.
One man said states may have to secede because of federal malfeasance, corruption and destruction; another said he believed “we’re close to revolution in this country, because Congress is taking everything away from us.” A third, Ray DiLorenzo, suggested a billion rounds of ammunition federal agencies plan to purchase over the next five years are not for training but for some kind of fight.
“A lot of people are beginning to feel like this government knows an economic collapse is imminent and that the possibly of civil unrest or even civil war is on the horizon, and I’m very, very concerned about that,” DiLorenzo said to audience applause.
Enzi didn’t touch the idea of secession or a coming civil war in his remarks, but had plenty of criticism for the current administration, saying President Obama says one thing and does another while spending lots of money.
“It is disturbing,” Enzi said. “Now how to get that word out, that’s what’s difficult.”
He bemoaned a loss of investigative journalists at the national level.
The listening session in Powell was one of several Enzi hosted around the state last week.
In a message posted to Twitter on Monday, Enzi noted the comments he received about not being forceful enough in conveying conservative views.
“Forcefulness shouldn’t be mistaken for persuasion,” he wrote.