As Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives slogged through 15 votes to elect a new speaker in early January, they spent more than 25 hours on the House floor together, with little to do but …
As Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives slogged through 15 votes to elect a new speaker in early January, they spent more than 25 hours on the House floor together, with little to do but visit. And U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) said she took advantage.
“I used every minute I could to explain what I think we need to do to change this country,” Hageman recounted at a Friday town hall in Cody, and she said it resulted with her colleagues seeing her as “the expert” on administrative law.
“... I talked a lot about what the regulatory agencies and unelected bureaucrats are doing to us as free citizens,” Hageman said, calling the contested election “an incredibly positive experience” that brought the GOP together.
“I'm very hopeful about what we can do,” Hageman said.
The freshman representative can certainly use all the help she can get, as she hopes to shake up multiple federal agencies.
Hageman wants to abolish the Department of Education and see the Environmental Protection Agency “substantially curtailed” in favor of state regulators, like the “fabulous” Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.
She also supports stripping the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of its power and wants to revisit the country’s relationships with the United Nations (it has “outlived its usefulness,” she said) and the World Health Organization (“a bunch of unelected bureaucrats that are completely and totally aligned with China”).
Hageman also hopes to force the Biden administration to stop delaying coal and mineral leases, to stop tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserves and to generally increase American energy production. Noting the role that coal and other fossil fuels play in producing affordable, reliable power and other goods, Hageman said that fully switching to green sources “isn’t even possible.”
“... it’s about control. And it's about power,” Hageman told a packed room at the Cody Library’s Grizzly Hall. “And so we have to fight.”
What kind of traction the GOP majority in the House will gain remains to be seen. For instance, an effort to repeal the Biden administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule was recently unsuccessful, as Democrats continue to hold the Senate and President Joe Biden holds veto power.
Hageman expressed more optimism about her efforts to have management of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzly bear returned to Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, saying she thinks the secretary of the interior supports delisting.
“It’s only through lawsuits and judges who don't read the ESA that they [delisting opponents] have relisted them [grizzlies],” Hageman, adding, “Everybody knows that they are well past the recovery point.”
In the thick of things
Beyond Wyoming-specific issues, she’s been involved in many of the Republican Party’s hottest topics since taking office in January.
For instance, she’s a member of the House Weaponization of the Federal Government committee, which she said will be subpoenaing information related to the recent indictment of former President Donald Trump — including to explore any involvement from the White House. And she and other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee visited Yuma, Arizona last winter, an experience that reaffirmed Hageman’s resolve to “secure our border.”
Meanwhile, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Limited Government and the Constitution, Hageman has sought to expand parental rights and delved into the debate that’s raged in Wyoming and elsewhere about what material is appropriate in school classrooms and libraries.
“We know how to teach; we know what to do with kids. [But] we’re driving them crazy. … with nonsense about climate change and transgender, all this other stuff that has nothing to do with education. And then we’re wondering why they're not educated,” Hageman said. “We’ve got to get control of this education system. We’ve got to make sure that we’re teaching, not indoctrinating.”
Part of her work with the weaponization committee has included scrutinizing the way Twitter handled a slew of requests from federal agencies to take down posts and accounts.
“While the Democrats want to expose first graders to pornography,” Hageman charged, referring to challenged materials in school libraries, “they’re saying we're not allowed to communicate via Twitter and Facebook without them being involved in the conversation.”
Hageman said she wants to find ways to hold government agencies accountable for violating First Amendment rights — and she criticized federal law enforcement agencies for “surveilling” Twitter.
Questions and answers
Hageman covered a wide range of topics during the roughly 75-minute town hall and fielded questions from the dozens of attendees.
In response to a question about foreign ownership of agricultural lands, Hageman noted she’s co-sponsoring legislation that would prohibit people and entities from certain countries — including China, North Korea, Venezuela and Russia — from owning sensitive sites, including farm ground.
With three of the country’s four meat packing giants owned by foreign interests — and one, Smithfield Foods, owned by a Chinese corporation — “we’ve got to reconsider that,” Hageman added. “We don’t want them in charge of our food supply.”
She also expressed concern about the U.S. dollar losing its status as the world’s reserve currency amid rising inflation and $32 trillion in national debt. Russia and China are trying to push other countries away from the dollar, she added, which would be “catastrophic, if that happens.”
Park County Republican Party Secretary Tim Lasseter asked Hageman if she would support tabulating election results by hand instead of using machines.
“What I’m going to say is as a federal person, you don't want us in your elections. It is a state issue,” Hageman responded, suggesting the issue be left up to state lawmakers and the Wyoming secretary of state.
However, she said “there are some things that need to change” in Wyoming, specifically mentioning chain-of-custody procedures for tracking ballots and a shorter period for early voting; Hageman contended that voting a month ahead of the election “actually disenfranchises people” because “things happen” in the days ahead of an election.
The Wyoming Legislature recently cut the early voting period from 45 days ahead of the election to 30 days.
In an interview after the town hall, Hageman declined to go into greater detail about her concerns with Wyoming’s elections, because “this really is a state issue.” However, as a private citizen, Hageman said she’s already talked to Secretary of State Chuck Gray “about some things that we saw during the election that we’d like to see changed, just for everybody who’s running.”
During the town hall, Hageman offered that “I'm not as worried about Wyoming as I am a lot of states.”
When another audience member asked for Hageman’s views on the documentary “2000 Mules,” the congresswoman said she hadn’t seen it. However, she did criticize the hundreds of millions of dollars that a nonprofit tied to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave to election administrators to help conduct the 2020 election.
“We’re not shoring up our elections the way I think that we need to to give people confidence that our elections are being carried out right,” Hageman said. “And I think it’s going to be very devastating to our country if we don’t get this straightened out.”
‘We’re going to fix this’
Despite her many concerns, Hageman opened the town hall with a relatively optimistic tone. For example, she said the House’s procedures have significantly improved under Speaker Kevin McCarthy and that the drawn-out election for the speakership pushed more moderate and liberal Republicans further to the right.
While there’s a lot going on in D.C., “when I look at this room, and I look at the dedication to protecting our republic, and I look at the love that everybody has for our country, our community, our state, I know we're going to turn this around,” Hageman told the crowd in Cody. “I know we're going to fix this.”