Western Caucus members discuss priorities for 118th Congress
On Jan. 27, U.S. Sen. and Chair of the Senate Western Caucus Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) alongside U.S. Rep. and Chair of the Congressional Western Caucus Dan Newhouse (R-WA) held a press conference to discuss their legislative priorities for the 118th Congress.
Lummis announced she would be taking the gavel as chair of the Senate Western Caucus on Dec. 8, 2022 and started in her new position in January. This will be Newhouse’s second term serving as chair.
To kick off the press conference, Western Caucus Foundation Executive Director Darrell Henry welcomed attendees and explained the mission of the Western Caucus.
“I call the Western Caucus a three-legged stool. There is the Senate Western Caucus, which is now over 10 years old. There is the Congressional Western Caucus, which is in its 30-year anniversary, and then there is the Western Caucus Foundation,” Henry stated.
“The foundation is a section 501(c)(3) charitable organization which works with the House and Senate Western Caucuses and promotes their agenda, communication and education, while also helping put boots on the ground out West to learn about policy issues,” he added.
Following Henry, Lummis took to the stage to address attendees.
“The Western Caucus allows all of us to work together for the betterment of the Western states, to bring profile to Western issues and to solve issues unique to the West, our Western lifestyles and the natural environment in which we live, as well as the rural way of life which is frequently underrepresented here in Congress,” Lummis said. “This group provides the opportunity for all of us to work more closely together to make the issues we care about front and center, and I couldn’t be more delighted to serve as the new chairman of the Senate Western Caucus alongside my friend and former colleague Dan Newhouse.”
Lummis also presented the priorities for the Senate Western Caucus, which include defending the Western way of life by reestablishing American energy dominance, fostering economic development and promoting smart public land management.
First, she noted the Senate Western Caucus will be working on natural resource and energy independence.
“We should be focused on the goal of having clean air and water and a landscape matching the great people who live in the West,” Lummis stated. “There is a way to accomplish this if we focus on clean air and not on the sources of energy used – to utilize all of our natural resources, whether it’s coal, gas, wind, solar or nuclear. All of these have to be a part of our energy mix.”
Lummis said this goes hand-in-hand with the second goal – economic development – as well as the third goal of smart public land management.
“Public lands are such a dominant presence in the West,” Lummis said, noting nearly one-half of Wyoming, one-third of Montana, two-thirds of Utah and seven-eighths of Nebraska are public land. “We have to be able to work together to ensure we have responsible shared use and multiple uses of this land.”
She then shared she had spent a weekend with Wyoming county commissioners during a training session they held on how to engage cooperator agency status giving them a stronger voice and more robust seat at the table.
“These are exactly the kinds of things we want to incorporate into best practices all over the West,” she concluded. “Western voices and boots on the ground are driving factors to make the West the best it can possibly be.”
Congressional Western Caucus priorities
During the press conference, Newhouse also took a turn to discuss priorities of the Congressional Western Caucus.
“I am delighted, excited and really looking forward to some of the things we are going to accomplish in the next two years,” he began. “I am also very proud of what we have been able to accomplish the past two years, and a lot of this success was due to many of our partnerships with people in this room. I can’t express how critical it is for us to have this support.”
The first priority Newhouse brought to light is to ensure every paying member of the Western Caucus is seen, heard and receives a return on their investment.
“As humbly as I can say, I think we have been successful with this. Everyone feels good about the accomplishments we have made and the focus we have been able to place on certain issues,” he said.
Newhouse further noted issues outlined by Lummis, such as water, land and energy regulations, are also top priority for the Congressional Western Caucus.
“We need to unleash America’s energy capacity so we can be a dominate force again, and so we don’t have to be dependent on foreign sources, some of which are not so friendly,” he noted. “Additionally, things like Waters of the U.S. and the upcoming farm bill are important issues for us.”
“Just so people don’t forget why we exist – we represent rural areas of the country from sea to shining sea. In fact, we have a representative from almost all 50 states, which is incredible,” he added. “Whether it’s Georgia or Washington, rural Americans share a lot of things in common, which is what we represent here in the Western Caucus.”
Newhouse continued, “We do what we do in order to amplify and raise up the voices of these people we represent. Not all rural Americans can come to Washington, D.C., but this is why we are here. We go out to see them face-to-face and listen to their voices to find out what is important to them. Then, we bring their voices back here to Washington, D.C. so they can be heard.”
Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.