Senator Mike Enzi (ME): ....nine weeks that I've been in the United States Senate, I've been to Wyoming seven times. I'll be there the next two weekends as well, and then will have been to every county since the time I was sworn in. Having some great experiences and some great feedback from that, really appreciate the people that are turning out to give me their views, and information on what's happening to their particular area. So I think the trips have been real valuable. Some thing that's been happening out here, the federal government, through the Environmental Protection Agency, has started to put pressure on Wyoming and the twenty states that have passed environmental audit legislation. Telling them they're going to take away their primacy in all of the areas of administration of environmental problems. Pretty strong language for an agency that doesn't have enough people to do the job that they're doing right now. The environmental audit legislation was drafted in response to an effort to help them out. Since they don't have enough people to do all of the inspections, nor are we going to give them all the people to do inspections all of the time on everybody, it was felt by a number of the states, 40 states have considered it so far, 20 of them have not passed the legislation because of the hard-handedness of the Environmental Protection Agency. But the 20 that did pass it have had some tremendous success stories as a result of what's been done. Particularly, in Texas and Michigan, which are the brunt of the attack by the Environmental Protection Agency now, and essentially what these environmental audit bills do is give industry some incentive to clean things up. They register with their state environmental protection agency that they're going to do an audit. Then they look at all of their properties and see if there are any problems. They document those problems. They figure out a way not only to clean them up but be sure that they won't happen again. Then they have to clean them up and if they do all those things, they are not penalized for going out and finding the things, often things left by the person who owned the business before them. So it's been cleaning up more things than Superfund in the United States and I think the Environmental Protection Agency has been embarrassed about that. It's coming after the states, and taking away a valuable tool that is available for them. So that's something that I've been working on with some of the states because they've been getting all of these pressures. So I'll start with that little preamble, and then take any questions now that you want to throw at me.
JH: Senator Enzi, this is Jennifer Hafner at the Ranger. I was just going to ask you about the BLM regulations that's been quite a hot issue here in Fremont County. I know that the House Committee was planning to have a hearing on it, I believe on March 18th. I was just wondering if the Senate or any committee in the Senate plan to do the same, and just also, what are your feelings on these regulations?
ME: Senator Thomas has been working on getting some hearings arranged, not just in Wyoming but also in some of the adjoining states out there. And if those are arranged, I'll also be participating in those. We did get a delay in the implementation of those regulations so that people would have an opportunity to comment. I hope that people are taking that opportunity to comment. I have listened to the BLM explain that they thought that was just simplifying the regulations and putting them into common language. Of course if there were a federal credibility that that was what they were really trying to do, then people probably wouldn't have as much of a difficulty with the regulations. But there is that credibility gap on the part of the BLM, and that's resulting in intense interest in the rules and regulations, and should result in intense interest. People should scrutinize those, see what changes need to be made, suggest those changes, and then we in Washington will work to see that those changes get in there so that if their real intent is just to put it into plain English, that the plain English says what kind of limitations they have and that they remain the kind of limitations that they've had in the past.
JH: Just in your opinion and just from what you know, do you think that these rules are expanding their law enforcement authority?
ME: The way that I read the rules and regulations, yes it expands their authority.
Caroline Wood (CW): Senator Enzi, this is Caroline at KFBC. Can I get your opinion on the current situation with the threat of states banning the import of Wyoming cattle and the fear of brucellosis?
ME: That's a grave concern of course. That's one of the major industries in Wyoming, and we have some states taking independent action to keep our cattle from being in there, without any scientific evidence that there's any problem at all. In fact the state of Alabama has prohibited our cattle from coming in without quarantine, and they're not even subject to the same rules that our cattle already are on inspections. It disturbs me when states start taking that independent of an action. I'm hoping that the coalition can work against this and get the whole thing cleared up because there hasn't been a problem in Wyoming for over 10 years, and it is important that the other states realize that. Because we can't hurt our economy with the problem.
JH: Senator, I have a somewhat different kind of question for you. How would you compare your experience in the Wyoming legislature as compared to your short experience so far in the Congress?
ME: Well, I really enjoyed my time in the Wyoming Legislature, and it gives me a tremendous background for working back here because there are a lot of similarities. The dissimilarities are also very obvious. We have kind of unlimited debate back here, and an unlimited time for meeting, roughly speaking. And that expands the debate. And also in Wyoming legislature, we had to sit on the floor and listen to the debate and when there was a lapse in the debate, we voted. Here, nobody's on the floor, so you don't get that immediate reaction from your colleagues as to whether what you're saying is being heard or whether it's being accepted favorably or unfavorably. And that makes the debate much more difficult. Also, when we do a vote, it takes us 20-25 minutes to accomplish the vote, because it takes so long for people to go from their offices to the Capitol to vote. So those are some kind of stark contrasts. The committee process is even extremely different back here, because last week I sat through a filibuster by Senator Kennedy, not on the bill that we were discussing, but a filibuster on that bill to keep the next bill from coming up, and both of them I thought were very important bills from the standpoint of small business. He saw them as detrimental bills to big unions. And the prime bill that he's trying to keep from coming up is one called The Family Friendly Workplace Act. And what it does is allow people in the private sector to have the same benefit that federal employees have had since 1978. Which is to work and bank hours instead of getting dollars at that moment so that later they can take that time to see their kids play soccer or go to the doctor or whatever they want without the extensive documentation that's required under some of the other laws. I'm a co-sponsor on that bill, so I'm particularly sensitive to his viewpoint on that and his opposition. Of course in the Wyoming legislature, they'd never be allowed to filibuster anyway, and people would be hurt severely on future votes if they were using a tactic of opposing one bill to keep another one from even coming up.
CW: Senator Enzi, this being tax season, a lot of people are concerned with the IRS. A lot of people not happy with them. Do you see some changes in the tax structure coming, and from your perspective, would you like to see it?
ME: I definitely would like to see, and I've always said there needs to be simplification, a little fairness put in the tax code, and we need to be sure the IRS is under control. I've already put the IRS on notice by calling them and asking for a copy of the federal tax code. They told me they weren't sure I was authorized to have it. I assured them that I was. I still haven't gotten it, and will keep putting the pressure on them to get that, but part of that was notification that there is an accountant in the United States Senate now. And I am the only accountant in the United States Senate, and that's helped to develop a little niche back here. But we are looking at some tax things, and the Republican Party in fact has included those in their top ten priorities. So we're looking at returning a little bit of money back to people because we know that the individuals know how to spend their money better than the federal government does. So were trying to make cuts in the federal budget and then instead of leaving that on the table so that it can be spent, and that's what would happen to every single dime, we're talking about putting that into some tax breaks for people. Some of them would be incentives for business, some of them would be tax credits for individuals. We've already worked on one tax issue, which was the Alternative Minimum Tax. It dealt with farmers and ranchers, and that was a situation where the IRS was going to start making them pay taxes on the produce that they sell at the time they sell it instead of the time that they collect the money for it. That's an escalation of the time for paying taxes, which means farmers and ranchers on a cash-method of accounting would have to borrow money to pay their taxes, while they were waiting for the money to come in from what they sold. I made some floor speeches on that, and a lot of us worked on it. I was a co-sponsor on the bill to reverse that. There hadn't been any legislation that would authorize them to do that. They had been working with the old method for 10 years before they decided this year to escalate it. And I'm very pleased that they reversed their decision and I'm even kind of pleased that they said that it had nothing to do with me.
JH: Senator, I was just wondering if there are any other bills you're working to co-sponsor right now that have particular significance to the state of Wyoming back here?
ME: Yes, I've been co-sponsoring on several different issues. Of course we have a team here in Washington, the three of us from Wyoming form a team that meets on a weekly basis, so that we're getting as much coverage as we can of the areas that each of us has expertise in. Each of us have some bills, and those are being co-sponsored by the delegation. Of course Senator Thomas is taking the lead in the Public Lands and National Parks issues. I'm taking the lead in the issues that deal with the environment and labor and taxes. And Barbara is taking the lead in the deregulation issues and the commerce issues and again has the environment and public works issues. So there are a lot of bills that are happening back here, and of course what we're trying to do is focus on efforts on specific ones at specific times so that we actually get them accomplished. The main thing that we've been working on of course is the balanced budget, and the balanced budget amendment. The balanced budget amendment did fail by one vote, even though there were three people that voted against it that promised as they ran for the United States Senate. They had been in the House, they'd voted on it, the exact same one that we had, they had promised to keep voting for it until it passed, because the recognized the significance of it. And then they got elected to the Senate and they forgot their promise. So we worked on that, but a good fallout that will happen from that I think is that everybody said they wanted to balance the budget. Now we'll see if that's a promise kept as well.
CW: Senator Enzi, can I get your opinion. Lots of controversy surrounding campaign contributions anywhere from the Asian donations to Vice President Gore and his calls from the White House. What is your opinion on those controversies?
ME: One thing that I want the people of Wyoming to know is that we in the Senate are not nearly as hung up in that investigation as what they're reading about. It's the media that's driving it. That should be a particular concern to the President because any time that the media has driven investigations into wrong doings, it has resulted in pretty drastic action. And the media does not pursue wrongdoings unless there are some pretty definite tracks there. And particularly with Democrats, they've been very unforgiving in the past. They are not being unforgiving on this, and that tells me that there is some fire maybe where the smoke is showing. But we as a Senate are not concentrating on it a lot. But of course, I'm following it in the media, and some of the things that were done were absolutely wrong. You're not allowed to take those foreign donations. They're returning about a million and a half a week it seems like. It seems like Governor Romer is coming on and apologizing and mentioning that he sent back another million and a half and assuring us that that's all that there is there. There are definitely some things there and I've been pleased to see that the national public reaction has increased in opposition to the things that are being discovered. For a while, the figures hung around 44% of the people being displeased over the president's alleged actions. That's now up around 70%. And that's come as a result of the media continuing to pursue and show where there have been some things were done wrong.
JH: Senator, I'm all done. Caroline if you're not done, I'll just listen along.
CW: Actually, that was my last question.