Skip to content

Senator Mike Enzi (ME) : Good morning.

Holly Pieper (HP) : Good morning.

Wes Sturr (WS) : Good morning Senator.

ME: How are you today?

WS: Good, how about yourself?

ME: Oh, doing fine. Just got back from another trip to Wyoming.

WS: You met with the governor for like four hours?

ME: Yes, as I understand it that's a first for that kind of a meeting where the whole delegation met with the Governor. And we had people from the governor's staff come in and address their specific category, their specific cabinet area, and those federal issues that they think we ought to know about, and a number of which we need to be involved in, and it was really very helpful to us.

WS: Did you hear anything that surprised you?

ME: No, but we were able to get a level of information that might not be available to us otherwise. We had the cabinet people themselves and in some instances, a more specific person under that cabinet person, that came in and gave us details that normally wouldn't be available to us through the flow of information that we get back here. Plus it gave us the state's side of that particular issue, and that was extremely helpful.

WS: How different is the U.S. Senate from the Wyoming Legislature?

ME: It's quite a bit different. It has the same procedures, but not quite the same intensity. I really like a system of where we go in and we all sit down at our desks and we all listen to the debate and vote on a very regular basis on all of the issues. Back here, we're working on the Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment right now and we're hoping to be to finish that up by the end of this month. That will probably require a cloture vote in order to be able to do that, to cut off the debate. There will be a series of amendments that'll be presented on it, most of which are designed just to confuse the issue. And some of the people are hoping to be able to get a hook out of that so that they can vote against the Balanced Budget Amendment. Most of us back here have promised to vote for a Constitutional Amendment. Some of them, because of the President's urging, would like not to vote for it now. Tom Daschle from South Dakota is one of those people, and he comes up for election in two years and he knows that 84% of the people in South Dakota want a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment. So, we're trying to work on some of those issues, and we don't get the same intensity that we do in the Wyoming Legislature. I really do like having them come in, everybody listen. When we give a speech over there, it's going out on C-SPAN and the senators are watching that in their offices. But it's not the same as being able to see their reaction as you talk to them and that reaction would help us to know better when they're through learning, through listening, ready to vote, like they do in the State Legislature. But that background has been extremely helpful to me, because I understand the procedures. I've been studying a lot about my fellow senators so that I know what sort of things they usually work on, what things get them excited, what things get them upset. It's really incredible the volume of information that there is here on each person. I can get every speech that they've ever made, I can see every vote that they've ever taken. When a bill is presented out here, there's a little booklet that comes out on it that shows the pros and cons on the bill, the majority position, the minority position, each of the amendments, how people voted, what the arguments were for and against it. And I think what a bunch of leverage that would've given me in the State Legislature if I'd a known how'd it all happened before. So that gives us a lot of continuity on an issue, even though I'm new.

WS: What is the biggest surprise getting into the Senate?

ME: The biggest surprise... (laughter) tough question. I think part of it is just the people that you work with back here, I mean they're people that you've heard about on the news and read about before and seen on television. And now I'm not only working with them, I'm debating against them. And it takes a little while to get over just having your jaw kinda' hang down a little bit as you look in awe at what's happening. But you do get used to it, and find out, I've found out that I've some capabilities to do that, primarily because I'm the only accountant in the United States Senate. And that gives me some extra leverage. I not only am the only accountant in the United States Senate, I've found that very few of the people back here have even hired an accountant for their staff. There's more faith in attorneys than there are in accountants, or at least accountants have been forgotten. And that helps me quite a bit. In the Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment, I've been the one who's been called on to answer the accounting questions as the different amendments come up. Probably the biggest amendment that we'll be talking about with that is the Social Security Exemption. Some of the Democrats are talking about taking Social Security off-budget. It's a pretty slick gimmick because it's like the Medi-Scare thing that we had a couple of years ago. It gets the seniors really concerned and upset. What they ought to be concerned and upset about is if that does get taken off budget, where it doesn't have to be addressed. I've proposed that we need to have a little better accounting system for it because there are a lot of things that we're not telling the American public about Social Security. One of them is that is has a $9 3/10 trillion dollar deficit, which is a bigger deficit than the federal government has. That doesn't show up because we're not doing proper accounting for it. We're not saying that there is a problem there, and it needs to be taken care of. With proper accounting we can get that addressed. Another thing that was brought up was having a capital budget, and that kind of fascinates me. They'd like for all the capital items to be taken out of the budget, so that bonding and things could be done to increase the federal debt, and not have it show up in the budget. I do think that capital budgeting is essential. We ought to know every building that the federal government owns. We ought to know every vehicle we own. We ought to know when they're anticipated to wear out and we ought to be planning to replace them at their appropriate time. And we ought to be figuring a cash flow budget too so we know when that cash is going to be available to take care of those replacements. It's just good accounting. So I've gotten to work with a number of those things. And of course I'm on the Labor Committee too and I was on the Labor Committee in Wyoming. We talk about some of the same issues there, but now I'm getting to remove some of the federal constraints that we've had to operate as a state. And also to work on some of the things that the people back there talked about. We're working on a Family Friendly Workplace Act. That's one that'll give people a little bit more flexibility in their schedules than the Family Medical Leave Act gives, and it'll be compensated time. So we want to give people a little more capability to rearrange their schedule. We also would like to be able to have people in private business be able to have committees that can talk about improving the workplace, improving the quality of the product, improving things for the employees. And right now that's prohibited by some national laws. So, it's exciting all the things we get to work in back here. Another surprise is having staff. When I was with Wyoming Legislature, you don't have any staff. It's quite an advantage to have really knowledgeable people working to gather information to put it in a learnable form for me because I'm going through this huge learning curve right now. Of course one of the things that I discovered is that they spend all day getting things ready for me to read all night. So I'm putting in some incredibly long days back here. And then in-between the incredibly long days here, I'm traveling back to Wyoming visiting there. I've made five trips back to Wyoming already, I've only been in office six weeks. I've been to more than half of the counties, and in the next six weeks, I'll be to the other half of the counties. So I'm getting some good feedback from the people of Wyoming. And I really appreciate that.

WS: Are you seeing anything different from them than you heard during the campaign?

ME: No, most of it's an emphasis and a refinement of what I heard during the campaign. I'm really pleased at the concentration that the people have on that Balanced Budget. They do understand that if the federal government keeps spending more than it takes in, we're going to go broke. And they want something done on it. And they recognize that Congress without that Amendment has never, well in 28 years, has not been able to do it. In the last 40 years, they've only done it once. So there needs to be a little bit more discipline. And I like having that emphasis. I'm going to a lot of classrooms in the state. In kids, it seems like about third grade, start to understand that. Third grade on up are all interested in it. And of course I'm getting to meet with the businessmen and I'm learning more examples of ways the federal government put additional regulations on small business and things we can do to simplify things and still get the information the federal government needs. So, the trips have been very worthwhile.

WS: How seductive have you found the power of being an United States Senator?

ME: Well, I haven't found it to be very seductive. One of the biggest questions I get asked back here is when I'm riding the tram from the office buildings over to the Capitol to vote or to go to meetings or something and that most common question is, "Are you somebody important?" And so far I haven't been able to answer that with a yes.

WS: What would you change, if you had a magic wand and could, like, waive it over the whole system back there, and make one thing either disappear or appear, what would it be?

ME: I think I'd adopt some of the things that Wyoming has for the State Legislature. And that's one topic in a bill, and you can't trade votes, and the Governor, which in this case would be the President, can't threaten to veto until the bill's been through the whole process. That combination of things that I consider just to be good legislative techniques would really help things out back here. It would get rid of a lot of the pork, it would make each issue stand on its own, and we'd have an opportunity to work with some of the threats coming out of the White House before they just stop the process.

WS: That's all I have for this morning, Holly?

HP: Yes, Senator, have you been following the GRBAC recommendations, and where is the recommendation for Eco-Royalty Relief, and have you seen any forward motion on that?

ME: As you recall, I not only followed that process, I was out there and testified on that process. Throughout the whole process, I've said that I doubted that it would ever result in anything be adopted at the federal level. And that's still my feeling on it. We haven't even gotten any of those proposals to the Secretary yet, and they've already stopped a bunch of them, like the eco-credits. I don't think that anything is ever going to happen with that, and I'm really disappointed in it. I don't believe in forming committees, committees that have to stand up to in some cases a public stoning, and then already know that their proposals are not going to be accepted. And that's what it seems like to me.

HP: I understood, they were looking at alternative methods to enact the Eco-Royalty Relief without violating any existing rules. Have they made any forward progress on that at all? The one, Mr. Armstrong's?

ME: It's my understanding that that whole proposal has been stopped at the BLM level. I hope not, but that's what I've heard, that they're not even going to consider any alternatives to it.

HP: And also, Wyoming is facing major amounts of funding loss because of not improving the child support enactment and may lose federal funds. Is there anything you're doing to work with them on that?

ME: Yes, I'm hoping to be able to change some of the federal law on that through some of the small business provisions that we're doing because the major issue they're talking about as I understand it is the one that deals with getting names of new hires to the federal government so they can see if child support needs to be done. In the state of Wyoming, we just finished changing the law so that those names would be collected quarterly instead of monthly, and now the federal government wants us to go back to monthly with new forms, new reporting requirements. I think there's a way that the federal government can do that much simpler, and that's to have the Social Security numbers of new hires submitted and plugged into a database of child support people who have not paid. And the federal government can have the responsibility of seeing who has not paid rather than putting that burden back on the employer. And they can find them rapidly that way, without really increasing the reporting very much. We would have to change all the forms and the methods in Wyoming if the law were changed in Wyoming to comply with the federal law. What we're trying to do is make sure the child support collections get done, not put an extra burden on them.

HP: Thank you. That's all I have this morning, too.

WS: Senator, thank you very much

ME: Thank you very much, I'm looking forward to doing this on a regular basis.