A message from Senator Enzi
This week is the President’s Day Wyoming Work Week. Hopefully I’ve been able to see some of you. In Riverton, I attended the Job Corps lease signing and another event at Central Wyoming College. I’ll also be in Cheyenne today hosting a conference designed to help small businesses sell their wares to the largest buyer of all—the federal government. I will address the Wyoming Legislature tomorrow and will also go to Laramie to talk with students of the University of Wyoming Colleges of Business and Education.
In Washington, we've been discussing the economy, budgeting, health care and other issues over the past few weeks. While it’s easy in Washington to focus on our differences, there is another way. I truly believe that if senators choose to focus on the 80 percent of things we can all agree on instead of the 20 percent we are never going to agree on, we'll be able to achieve more for the American people and the people of Wyoming. It’s my 80-20 rule. It also works in many aspects of life beyond politics.
In this newsletter, my staff and I have summarized some of the noteworthy issues I’ve been working on in the U.S. Senate over the past few weeks, including improving the federal government’s budgeting process, increasing the veterans mileage reimbursement rate, the 2008 National Prayer Breakfast and more. Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. There is more information on my web page. I look forward to hearing from you if you have any questions or comments.
Headlines and Highlights
Enzi, the Senate’s only accountant and a senior member of the Budget Committee, co-sponsored a bill to move Congress to a two-year budgeting and appropriations cycle. Enzi believes the current system of annual budgeting lends itself to reckless spending by not allowing enough time for the review of each appropriations bill before it must be passed or for the oversight of spending once the bill is in place.
The Wyoming State Legislature currently employs a two-year budget cycle, and Enzi hopes that Congress will follow suit by adopting the same. A biennial budgeting process will allow for more accountability and better management of government spending rather than having to approve a completely new budget every year. Thirteen senators have co-sponsored “The Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act” along with Enzi.
Veterans Mileage Increase
As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, Enzi has been working for the past seven years to encourage the enactment of a much-needed increase in the mileage reimbursement rate for veterans who must travel to a VA hospital for care. On Jan. 31, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake sent Enzi a letter announcing an increase in the reimbursement rate to 28.5 cents per mile, up 17.5 cents from the rate of 11 cents that had remained unchanged since 1977 despite rising prices at the pump. Enzi is pleased with this first step in the right direction and will continue to seek an increase in the rate up to the current federal employee reimbursement rate of 48.5 cents per mile.
National Day of the Cowboy
Following in the footsteps of the late Sen. Craig Thomas, Enzi and Sen. John Barrasso introduced a resolution to name July 26, 2008 “National Day of the Cowboy.” Every year since 2005, Thomas has honored the heritage and contributions of the American cowboy by introducing the Senate resolution to designate the fourth Saturday of July as the cowboy's day. This year, the Wyoming senators are continuing the tradition started by Thomas. The National Day of the Cowboy, which coincides with the kick-off of Cheyenne Frontier Days, has grown into a popular national tradition with daylong celebrations taking place all across the country each year.
On the Horizon
Next week in the Senate, members will finish debate on the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. The act provides the first update to Indian health care in more than 15 years, even though the original Indian health care act expired in 2000. Enzi hopes the bill will pass the Senate and move swiftly to the House and the President, as the legislation provides better access to care and makes significant strides in improving overall quality of health services for American Indians.
National Prayer Breakfast
* Enzi co-chaired the 56th Annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Feb. 8 with Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo. Nearly 3,000 people attended this year’s breakfast, which featured speeches by President Bush and Ward Brehm, chair of the United States African Development Foundation. Each year, the breakfast brings together leaders from all over the world for a morning of prayer, faith and reflection. Enzi, who currently chairs the Senate’s weekly prayer breakfast, has worked on the National Prayer Breakfast annually since he first became a senator in 1997.
Do Not Call Improvement Act
* The “Do Not Call Improvement Act” passed the Senate this month after passing the House back in December. Now officially law, the act improves the National Do Not Call Registry by requiring that any registered phone numbers be kept on the list unless removal is directly requested or the number is disconnected. Previous legislation allowed for the removal of phone numbers after five years unless the number was re-registered.
New water plant for Baggs
*The Town of Baggs will soon have a new water plant after being awarded a $102,000 grant from USDA Rural Development. Due to expansion in the area, the town would have run out of clean drinking water without the plant; now thanks to USDA, the state and a number of private donors, Baggs residents will be assured of clean water even as the area continues to grow.
Durban II Conference
*Enzi, along with 26 senators, signed a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, urging Rice to announce that the U.S. will not participate in the Durban II Anti-Racism Conference in Durban, South Africa in 2009. During the first United Nations Durban Anti-Racism World Conference in 2001, the U.S. and Israel walked out after the conference turned overwhelmingly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. Enzi is pleased that Secretary Rice announced on Feb. 7 in response to the letter that the U.S. would not be attending Durban II if it's a repeat of the first anti-racism conference.