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A message from Senator Enzi

As I mentioned in my Special Edition Newsletter last Wednesday, I’m on the road this week for my 10 Steps, 10 Stops to Transform Health Care in America tour.  So far, I’ve stopped in seven towns:  Cheyenne, Rawlins, Rock Springs, Pinedale, Lander, Worland and Lovell.  Today, I’ll be stopping in Casper and Lusk, and the tour will wrap up in Gillette on Thursday.

For those of you who came out to one of my meetings, it was great to see you and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts about what Congress can do to remedy the nation’s health care crisis.  I was encouraged by the turnout.  So far, more than 300 people have made it to a 10 Steps meeting.  It’s clear to me that the people of Wyoming are just as concerned about health care as I am, and after the tour is finished, I am looking forward to taking your ideas back to Washington.

If you haven’t already, I want to invite you to check out my tour blog, which I’ve been writing from the road.  To read my entries and check out photos from the trip, click here.

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 the fiscal year 2009 budget, Wyoming’s share of federal mineral royalties, Indian health care 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

Fiscal Year 2009 budget resolution

Last Friday, after 15 hours of votes that extended into the early morning hours, the Senate passed the fiscal year 2009 budget resolution.  Enzi, a senior member of the Budget Committee, voted against final passage of the bloated $3 trillion bill, which packed in billions of dollars of excessive spending and included an even bigger tax increase than last year's Democratic budget.  As members debated the resolution last week, Enzi spoke on the Senate floor, urging his colleagues to exercise improved fiscal responsibility this year.  Yet, the Democratic majority still passed the final resolution with a 51 to 44 vote.

Despite the disappointment of the overall final budget, Enzi advanced important Wyoming interests through two amendments he sponsored, both of which were unanimously accepted into the budget.  The first Enzi-sponsored amendment created a framework for restoring about $20 million in federal mineral royalties money that the Administration had proposed to take from Wyoming as part of the President's fiscal year 2009 budget.  In the Administration's budget, the President included a reduction in the state's share of federal mineral royalties to 49 percent.  Wyoming and the federal government in the past have split the royalties 50-50, and the decrease takes away vital funds from Wyoming.  The Enzi amendment has now set the stage for the Senate Finance and Energy Committee to move forward to restore the state's share of mineral royalties.  Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., also co-sponsored the amendment.

The second Enzi amendment outlined funding for the USDA's Animal Health Research and Disease Program, a critical program in providing communities with research funds for investigating animal health emergencies.  In the past, funds have helped Wyoming state officials and researchers respond to outbreaks of brucellosis in cattle and stop incidences of blue tongue in livestock.  The funds have also been used to investigate multiple deaths within Wyoming elk herds. 

Wyoming's share of federal mineral royalties

Enzi has been working on all fronts to restore Wyoming's share of federal mineral royalties to an even 50-50 split.  In addition to his budget amendment, Enzi and Sen. Barrasso, along with 12 other senators from energy-producing states, sent a letter last week to Senate appropriators urging them to disregard the President's proposed decrease.  Enzi will continue to work to ensure that the Administration only gets its fair 50 percent share of mineral receipts and nothing more.

On the Horizon

After the 10 Steps, 10 Stops tour wraps up in Gillette tomorrow, Enzi will be traveling to Africa with a Congressional delegation led by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.  Enzi, the Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, will be discussing the HIV/AIDS pandemic and international security with heads of state in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia and a number of other countries.

When Enzi returns and the Senate reconvenes on March 31, members will be taking on a variety of different issues during the eight straight weeks of session before the Memorial Day Wyoming Work Week.  The Home Ownership, Manufacturing and Economic Growth (HOME) Act – the Republican alternative to the Democrats’ second economic stimulus bill – will likely be part of the floor debate.  The Senate will also be addressing House-passed legislation on tax incentives for the production of renewable energy and energy conservation, as well as supplemental appropriations, patent reform and global climate change among other issues.

News Nuggets

*Indian health care

On Feb. 26, the Senate passed the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the first update to Indian health services in more than 15 years.  The legislation, which includes Enzi provisions from a bipartisan bill he introduced in the last Congress, will improve health care services for American Indians, authorize mental and behavioral health care, and promote disease prevention and substance abuse addiction treatment.  As ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Enzi has been working to improve Indian health for years and was pleased to see the final passage of this long-overdue bill.

*Working for border security

Enzi became an original member of the newly founded Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus this month.  The caucus, organized by Senator David Vitter, R-La., brings together like-minded conservative senators to advocate for increases in border security and interior enforcement.  The caucus will also work in the Senate to defeat future legislation that may include amnesty.  In addition, Enzi co-sponsored two immigration bills:  a bill by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., to withhold transportation funding from states that issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants and a bill by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., to declare English the national language of the U.S.

*Cuba policy

With the resignation of Fidel Castro on Feb. 19, Enzi and 23 of his Senate colleagues signed a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to reassess U.S.- Cuba foreign policy.  Enzi is a long-time advocate of opening America's current travel restrictions with Cuba and hopes the Secretary will take this opportunity to forge a new relationship with the people of Cuba after 50 years of isolation and estrangement.

*New radio system for fire departments

The Campbell, Crook and Weston County fire departments will receive a regional grant of nearly $1 million to purchase a state-of-the-art regional radio system.  The grant was awarded through the Department of Homeland Security's Assistance to Firefighters Grants program, which has awarded nearly $8.4 million throughout Wyoming to EMS and fire organizations over the past year.