CHEYENNE — In an interview, U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., discussed her opposition to many of the policies pushed by President Biden in his address to Congress this week, stating Democrats are trying to “fundamentally change the American social structure” through reckless spending.
The state’s newest federal delegate spoke with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on Thursday, the morning after Biden delivered his first speech before a joint session of Congress in which he outlined his priorities and stated “we have to prove democracy still works.”
Lummis did not attend the speech in person but watched from home. She criticized limited seating at the event as an needless COVID-19 precaution.
“Everybody who wants to be vaccinated is vaccinated in the building, so I considered it just political theater to have that few people attend and have them continue to bump elbows and wear masks when that’s no longer necessary in the U.S. Capitol building,” Lummis said.
Just over 100 days into her six-year term, Lummis criticized the Biden administration’s spending policies, the Democrats’ infrastructure proposal and the overall climate in Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, Biden unveiled his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which would expand community college and pre-K opportunities, reduce the cost of child care and offer new health care credits, all financed through additional taxes on the highest income earners.
Lummis bashed the plan as a “progressive grab bag” that would cause everyday Americans and the next generation to foot the bill. She said it would lead to tax hikes on middle-income earners.
“It turns pre-kindergarten and community colleges into new entitlement programs, and you know our country can’t afford that right now,” Lummis said. “The tax increases would slow down and, in some cases, actually wreck elements of our economy.”
Lummis contrasted Republicans’ focus on “equality of opportunity” with something Democrats have spoken of: equity.
“Equity is the thing where we all have equal pay, regardless of whether we’re working or not or what jobs we do,” Lummis said. “It’s ... that is more akin to socialism, and I know that Republicans get accused of being overreactive when we use terms like socialism as applied to the progressive agenda, but we’re not wrong.”
Lummis offered her support for a Republican counter to Biden’s roughly $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, known as the American Jobs Plan. Funded through increased corporate income taxes, it would rebuild 20,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges, and make investments aiming to reduce global climate change.
A group of Senate Republicans, including U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., countered with a proposal calling for $568 billion, largely raised through higher fees on certain drivers, with about $300 billion of that going to repair roads and bridges. Lummis said it was “an infrastructure bill that includes real infrastructure” namely roads, bridges, wastewater treatment, water systems and rural broadband expansion. She also noted her own sponsorship of a separate bill, which has a pair of Democratic co-sponsors, to update aging and failing infrastructure for drinking water and wastewater nationwide.
While Democrats have majorities in both chambers, Lummis is unsure whether Biden’s infrastructure proposal will pass the House and Senate, or whether a compromise may be reached.
“I’m anticipating that they will move with a much larger proposal in the House, because [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi has a complete lock on her membership ... but in the Senate, it’s a different story,” Lummis said. “Even this morning, Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, [said] that the Biden proposal makes him uncomfortable, because it’s so much money, and this after we had already passed on a fully one-party vote in the Senate,” a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
“There’s so much money sloshing around in the economy ... throwing more on just overheats the economy,” she said. “It’s unhealthy economically.”
In an uncommon moment of agreement with the Biden administration, Lummis reaffirmed her support for the president’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by later this year. While her position puts her at odds with Wyoming’s sole congresswoman, Rep. Liz Cheney, Lummis argued the withdrawal fits squarely within her “America First” platform.
“I have friends who fled Afghanistan and came to the United States, and they allege that the United States is propping up the wrong government in Afghanistan, and that government doesn’t have the support of the Afghani people,” Lummis said. “So as long as we are propping up a government they don’t support, we are going to fail. It doesn’t matter if we stay another 10 years, 20 years or 50 years.”