A whirlwind first month in office that’s included the first two tumultuous weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency hasn’t been quite the roller coaster many would assume for Wyoming’s newest congressional representative.
“It’s exciting. There’s a lot going on and it’s been really just terrific in a number of ways,” said U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, one of 55 new members of the 115th Congress that convened Jan. 3 in Washington, D.C.
While still settling in and beginning her assignments to the House Armed Services, Natural Resources and Rules committees, Cheney isn’t among the handful of Republicans who are starting to split from Trump.
Trump is making good on campaign promises he made for more than a year, she said.
“He told us what he was going to do,” Cheney said during a Thursday telephone interview.
Despite some vocal opposition in liberal strongholds like California, “I think people are applauding what he’s doing,” she said. “It’s really refreshing to see somebody do what he says (he’s going to do). So far, I think it’s been really great to see.”
She also doesn’t pull any punches about what she thinks of her colleagues in the Democrat Party who have boycotted votes on some of Trump’s appointments.
“I think it’s shameful,” Cheney said. “They don’t have to vote to confirm (anyone), but it’s the same kind of games we saw last year when the Democrats did a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives.
“You have an obligation to do your job. I was glad the Senate changed its rules so they couldn’t hold up the process.”
Cheney also said she’s not concerned about whether Trump will rub other world leaders the wrong way.
“You’ll see across the board reactions to the new American president,” she said. “They’ll test us to see whether we have the will to defend ourselves and our interests and our allies. … We can’t be in a situation when there’s any question about our commitment.”
On sanctuary cities
Within the borders of the United States, Cheney said she’s been disappointed to see how some major cities that have become “sanctuary cities” for illegal immigrants have reacted to Trump’s first two weeks in office.
“The law is the law,” she said. “And for too long we haven’t been upholding the law, and for too long we’ve had a president who hasn’t been upholding the law.”
That Trump wants to make sure the immigrants in this country are here legally shouldn’t be a reason to buck the president, she said.
“Elections matter. We certainly lived eight years with a president who was a bad president,” she said, referencing the Obama administration. “We now have a new president and people will have a chance again to vote, and they’ll judge us all on whether we’ve done our jobs.”
On the the media
Cheney said she also supports the president’s stance on the mainstream national news media and that much of the reporting is biased. She also said recognizing and pointing that out is not an attack on the First Amendment.
“The First Amendment and freedom of the press is hugely important,” she said. “I think that’s why the media has such a tremendous responsibility not to be biased and not to be partisan.
“I think Trump has called it as he sees it, and there is a large segment of the mainstream media … that doesn’t do that. You see certain news outlets, and The New York Times is one of them, where the coverage is consistently favorable on one side of the aisle. … When there’s sloppiness or spewing that’s going on, I think that’s important for people to know.”
While the last couple of weeks has certainly been a circus, Cheney said her focus is Wyoming interests and coal. She’s already introduced a bill to a Bureau of Land Management plan, called BLM Planning 2.0, that takes local governments out of the decision-making process about what to do with public lands.
She’s also signed on as the House sponsor with Wyoming U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso on a bill that would expand Fontenelle Reservoir in southwestern Wyoming.
No. 1, however, is coal. Congress has already acted to reverse some of the Obama administration’s regulations on fossil fuels. More is on the way, Cheney said.
“I’m absolutely committed and dedicated to ensuring we are helping the coal industry,” she said. “It’s at the top of my agenda. It’s huge for Campbell County, Wyoming and the nation.”
Cheney also said that she would be willing to have the federal government intervene under the Interstate Commerce Act if northwestern states like Washington and Oregon continue to block coal exports.
“That (action) may be necessary,” she said. “I would definitely support that. It’s a situation where radical environmental groups are able to prevent us from exporting our product.”