Wyoming’s congressional delegation isn’t budging on budget cuts, as President Joe Biden and U.S. House GOP leadership remain stuck in a standoff over the federal government’s debt limit.

“This country is spending absolutely too much,” U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) said in an Instagram reel on Wednesday. “If we’re gonna raise the debt ceiling — and the House has passed a bill to do just that — it has to be tied to substantive changes in the future ways we spend money.” 

The vote to raise the debt ceiling does not authorize new spending commitments, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Instead, it allows the Treasury to continue borrowing money to pay the nation’s already-incurred bills. Debt ceiling bills — historically a routine act of Congress — have been increasingly used as a political leverage point.  This year, congressional Republicans are demanding spending cuts in exchange for a higher debt limit. If a deal isn’t reached in approximately one week, the country will run out of cash and default on its debt obligation, according to Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen. 

“We have learned from past debt limit impasses that waiting until the last minute to suspend or increase the debt limit can cause serious harm to business and consumer confidence, raise short-term borrowing costs for taxpayers, and negatively impact the credit rating of the United States,” Yellen wrote in a letter to Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-California) on Monday. 

The effects of an American default are uncertain, according to the Brookings Institute, but economists largely agree it would almost certainly be negative, and likely catastrophic, for the Wyoming, U.S. and global economies. 

U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyoming) speaks to a crowd of about 40 residents during a town hall discussion May 5, 2023 in Kemmerer. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

Timeline and hangups 

“I don’t want to raise the debt limit,” Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyoming) said during a town hall meeting in Kemmerer on May 5. “But we’re in a position that we’re going to have to do something. But we also need to be cutting spending.”

In April, Hageman voted in favor of a House bill to both raise the debt limit by $1.5 trillion — or through March of 2024, whichever comes first — and to peg spending for some federal programs to the levels they were at two years ago. The House narrowly approved the bill which would also limit spending to 1% annual growth moving forward. 

“Today’s bill is a major step towards restoring fiscal sanity, as well as reigning in the administrative state and setting us back on the trail to energy independence,” Hageman said in a press release on April 26. The freshman lawmaker also said she would vote no on a debt ceiling increase that wasn’t tied to spending cuts. 

As written, the bill targeted a list of Biden policies including renewable energy tax credits, student loan relief and funds already provided to the IRS to upgrade its technology and boost hiring. 

Shortly after the bill was passed in the House, the U.S. Department of Transportation criticized reductions to U.S. transit and highway infrastructure. In Wyoming, the proposal would lead to 80 fewer rail safety days next year and would shut down services at two air traffic control contract towers, according to the department. It would also reduce federal funding for transit and highway infrastructure projects across the state by $24 million. 

The bill was, however, dead on arrival in the Senate with Democrats and the President expressing an unwillingness to go that far to cut federal spending. 

Sens. Cynthia Lummis and Barrasso have yet to vote on a debt ceiling bill but have voiced support for binding it to spending cuts. 

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming). (U.S. Senate Photographic Studio/Courtesy)

“Recent Treasury projections have reinforced the urgency of addressing the debt ceiling,” Senate Republicans, including Barrasso and Lummis, wrote in a letter on May 9 to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York). “The House has taken a responsible first step in coming to the table with their proposals. It is imperative that the president now do the same.”

Republicans criticized Biden for refusing to negotiate for months. Now, the two sides have a matter of days to avoid default. Wednesday, McCarthy told reporters there were “a number of places that we are still far apart.” 

As of Thursday morning, the House appeared to be set to recess without a deal. 

Should the two sides reach a compromise, a bill still needs to get through both chambers with bi-partisan support. Earlier this month, Lummis applauded House Republicans for their united approach to the debt-ceiling. 

“I know how hard it is for the House, especially House Republicans to come together because we think for ourselves, and we tend to act for ourselves,” Lummis said. 

Barrasso, Hageman and Lummis did not respond to multiple requests by WyoFile for comment. 

Maggie Mullen reports on state government and politics. Before joining WyoFile in 2022, she spent five years at Wyoming Public Radio.

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  1. Freeze federal spending. Freeze federal taxes. Eliminate indexing of tax brackets for inflation, so that more people pay more taxes. Hold the line until the budget is balanced and the national debt is paid off. Run a surplus for 10 years to make a rainy day fund then start cutting taxes. There, I fixed it.

  2. And definitely not raising taxes on their dark money supporters, because that means less money for them.

  3. Another great example of how ignorant some of our legislators are. Let’s cut funding for our roadways, and vote down new fuel tax to help pay for the road ways.

  4. These three federal employees should be Wyoming state employees. They should collect their paycheck from the state of Wyoming, buy their health care if they choose and pay into the Wyoming state retirement system. Wyoming would have better control and oversight over their campaign finance. When they stray from the mission we sent them there to achieve the Wyoming state legislature would have oversight. Plus it would save the federal government money.

  5. It would be great to know what substantive cuts Sens. Barrasso and Lummis and Re. Hageman are willing to endorse. Federal aid to Wyo agriculture? Road funds? Federal matches to Medicaid that serve the aged and children? It’s far past time for them to quit demanding spending cuts and name some things they’re ready to vote to cut.

  6. The entire debt crisis has nothing to do with a “crisis”. This is an attempt by Speaker McCarthy to win street creds by beating the number one Democrat at negotiations. The economy be damned. Most of the letters on this article point out the Republicans hypocrisy on the debt ceiling debate and rightfully so. A preponderance of the national debt (28%) occurred during Trump’s presidency due to his massive tax cuts for the rich. Crickets from our hypocritical delegation. Another news webpage says Wyoming farmers received 5.5 million Federal dollars were paid for not farming some lands. If the repubs want to cut spending, how about starting there. Alas, what they really want is to make Biden look bad because they know if the next presidential race comes down to a Biden/Trump race, Biden might kick his butt again. So, let’s dispense with the faux concern from the Republicans over the debt.It’s the only leverage they have right now and your 401k be damned.

  7. When the Republicans are in control they never say anything about the debt, no matter how much they aid in increasing it. But, oh no! When the Dems are in power they are all over it like flies on you no what. Talk about hypocrisy.

    1. Seems most Republicans, especially those in Wyoming, are proud of their hypocrisy. They never cared that Trump attended church 12 times in four years, but demanded PROOF that Obama attended church, even though he did that weekly. Apparently, lying in the name of God is okay with Republicans as long as Democrats do not do that.

  8. The uneducated wyoming electorate will slurp up everything these clowns have to say. Then they’ll gladly ask for a second helping.

    The gullibles of the gullible ol’ party are ok with spending, just so long as it’s their party that does it. The epitome of hypocrisy.

  9. As other’s have indicated, the hypocrisy never ceases to amaze me! 70% of the national debt came under Republican presidents…why wasn’t the Wyoming delegation trying to cut spending then??? The time to cut spending and/or increase revenue is not now. You do that during your regular job of budget appropriations not as means of blackmail.

  10. My letter to the Wyoming Delegation

    I have written to each of you previously on the topic of raising the debt ceiling and thanks to each of you for responding.

    Essentially each of your responses raised concerns about deficit spending and wanting to get that under control. I agree with that sentiment.

    Where we part however is how to get that done.

    During former President Trump’s tenure, deficit spending was near or at an all time high.

    I saw no push back from anyone in the Wyoming delegation about this spending spree or the need to hold the debt ceiling issue hostage until spending was resolved. The fealty to Pres. Trump was breathtaking.

    We now fast forward to a new President and suddenly there is tremendous concern about the deficit to the point of potentially defaulting on our obligations.

    This sanctimonious talk remains unconvincing to anyone who seriously looks at the issue.

    I urge you not to hold America hostage. Raise the debt ceiling, then focus on how we can return to a balanced budget focusing both on spending and revenues.

    In short. Please do your job.


    John P Carey

    1. The hypocracy and blatant partisanship of our delegation is breathtaking! They had no problem allowing this under Trump and other Republican administrations. Also had no problem voting for unfunded tax cuts for their billionaire buddies. The list of unconscionable actions on the part of these sycophants is long. They are shameless in their obsession to “win” at any cost and have their opponents branded as “losers”. Truth and facts are irrelevant. They are willing to burn it all down in the manner of a petulant 2 yr old. To use a western rural metaphor, they want to secure the barn door after the horse has broken out and is currently running and bucking on the highway, all the while telling us this is in the horse’s best interests! The devastation they’re willing to wreak on this country and the world will be immediate and last into the indefinite future. How could we elect such irresponsibility?!

  11. Good idea you three! Let’s start with the exorbitant salaries and freebies – pay for life, medical care, Secret Service body guards etc.- that do-nothing congressional quacks get for life. 😉

  12. The first thing they should cut is all the big Federal handouts Wyoming has always gotten. When i lived there Wyo got more Federal money than any other state. And you dont have to worry about losing Medicaid expansions.

  13. The expected display before the grandstands of Gross Hypocrisy.

    I have lost hope I will live long enough to see my Wyoming All Republican All the Time congressional delegation quit being Republicans and start being Americans…

  14. Another manufactured crisis. Funny how the National Debt increased $7 trillion under the former so called president, and the Republicans never even said a word. Hypocrisy much?

  15. I agree. Let’s cut funding for military, fossil fuel subsidies, and carbon capture. Let’s reduce incarceration.

  16. “ This country is spending absolutely too much”

    I absolutely agree. And the largest portion of our annual budget is the military-industrial-complex. It’s funny that most people are unaware that the stated annual military budget – in the range of $750 – 900 billion (with a “B”) – is actually not all of what is actually spent on the military. There is a considerable amount of money – estimated between $300 – 600 billion (again, there’s that “B”) that gets earmarked in other bills and what is called the “black budget”.

    With over 1000 active use and in service US military sites (not just bases, but all US military installations) in over 80 countries, and massive military boondoggles such as the F-35, it’s long past time to cut spending in the over bloated and feckless U.S. military.

  17. I’m just wondering what has happened to the national deficit since Biden took office. Is the Wyoming delegation so tied to their party that default is the best course of action. Many Wyoming citizens depend heavily on social security, medicare and Medicaid. Many veterans depend entirely on Veterans Administration health care.

  18. These lunatics don’t have the votes to enact their radical agenda, so they’re just going to destroy the world economy. Shame on them.