U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman will take aim at one of her favorite targets — the administrative state — in her newly appointed roles on the Judiciary and Natural Resources committees in Washington, the freshman GOP congresswoman told an audience in Jackson last week.
Hageman also spoke to the Wyoming Legislature and promised to return regularly to the Equality State to update constituents. About 40 people attended her Jackson town hall where she spoke and took questions for about an hour, then held an open-ended press gaggle.
She assailed “unelected bureaucrats” who carry out federal policy, called President Joe Biden “the largest human trafficker in U.S. history,” claimed that California was stealing water out of Lake Powell and Lake Mead and said the EPA persecutes people.
Hageman said the Endangered Species Act has “kind of failed,” opened the door to cuts in military spending and said the fate of a government shutdown depends on how the country addresses “the fiscal crisis” of debt and deficit.
Asked whether she would give a $2,500 campaign donation from disgraced congressman George Santos to charity (critics said he contributed $2,900), she demurred. “I didn’t know George had given me a donation of $2,500,” she said.
Members of the Jackson audience said it was refreshing to see one of the state’s delegation at an open town hall after years when such forums were scarce. Hageman promised more.
“My office is open,” she said. “You can call us and ask us questions about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I will continue to travel around the state as I’m doing today.”
Unelected means unaccountable
Hageman has long criticized government functions carried out by agency administrators, including administrative judges who resolve disputes over how policies and regulations are carried out. “They are not accountable,” she said, because they are not elected.
She didn’t propose an alternative.
She directed ire at southern border policies, saying she had signed papers calling for the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The federal government’s current border policies make President Biden the top human trafficker in the country’s history, she said.
“We have to address the invasion,” she said. “We have to stop it.”
She appeared to accept the premise that one audience member proposed — that it took his son-in-law who immigrated from England three months to get a green card while along the border with Mexico, he said, “you can just walk across [and] you’ll get citizenship.”
“This is where you start losing your society is if you treat one group of people one way and another group of people another way,” Hageman said.
“Eventually you overwhelm the system when you allow the things to happen like what we’re seeing on our southern border,” she said. “It is a tragedy beyond tragedies — the rape, the human trafficking, the little kids, the people who are dying, the people who are drowning.”
The southern border also is where deadly fentanyl is smuggled into the U.S., she said.
An attorney who has worked on water cases, Hageman said a solution to the Colorado River crisis would be for California to build desalination plants to replace river flows with sea water. “We have to force California to stop stealing water out of Lake Powell and Lake Mead,” she said.
“We can figure out that water situation but it shouldn’t be to steal Wyoming’s water,” she said. “We shouldn’t give up our future because they [lower Colorado River Basin states] fail to manage.”
She criticized the EPA’s handling of Afton’s municipal water system that taps an open spring where the agency wants a filter installed. “The EPA, they persecute people,” Hageman said. Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality can take care of water quality and pollution problems instead, she said.
ESA ‘kind of failed’
Hageman also took a swipe at the Endangered Species Act.
“If you look at the metrics by which it was supposed to be implemented, it really has kind of failed, right?” she said in Jackson. “Spending money to bring Canadian gray wolves into Wyoming — not an endangered or threatened species in Canada — that was a misdirection of an awful lot of resources.
“Let’s not use the Endangered Species Act as a land grab, which is often what it is used for,” she said, pointing to “critical habitat” designations that restrict some uses of public land.
She twice referred to research that involved shrimp on a treadmill as wasteful spending, employing a popular conservative talking point.
“Our Fish and Wildlife Service studies shrimp on treadmills,” Hageman said. “If you’ve got a government that can do things like that, then you’ve got a government that has too much money.
“The reality is, we don’t need 87,000 people in the [Fish and Wildlife Service’s parent agency] Department of Interior,” she said. The Interior Department says it employs “some 70,000 people” to run 11 bureaus, including the BLM, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and others.
For more than a decade, Republican critics have saddled the treadmill research with price tags that run as high as $3 million. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not study shrimp on treadmills.
Instead, the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency that promotes “the progress of science … to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare,” awarded $426,000 for basic research, according to reports and the treadmill builder himself. The grant was to study the effects of pollution and warmer temperatures on Penaeid (named after a Greek river) shrimp.
Harvesting white shrimp, a variety of Penaeid shrimp, was a $274-million business in 2021, according to the fisheries arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Shrimp stressed by pollution and warm water are more susceptible to diseases, according to research.
The original shrimp treadmill cost less than $50. A later version cost more. But combined, they were a shrimp-sized part of the overall food-safety and commercial-fishing study “that can be used toward protecting a key natural resource,” according to the resulting scientific paper.
Gas stoves, too
Hageman referenced other popular GOP bogeymen, including gas stoves that Republicans say the Biden administration wants to ban, perhaps even wrest from the American kitchen. She is backing two measures — the Stove Act and another “to stop Biden from banning gas stoves.”
Hageman acknowledged that some efforts are more symbolic than effective. “We’re pragmatic,” she said, “but we also need to be messaging and signaling to the American people that we’ve got to change course.”
Pragmatism abounds in the Republican-controlled House, she suggested, listing numerous changes that will make debate more robust and politicians more accountable. There will be a minimum of 72 hours to review legislation before voting, she said. Budget bills will be handled agency by agency.
“What I want to do is find solutions so that we can fund our government while also recognizing we’re gonna’ have to change the way we do business,” Hageman said.
Averting government shutdowns “depends on whether people are going to do what is necessary to address the fiscal crisis that we’re in,” she said.
She opened the door to cuts in military spending, saying she was “terribly concerned” about the money being spent in Ukraine and wants an audit.
Hageman opposes term limits because they would reduce legislative power while enhancing that of bureaucrats. She’s working to repeal funding for more IRS employees, wants a law capping the U.S. Supreme Court at nine justices and opposes taxpayer aid to the World Health Organization.
Hageman hopes to be appointed to a panel probing what she said was the weaponization of the Department of Justice.
“We’ve all seen over the last couple of years what has happened with the FBI, with the [National Institutes of Health], with what happened with COVID,” she said. “We know from … the lawsuit filed by Arkansas and Louisiana [about] the disclosure of Fauci and his working with Twitter and the social media companies to not only prohibit us from getting information but also blocking free speech.”
The group End Citizens United said it mailed Hageman a letter Jan. 19 asking her to donate to charity a $2,900 campaign contribution from GOP Rep. Santos, accused of fabricating his life story while campaigning to represent parts of Long Island.
“Given the long list of lies, likely criminality, and blatant disregard for ethics, transparency, or the truth, we are calling on you to donate George Santos’ tainted money to charity,” the letter said. “Keeping the money or returning it to Santos would be an endorsement of his deception and corruption.”
Asked whether she would donate a $2,500 contribution, she deflected, saying she wasn’t aware he had donated that sum.
Speaking to House lawmakers at the Capitol in Cheyenne, Hageman touted Wyoming independence. “We need to make sure that we’re handling our own fiscal situation here, because the federal government isn’t going to be there to bail us out,” she said.
“We need to fight for, we need to protect our legacy industries,” Hageman said. “We need to fight for and protect coal, oil and gas, our agricultural industries. We not only provide the energy for this for this state and this country, but we can do so for the world.”