WASHINGTON D.C. – It doesn’t get much more important to Wyoming’s future than the condition of our highways and roads or protecting our valuable water resources. This month, the U.S. Senate took significant action on major bipartisan pieces of legislation that will give a valuable shot to Wyoming’s economy, infrastructure needs and water storage. Both bills – one headed to the President’s desk and the other to the full Senate – include key Wyoming provisions that will positively impact our state for a decade to come.
Sadly, this month we also learned new and disturbing news about deficient care our American heroes are experiencing at VA facilities across the country. The newly uncovered information falls woefully short of President Lincoln’s charge “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”
Failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs
Shocking accounts about veterans in Wyoming and across America who may not be receiving high quality and prompt care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are front and center among the issues that need action now. Shortly after reading these reports, I sat down with the Director of the Cheyenne VA Medical Center to discuss whether our own facility may be not living up to all of our high expectations for the very best veteran care. During our discussion I made it very clear that we want answers, but also action to fix what appears to be a potentially very broken system.
On May 15th, Senator Enzi, Representative Lummis and I also wrote to VA Secretary Shinseki about these reports. We demanded direct and timely answers. If these charges are proven true,they are truly unacceptable and VA officials must be held accountable. I will continue to press for better information from the VA, and more support for the heroes who served our country.
Bill to Help WY Communities Prepare for Flood, Drought Headed to President’s Desk
On May 22nd, the Senate passed the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) by a vote of 91 to 7. This bill authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to improve and maintain dams, inland waterways, ports, and projects to prevent flooding and ensure water delivery tocommunities. As a member of the Conference Committee on WRDA, I was able to include important provisions that will help Wyoming communities better prepare for floods and drought. The bill also includes provisions to cut wasteful spending, protect Wyoming water rights and give tribes access to important water project financing. The House of Representatives passed the bill on May 20th, and it now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law soon.
Bipartisan Transportation Bill Moves Forward in the Senate
On May 15th, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee also passed a fiscally responsible, bipartisan transportation bill to address our country’s transportation infrastructure challenges for the next 6 years. It provides long-term funding for state and local governments to improve our roads, bridges and other transportation projects. As one of the four original negotiators, it was particularly important that the bill continues the current highway program formula for distribution of funds among States. The formula has long respected the important contributions to the nation of roads in rural states like Wyoming, not just in heavily populated States. We also were successful in adding several provisions that give our Wyoming Department of Transportation the flexibility they need to accurately address rural road and bridge projects. I look forward to helping this important bill pass the full Senate later this year.
Western Caucus Releases New State Environmental Solutions Report
This month, the Senate and Congressional Western Caucuses released a new joint report entitled: “Washington Gets It Wrong, States Get It right: A New Report on State Environmental Stewardship.” Our report provides details on how Wyoming and other western states are leading the way when it comes to protecting our environment without hurting jobs in our communities. If the Administration wants to protect the environment, they’ll get out of the way and let those who live and work on these lands to continue managing them for the people in their states.
Wyoming Comes to Washington
It was our pleasure in May to welcome Fort Washakie’s Big John Smith to town. Big John, the Transportation Director for the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes’ Joint Business Council, was honored at the White House for his efforts on behalf of the Tribe and Wyoming. Congratulations Big John and thank you for sharing your wisdom and many years of experience with the President and me.