ROCK SPRINGS — U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., had a late start to the August Congressional recess, but is making up for lost time by crisscrossing Wyoming and listening to the public’s concerns about the economy, immigration and Afghanistan.
The usual fall break was delayed by about a week and a half by maneuvers on the Democrats’ “reckless” $3.5 trillion tax and spending bill, according to the senator. Since his return to Wyoming, he has attended a funeral, a wedding, multiple fundraisers and the River Festival in Green River, which gives him opportunities to hear from constituents and learn what’s on their minds.
He said the No. 1 issue is inflation with people paying more for gas and groceries. He pointed to the difference between prices today and the when President Joe Biden took office.
Barrasso challenged decisions like Biden’s decision to stop the Keystone Pipeline and place a moratorium on energy development. He called that drawing a target on the back of American energy workers and pulling the trigger. Instead of doing that, the senator said more decision makers should look to Wyoming.
“We know how to protect the environment and the economy at the same time,” he said.
Concerns about the American border with Mexico are also a commonly raised topic. Barrasso said people from South and Central America are crossing into the United States at a great rate – about a million so far this year.
He questioned the federal policy where some people are being asked to quarantine once they get here instead of being required to quarantine by the government. When asked what kind of system that would involve, the senator said it was a complicated issue.
Barrasso said he wished the current administration continued the policy where would-be immigrants waited in Mexico before entering the U.S.
Having traveled to Afghanistan about 10 times, including spending three Thanksgivings with deployed members of the Wyoming Army National Guard, Barrasso has a unique perspective on Afghanistan and the U.S. withdrawal from the country.
“It was done in the worst way possible,” Barrasso said.
He said whether one is for or against staying in Afghanistan, everyone believes it has been disastrous except for Biden. Barrasso said he doesn’t blame the military or others on the ground because it is obvious that the president overrode his advisors. The senator said there should have been a better managed pullout to make sure Americans, U.S. allies and powerful equipment were not left behind enemy lines.
Barrasso’s last trip to Afghanistan was November 2019, when President Donald Trump accepted his invitation to join him for Thanksgiving with the troops. The senator said he asked why they can’t negotiate with the Taliban and was told that instead of a traditional, organized government, the Taliban is made up of a loose confederation of war chiefs with conflicting allegiances and agendas. There is no chain of command, which is why an agreement with a few won’t mean compliance for them all.
He said that he was opposite Trump on his decision to withdraw troops by May 1, 2021, which was then postponed to Sept. 1, 2021. Looking at past examples in Germany, Japan, and South Korea where the U.S. left behind a contingent of troops, he said the same could have been done in Afghanistan.
“Reasonable people can disagree,” Barrasso said more than once.
However, deciding to pull out abruptly is what led to the current mess. As of Wednesday night, about 1,500 Americans were still awaiting evacuation with tens of thousand more Afghanis who worked as support staff or collaborators and are now worried about losing their lives.
The senator explained how geography is complicating evacuations. The physical footprint of Afghanistan is the size of Wyoming and Montana combined, he explained. The land is very mountainous with few good roads. He said one should imagine the difficulties of being in southwest Wyoming and having to travel to northern Montana where escape potentially awaits. Additionally, there’s the Catch-22 of the papers required to be evacuated by foreign troops. Official documentation must be produced at the airport, but if they’re discovered before then, they could be an automatic death sentence. It would depend on the whims of the Taliban warlord, Barrasso said.
He said one could easily conceive of tribal leaders holding hostages that will need to be ransomed and rescued. Should that happen, he said it is important to make sure those stories are told.
People are still talking about the consequences and lessons of the 2020 election.
Barrasso said states should be in charge of their own election rules and he doesn’t want Washington telling Wyoming how to run its elections. He said he is in favor of Wyoming’s system of absentee voting and voter identification.
“I wish every state would do that,” he said.
Looking to future elections, he predicted inflation is going to continue and the economy will be hindered.
“The policies of this administration are hurting the working man and woman,” the senator said.
His goal is to disrupt the Democrat freight train of Biden, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. He wants to make Biden a “half-term president,” by which he means a president whose party doesn’t control Congress. Barrasso said if you don’t have Pelosi and Schumer in power together, no Democrat-led legislation will get to the president’s desk and Biden will never veto a piece of legislation.
When asked about attempts to cast doubts on the results of the 2020 election and challenge the certification of the Electoral College, Barrasso said, “Joe Biden is the president, and I’m doing everything I can to take back the House and Senate in 2022.”