By Daniel McArdle
The Sheridan Press
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
SHERIDAN — During a visit to Sheridan on Monday to recognize Meadowlark Elementary for receiving a National Blue Ribbon Award, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, discussed a major piece of infrastructure legislation he introduced into the Senate in July as well as the impeachment inquiry and issues in international affairs.
As chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, Barrasso recently sponsored America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019, a bill that provides $287 billion dollars over five years to repair and maintain the country’s highways and bridges. If passed into law, it would be the largest-ever piece of highway legislation.
Barrasso said that a difference from previous infrastructure bills is its focus on rural areas.
Wyoming Department of Transportation Director Luke Reiner went to Washington in July to testify on behalf of the bill, emphasizing the need for a focus on rural communities.
“The past transportation bills always used to divide funds up based on population, so the money would always go to urban centers and those in rural areas would be left behind,” Barrasso said. “So this bill finally addresses that divide and is going to bring in the money for our rural areas.”
The bill passed the bipartisan Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously July 30.
“I’m proud that we were able to find bipartisan consensus on the first-ever climate title in such a major transportation package,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
However, Barrasso expressed skepticism about the bill’s immediate prospects in the House of Representatives in light of the current impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
“Well it’s through the Senate. It passed the committee in a bipartisan manner, it passed 21-0,” Barrasso said. “Now with this impeachment inquiry, we’re having trouble getting the House Democrats to do anything at all.”
Barrasso singled out presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, for having introduced a bill in December 2016 that included the term impeachment.
“Many of them — Elizabeth Warren is one of them — Elizabeth Warren and other democrats introduced legislation in December 2016 that used the word impeachment,” Barrasso said. “December 2016 and the election was November 2016 so they’ve been trying to impeach him since he got elected.”
The December 2016 bill called for the sitting president to divest from any holdings that could create conflicts of interest and included a statement that failure to do so would constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under the impeachment clause of the constitution. Asked whether he considered it appropriate for the executive branch to withhold congressionally appropriated foreign aid from Ukraine, Barrasso explained his longtime support for military aid to Ukraine.
“During the Obama administration, and even during the start of the Trump administration, I pushed for lethal aid to Ukraine. I pushed for years, maybe five or six, since (the) Maidan (revolution) for aid to Ukraine to protect against what Russia’s been doing to them in the eastern part of the country,” Barrasso said. “So I’ve been pushing for that for a long time, and I’m glad it’s finally gotten there.”
Barrasso said he supports the current maximum-pressure policy against Iran and believes that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed by Iran, the Obama administration and five other countries did not go far enough to contain Iran’s regional activities.
“Iran is a terrorist nation,” Barrasso said. “They’re supporting the Houthis in Yemen, they support Hamas in Palestine, they shot down our drone, they bombed the oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.”
Asked whether he was concerned at the lack of support for American sanctions of Iran among European allies, Barrasso said that many of the Europeans have expressed renewed support for sanctions following the attacks on the Al-Abqaiq facility in Saudi Arabia.
Asked whether it was possible a maximum-pressure campaign could increase Iran’s aggressive behavior, Barrasso said “there are certainly people who argue that.”