By Billy Arnold
Jackson Hole Daily
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
JACKSON — Harriet Hageman, Wyoming’s new Republican congresswoman, is dead set on decreasing the size of the federal government.
When she thinks about Teton County’s housing crisis, she’s thinking about tackling it with federal land — not the Teton County Fairgrounds.
“Taking away your western heritage is not going to solve your long-term problem with housing,” Hageman said.
“I’m not talking about [Grand] Teton National Park. I’m not talking about Yellowstone,” she said. “There are other federal lands within this community that I think people are going to have to start looking at.”
Hageman said as much Friday, visiting with Teton County reporters after holding a town hall with about 30 people at the Teton County Library.
There, she addressed a sympathetic, conservative crowd.
Hageman touted her assignments to the House Judiciary Committee and House Committee on Natural Resources.
“Those are the two committees that I really wanted,” she said.
Hageman drew a contrast between herself and Liz Cheney, the three-term Republican congresswoman Hageman ousted in August.
Cheney was not on the natural resources committee. Hageman consistently wielded that against her opponent on the campaign trail.
Though Hageman voted for the new Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, in all 15 rounds of chaotic voting earlier this month, she also promoted a rules package largely negotiated by his detractors.
It allows lawmakers 72 hours to review legislation before voting — and any member of Congress to force a vote on removing the speaker.
“That’s called accountability,” Hageman said.
Only one member of the audience publicly disagreed with Hageman during the town hall. When she asked the room for a show of hands to see who thought the U.S. “ought to be raiding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to sell oil to China,” Matt Hall put his hand up.
That apparently surprised the congresswoman.
“You do?” she asked.
Hall said if the U.S. doesn’t sell oil to China, China will buy it elsewhere. He argued that the priority for Wyoming, traditionally a coal state, should be a coal export port on the West Coast that Washington state has blocked. Wyoming is suing the Cascadian state over the decision.
Hageman said she agreed: She wanted to sell more coal and oil.
“But what I don’t want to sell is our strategic petroleum reserves, the primary purpose of which is to make sure that we were not subject to the vagaries of the international market,” Hageman said.
Even a Republican like Alex Muromcew, the Teton County GOP’s vice chair who publicly supported Hageman’s opponent, Liz Cheney, in the August primary, received Hageman warmly. He asked her a question about defense spending. Hageman, in response, criticized the $113 billion the U.S. government has sent Ukraine during its war with Russia, as well as “wokeness,” and the military’s vaccine mandates.
Muromcew thanked Hageman for being there.
“It’s refreshing to see Wyoming’s representative actually spend time in Wyoming,” he said.
The crowd applauded, reflecting long-standing discontent in Teton County about a lack of face time from Wyoming’s three-person delegation to Washington, D.C.
Hageman largely avoided cultural issues after leaning into them on the campaign trail, saying then that voters were “fed up” with “boys competing in girls’ sports” and the “radical abortion industry.”
When asked by reporters whether she would do anything to protect abortion access, she deflected.
“There’s a life there,” she said. “That’s what we focus on.”
Instead, the first-term congresswoman returned repeatedly to slashing the size of the federal government.
Hageman doesn’t think Congress should have term limits because they “weaken the one branch that is closest to the people.”
“I want to strengthen the legislative branch,” she said. “I want to weaken the executive branch and the administrative state.”
Hageman would eliminate the Department of Education.
She said she thinks the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality is just fine — no need for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to have such sway. And 87,000 employees in the Department of Interior?
Too many, Hageman said.
To fix Jackson Hole’s housing woes, she pointed to land owned by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates the National Elk Refuge north of Jackson.
Hageman referenced an oft-cited statistic: That only 3% of Jackson Hole is private and, thus, developable. The balance of the county is protected federal land, like parks and Bridger-Teton National Forest.
“You’re landlocked because the federal government owns the vast majority of your county,” she said.