From ‘Friends’ to Opponents, Enzi and Cheney Will Test Wyo. Conservatives
Former Vice President Dick Cheney embraces his daughter Liz Cheney at the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images.
With Liz Cheney’s announcement Tuesday that she would launch a primary challenge to incumbent Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, residents of the country’s least populous state should get ready for a large influx of political reporters.
Cheney, the eldest of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s two daughters, went public with the decision shortly after Enzi said he would seek a fourth term in office.
“I am running because I believe it is necessary for a new generation of leaders to step up to the plate,” Cheney said in a nearly six-minute video posted to YouTube. She added: “I am running because I know as a mother and a patriot we can no longer afford to go along to get along. We can’t continue business as usual in Washington.”
In a telephone interview with the Associated Press, Cheney said that Enzi’s length of service in Washington was not a deterrent for making a run. “I think that part of the problem in Washington today is seniority. I think it’s time for a new generation, for a new generation to come to the fore. I don’t see seniority as a plus, frankly,” she told the AP.
Recent intra-party fights for Senate seats have mainly been the result of questions about the incumbent’s conservative credentials, such as in Indiana last year when Richard Mourdock defeated Richard Lugar, or Mike Lee’s 2010 convention victory over Robert Bennett in Utah.
That task could be a much tougher sell for Cheney with Wyoming Republicans, given that Enzi is ranked as the eighth most conservative senator according to the latest list compiled by the National Journal.
Enzi told reporters Tuesday that Cheney’s announcement would not affect how he approached his job, or his decision to seek re-election.
“My job is to be the U.S. senator that I was elected to be until at least January of 2015,” he said. “The people of Wyoming expect me to do the job, I do it pretty much full-time. I’m in Wyoming almost every weekend, here during the time that we’re voting out here. I won’t be doing anything different than I’ve been doing, getting the opinions of the Wyoming people and traveling Wyoming and doing my job out here.”
But Enzi did make clear that he was surprised by Cheney’s move. “She said that if I ran she wasn’t going to run, but obviously that wasn’t correct,” he said.
When asked about his relationship with Cheney, Enzi responded: “I thought we were friends.”
Enzi’s prospects for holding onto his seat will likely be buoyed by the support he maintains from the other members of the Cowboy State’s congressional delegation.
Fellow GOP Sen. John Barrasso said he would back Enzi in the fight. “Senator Enzi is my friend, he is my mentor, he is a tremendous senator for the people of Wyoming, and I plan to support him for re-election. I am supporting him for re-election.”
And the state’s lone House member, GOP Rep. Cynthia Lummis, blasted Cheney for displaying “bad form” in entering the race the way she did. Lummis also referred to Cheney as “the shiny new pony” in Wyoming politics, according to ABC News.
Politico’s James Hohmann explains why Cheney is no sure thing to defeat Enzi, raising several factors including Cheney’s recent move to the state after living in Virginia.
Several operatives noted that Cheney lacks a geographic base. She moved to Jackson Hole, which is in the state’s most Democratic county. The Cheney family lived in Casper when she was a kid, but they’ve not had a presence there for a long time.
Enzi has spent the Past 18 years traveling the state and going to town hall meetings. Neutral observers say he is very different from former Sen. Dick Lugar, who lost a GOP primary in Indiana last year in part because of revelations that he stayed at hotels when he traveled back to the state.
Regardless of who wins the primary contest between Enzi and Cheney, Wyoming is a deep red state, and will remain in Republican hands come 2015 no matter how divisive the battle between the two becomes. In the meantime, however, it makes for one fascinating political story to watch in the most unlikely of places.
STEPPING BACK FROM THE BRINK
Senate leaders reached a deal Tuesday to allow votes on several of President Barack Obama’s nominees, preventing a showdown over potential changes to the chamber’s rules governing filibusters.
“This must be a new normal,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters following a meeting with fellow Democrats. “Qualified executive nominees must not be blocked on procedural supermajority votes.”
The compromise paved the way for the confirmation of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau later in the day on a 66-34 vote. The agreement also set up votes on the president’s choices to lead the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Export-Import Bank, as well as one of his picks for the National Labor Relations Board. Two NLRB selections were withdrawn as part of the deal, and replaced with fresh nominees late Tuesday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the pact would preserve the rights of the minority party in the chamber for future battles over nominees.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction that the majority has chosen not to exercise the nuclear option. We feel good about that. I think they feel good about it. So I think that crisis has been averted,” said the Kentucky Republican. “We still will be dealing with controversial nominees in a way that the controversial nominees inevitably produce, a great debate. And all the options available to the minority remain intact.”
Reid also made clear that all options remained on the table for Democrats.
“There’s a feeling around here. Now feelings don’t last forever,” Reid said. “They’re not sacrificing their right to filibuster and we damn sure are not filibustering our right to change the rules if necessary.”
On the NewsHour Tuesday, Gwen Ifill spoke with Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley and Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker about the Senate agreement, and what it means for the chamber going forward.
Merkley expressed the view that senators still had a lot of work to do to improve the climate of the Senate.
“I think we need to pause in this moment and say Democrats and Republicans did listen to each other. We worked out a deal. We hope it will be a model for a better path forward, but we have got a lot more conversations to work on,” he said. “And that’s critical, because, right now, the Senate’s dysfunction not only is a disservice to the country. It’s breeding vast cynicism about the ability of government to be able to take on the challenges that we face in America.”
Wicker sounded an optimistic note, picking up on Merkley’s call to find a “social contract” in the chamber.
“I think we are in much better shape than we were at this time yesterday,” he said. “And I think this idea of a social contract where rank and file members like Jeff and like Roger Wicker are able to talk to each other and actually air grievances apart from the leaderships talking past each other, I feel a lot better and I think we’re on a better track because of what we have gone through.”
Watch the segment here or below:
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The Senate will hold a hearing Wednesday on the Voting Rights Act, its first since the Supreme Court struck down its enforcement provision for the pre-clearance clause in June. The House will hold a hearing on Thursday. And Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday he’s reassigning Justice Department staff to work to enforce parts of the law still in effect, such as allowing the federal government to challenge in court elections practices that may be discriminatory.
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Senate filibuster compromise comes after joint caucus mtg. I hope my fmr colleagues caucus together more often. Good things may happen.
— Mo Cowan (@mocowan) July 16, 2013
— Texas Monthly (@TexasMonthly) July 16, 2013
Moving in on Newt's turf MT @HillaryClinton: Went to Central Pk Zoo to meet w/wildlife experts about elephants.
— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) July 17, 2013
— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) July 16, 2013
Pope: Follow me on Twitter and you'll spend less time in purgatory http://t.co/naWxTOyLUz
— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) July 16, 2013
It's nice to see Senator @MarkeyMemo sworn in this morning. Welcome to the Senate-side Ed!
— Chuck Schumer (@ChuckSchumer) July 16, 2013
A perfect DC day – hot, humid, stinky – like living in the mouth of a dog.
— Paul Singer (@singernews) July 17, 2013
Simone Pathe and desk assistant Mallory Sofastaii contributed to this report.
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