Democrats are trying to push both a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and another $3.5 trillion spending package through Congress.
Although the former provides funding for traditional infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, the other and larger package provides trillions of dollars for a laundry list of left-wing priorities, Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., says.
“They have fudged on other numbers within it, so it’s probably more like [a] $5.5 trillion [bill],” Lummis says of the larger spending package. “It is the Green New Deal. It is new entitlement programs. And it really is a terrifying, inflation-causing, big government-motivated spending bill.”
If the U.S. government doesn’t stop spending at such a rampant pace, the “best-case scenario is that our dollars will go less far,” Lummis says, adding that the “worst-case scenario is that we put the dollar at risk as the world reserve currency.”
Lummis joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to explain what you need to know about the two spending bills. She also shares a bit about her journey to public office, and what it’s like to be the first female senator from Wyoming.
We also cover these stories:
- About 50,000 illegal immigrants have been released into the country without a court date, Axios reports.
- Republican and Democrat senators reach a tentative agreement on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
- The House reinstates a mask mandate for lawmakers, citing the delta variant of COVID-19.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: I am so pleased to be joined here today by Sen. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming. Senator, thank you so much for being here.
Sen. Cynthia Lummis: It’s my pleasure, Virginia.
Allen: I want to jump in by asking you to share a little bit of your background, of your story. You grew up in Wyoming. How would you describe your childhood?
Lummis: Idyllic. I have sisters and a brother. We were raised on a ranch. So we were in 4-H, showed cattle, sheep, pigs. We’d get home on the school bus, throw our books in the house, and run down to the barn and spend the time with our cattle and sheep, getting them ready for the fair, and riding horses, making up games like “Pony Express” on our horses when we were little kids. So it was truly idyllic.
Allen: Sounds very idyllic, very special. Now, your roots go deep in Wyoming, born and raised there. You also served in the House of Representatives in Wyoming. You also served as a U.S. House member for the state of Wyoming. And now you’re serving as senator for Wyoming. What first sparked your interest in policy and politics?
Lummis: Well, my dad was a county commissioner and I sat next to him at the kitchen table because I was the messy eater, so they put me next to him so I would behave a little better. But as a result, he liked to talk about policy at the county level, even when I was a little kid.
I loved it the most of my siblings and later interned when I was a senior in animal science at the University of Wyoming, interned at the Wyoming Legislature. I just fell in love with the Wyoming Legislature. So shortly thereafter I ran and it was a good year for nontraditional candidates and I was elected and served when I was starting at 24 years old.
Allen: You started that young. That’s wonderful. I think that’s a great message to all of our young listeners, to be involved and to really take up that call to be active and be passionate about the things that you care about. I love that you took action at such a young age.
Lummis: And if you’re ready at that point, I just say, “Go for it.” Some people aren’t. Some people would rather get more established in their careers and with their families. But for me, and for some young people, they’re ready to go. And for those who are, I strongly recommend it.
Allen: Now, you have the honor of being the first woman to represent the state of Wyoming in the Senate. What does that mean to you?
Lummis: Having been born and raised in Wyoming, being a fourth-generation Wyoming native, it means more than I can say. I love Wyoming. I love my state. I’m a person who really identifies with place. Sometimes I’ll be driving in Wyoming and I’m by myself and I’ll find myself smiling and it’s inadvertent. It’s just that I’m surrounded by such beauty that I can’t help but smile. I love it more than I can say, so to be its first woman senator means a great deal to me.
Allen: Very, very special. And I want to dive into one of the issues that I know you’re very, very passionate about and that is spending, and specifically, reining in out-of-control spending. Let’s chat a little bit about the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. First, would you just explain the difference between these two bills?
Lummis: Well, right now we’re looking at an infrastructure package that is real infrastructure. It’s roads, bridges, sewer, water, ports, airports, broadband, things that we normally see as infrastructure.
Allen: And that’s the $1.2 trillion bill?
Lummis: Yes, that’s the smaller of the two bills. Then the $3.5 trillion, which really is more like $5.5 trillion because they’ve fudged so much on eight-year versus 10-year window for scoring it. They have fudged on other numbers within it, so it’s probably more like $5.5 trillion, noninfrastructure. It is the Green New Deal. It is new entitlement programs. And it really is a terrifying, inflation-causing, big government-motivated spending bill.
Allen: What we’ve seen is that these bills have been linked, but like you say, they’re quite different. You have one that’s really for traditional infrastructure and then another has a laundry list of various agenda issues. How did that come about that these two bills were somehow linked together?
Lummis: As you know, there have been some Republicans that joined with centrist Democrats to come up with the true infrastructure bill and to pull it out of the bigger, giant spending package so they could negotiate a true infrastructure bill, because centrists in both parties would like to see that happen.
And [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi, not wanting to see that happen, has said that she won’t pass one without the other. That is the position of the White House as well. So the Democrats have linked them, I think, essentially, to force their members who are working on a real infrastructure bill to say, “The only way we’ll do it is if you also give us this giant wish list of liberal spending.”
Allen: And where do these two bills stand right now? What’s the latest?
Lummis: There’s been a setback in the negotiation, even on the true infrastructure bill. There’s a lot of transit, public transit, that the Democrats want. I think that what I’ve heard is they’re trying to renegotiate after the true parameters of the deal were already struck. So that one, I believe, we will get to sooner, if indeed an agreement can be reached.
The Republican negotiators on that bill aren’t even sure that they’ll be able to reach a deal now that the Democrats have reneged on what they thought was the final deal. But that’s the one that is coming first.
Then, the Democrats will use a process that’s called the reconciliation process to attach their big spending bill to. And reconciliation is just a name for the Budget Act and then attaching spending to the Budget Act.
Allen: OK. So, as you mentioned, House Speaker Pelosi, she’s trying to push both of these through, of course, as well. [Senate] Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, he’s trying to push both through. You and many other GOP members are voicing your opposition for this $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. So speak a little bit more about why you’re so concerned about a bill that is this large. And then also talk a little bit about why that $1.2 trillion infrastructure package is actually important for infrastructure.
Lummis: The $3.5 trillion bill, as I mentioned, is actually more spending than that. And it’s spending on things that will make for big government, big environment, and cause inflation to further be fanned. So right now we look at the cost of rental cars, of used cars, of food, of just basic transportation, airlines, everything’s higher.
There’s a home-builder that I know in Wyoming. He could build a house for $305,000 last year. This year, $380,000, just in one year. So it’s putting even attainable housing to the unattainable level. And this has happened so quickly and it’s not just lumber. It is cabinets. It is dishwashers. It’s everything that goes into building a new house. Doorframes. It is the whole package.
What people in Wyoming and everywhere in the country that I talked to are dealing with is a spike in prices that they believe is not going to go down and settle down, even when lumber prices do.
Allen: Well, you recently wrote in a Fox News piece, you cited a Washington Post article that relayed some of those inflation numbers. That car rental costs are up 87%, used cars and gas up 45%, airfare 24%, hotel prices 16%. I could go on and on. What is causing this inflation and what do we do about it?
Lummis: Some of it is probably caused by coming out of COVID and having the supply chains not catch up, but that’s not all of it. I think the vast majority of it is so much money sloshing around in the economy. The unemployment benefits that are so generous that they have caused people not to want to go back to work, so even restaurants can’t hire workers, they have to pay more in salaries to get the few workers that will come back to work because it pays more to stay home. Only 21 states have rejected the federal benefit for unemployment.
So, it’s all this money that’s sloshing around in the economy, incentivizing people not to work, that is causing inflation.
Allen: Now, I know you wrote in that Fox News op-ed—it’s a great piece—that we can really tackle infrastructure. We can pay for needed infrastructure without spending more. How do we do that?
Lummis: There is between 700 billion and a trillion unspent COVID dollars still out there in the economy. So we could just repurpose or reallocate that money to true infrastructure and pay for it all. But unfortunately, Democrats don’t want to do that.
I signed a letter with Ron Johnson and other fiscal conservatives in the Senate asking that that approach be taken and that approach was rejected. So more money will be put in the economy. It will overheat the economy. With that much money just sloshing around in the economy, inflation is going to grow.
Allen: What do you say to individuals who say, “Well, yes, we’re spending a lot, but we’ve been spending a lot for a long time and we still have the largest economy in the world. So it’s not a problem. We should just keep spending”? What’s your response to that argument?
Lummis: Well, we are debasing the value of the U.S. dollar. It will not go as far. And in doing so, we are ensuring that people who are working now and saving for their retirement will not be able to retire in the style that they wish they could, or the style that they could now, because the dollars they’re saving are going to be worth so much less when they retire.
And for people my age, who are within that range of retirement, it’s a really scary proposition because all the money that we saved throughout our lives suddenly is unable to provide us with the level of retirement living that we had hoped to obtain. And it’s simply because the federal government is being irresponsible and spending so much money.
Allen: So if we don’t put the brakes on, where does this leave us? Where are we headed as a nation?
Lummis: Well, certainly the best-case scenario is that our dollars will go less far. The worst-case scenario is that we put the dollar at risk as the world reserve currency, that we help give rise to China and the Chinese Communist Party, and that we diminish our ability to have a lifestyle that we worked so hard to attain.
Allen: So what’s the first step to really rein in spending in America and start to get our economy in order?
Lummis: Certainly the government needs to create, I believe, another commission to figure out how we can rein in spending. We cannot create more entitlement programs. We have to reform Social Security and Medicare in order to save them. And that should be the goal, is to save the existing entitlement programs through reforms and then not create new entitlement programs, as the Democrats would like to do. We have to protect our job base. We can have clean air, clean water, and use our natural resources. So we need to be smart about this, and we’re not being smart about this.
In fact, I believe the Democrats’ agenda is going to take a giant step toward reducing jobs, reducing good-paying jobs. I mean, why would we stop the Keystone XL pipeline at the same time we’re letting a pipeline go from Russia to Germany? That is the most absurd decision that anyone could make with regard to energy. Anyone.
Then you look at people streaming across our borders. We know now that COVID, they are superspreaders, and that they are coming into our country unprepared to join a strong workforce and relate to our economy, and step in line in front of people who’ve been waiting for a decade or more to become Americans.
So our irrational judgment that is occurring, I believe, in part because of the change of administrations, is hurdling us more quickly into a very precarious situation economically.
Allen: Those on the Hill, you all certainly have your work cut out for you, no shortage, and we appreciate your leadership, Senator. Before we let you go, I want to ask you a little bit of a lighter question. Wyoming is a beautiful state. Share a little bit, what would be maybe the top three places you would say everyone should visit when in Wyoming?
Lummis: Well, since Cheyenne Frontier Days is going on right now, that is certainly on the list. It is the world’s largest outdoor rodeo. This is the 125th annual Cheyenne Frontier Days. So if you’re a rodeo fan, that’s definitely on the list.
And of course, the area around Sheridan, Wyoming, is extremely beautiful. Northeast Wyoming has Devils Tower, the first national monument, as well as Buffalo, Sheridan, fabulous communities. The Bighorn Mountains are gorgeous.
And then I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Yellowstone, Grand Teton. Cody, Jackson, those are the gateway communities to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone was the nation’s first national park and the first national forest, the Shoshone National Forest, is just adjacent to that.
Wyoming’s spectacular scenery is what prompted this nation to recognize the importance of having fabulous outdoor venues for our nation, for people of our country to use and enjoy. So I encourage you to come use and enjoy them.
Allen: I will, thank you. Senator, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate you coming.
Lummis: My pleasure, Virginia. Thanks for having me.
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