Congresswoman Harriet Hageman visits Jackson sharing message of “perfect storm” in the U.S.

The freshman representative hit home on the many crises she said the country is facing, from high inflation to migration at the southern border.
Harriet Hageman (R-Fort Laramie) became Wyoming's sole representative after unseating former Rep. Liz Cheney last summer. (Hanna Merzbach/KHOL)

Wyoming’s first-time congresswoman, Harriet Hageman, visited Jackson Friday morning, saying she’d like to eliminate government departments, cut environmental protections and weaken the executive branch. 

“We’re headed for a train wreck in this country,” Hageman told an audience of around 40 people at the Teton County Library.

Hageman, a Republican, said the United States is facing a “perfect storm,” pointing to high inflation, broken supply chains, competition with China and migration at the southern border. She placed blame on the Biden Administration and the last Congress.

“We know that we cannot continue down the road where we’re going right now,” she said.

With the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, Hageman unseated former Rep. Liz Cheney last year and became Wyoming’s sole representative. She’s currently holding town halls across the state to fulfill her campaign promise to visit all 23 counties at least once a year. 

The primarily conservative audience appeared pleased with the town hall, as locals have historically complained about a lack of access to Wyoming’s congressional delegation.

“We need transparency, we need accountability,” Hageman said to the applauding crowd. “And we need to make sure that the citizens of this country know what people in Washington, D.C. are doing.”

‘Weaken the executive branch’

One local, Maury Jones — known to his friends as “Jonesy” — dressed in a cowboy hat and boots, was the first to arrive at the town hall.  He spoke to Hageman about the importance of the constitution and lawmakers adhering to it. Hageman said she agreed.

“Part of the reason why we’re almost $32 trillion in debt,” Hageman said to the audience, “is that for an awful long time, Congress has not taken that responsibility seriously.

Hageman, like much of the Republican Party, is supportive of small government. She said the federal government needs to see serious cuts in order to pull itself out of debt.

About 40 people attended Hageman’s town hall at Teton County Library on Friday. (Hanna Merzbach/KHOL)

During the meeting, Jones asked which departments Hageman would eliminate, bringing up the Department of Education.

“That’s be the first one,” Hageman responded, adding that the department has “destroyed education” in the U.S.

She’d also make cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior, citing what she sees as government overreach.

“I want to strengthen the legislative branch,” she said. “I want to weaken the executive branch and the administrative state.

An ‘undeniable crisis’ at the U.S. border

Another hot topic at the town hall was immigration.

According to Hageman’s website, she is an avid supporter of “securing the border” and preventing what she sees as an “undeniable crisis.” At the town hall, she said emigrants from the southern U.S. border cause housing shortages and smuggle in drugs, among other illegal actions.

“You eventually turn into the same kind of societies that they are fleeing,” Hageman said.

One woman in the audience asked, “Why are we afraid to say the words, ‘We’re being invaded?’

Hageman also said an influx of immigrants is putting strain on schools. 

In Jackson, where Latinos make up as high as 30% of the population, students can enroll in a Spanish dual immersion program. Hageman said other towns don’t have the same resources.

“What do you do in little schools in Wyoming when you have children that don’t speak English, and we don’t have the ability to hire someone who speaks whatever language they speak?” she said.

At one point, Hageman referred to President Joe Biden as the “largest human trafficker in U.S. history.” Other audience members agreed.

Oil & China

Hageman sits on the House Judiciary Committee, as well as the Natural Resources Committee and on Friday morning took aim at U.S. oil going to China.

On Jan. 12, Hageman and the Republican-controlled House voted to prevent oil from the country’s emergency reserves from going to China. While the crowd at the library was largely supportive about Hageman’s stance on China, one attendee pushed back. 

“If we don’t sell it to China, China buys it from elsewhere,” said the audience member, who wore a hat that read “Make Jackson Hole Wyoming Again.” 

Hageman said she’s all for selling oil to China — just not from the U.S.’s strategic reserves.

“China is an enemy of the American public,” she said.

Addressing Jackson’s housing shortage

When asked about how she would address housing shortages, like the one Jackson is experiencing, Hageman said it’s a local problem — and that it’s bound to happen with the amount of public land in the area. She suggested the town and county look toward forest service land for more housing.

“There’s a way to solve [the housing crisis], but you have to have the strength and the wherewithal and the willingness to do it.” she said.

Hageman is holding another public meeting in Lander Friday at 6:30 p.m at the Fremont County Library. She’ll be in Casper Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at the Gruner Brothers Brewery.

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About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's senior reporter and managing editor. A lot of her work focuses on housing and local politics, but also women's health — and whatever else she finds interesting. You can hear her reporting around the country and region on NPR, Wyoming Public Radio and community radio stations around the west. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she reported for outlets such as the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains.

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