Last Thursday, April 20, U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) visited Greybull High School for a scheduled Q&A with students in grades 6–12. During his visit Enzi called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “illegal,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ job will be to shut down a large part of the Department of Education, and responded to a question about LGBTQ rights in Wyoming with an anecdote about a man being surprised at the fact that he gets beat up for “wearing a tutu to the bar.”
Enzi started his trip off with a tour of Greybull High School, meeting with students in Dawn Thur’s life skills class, Mike Blissett’s math class and Josh Heinemeyer’s economics class.
While speaking to Heinemeyer’s economics students, Enzi called the CFPB “illegal,” explaining that the watchdog agency operates with a structure that is unconstitutional.
Created by the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, the CFPB was established to provide consumer protection in the financial sector. It retains oversight of several financial institutions including banks, payday lenders, debt collectors and other financial companies operating within the U.S.
Enzi told students to “watch what [the Senate does] later in the year to see if [they] get rid of it.”
Later, during a scheduled Q&A, Enzi fielded questions from Greybull Middle and High School students.
When asked his thoughts about the GOP’s failed attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Enzi attributed the failure of the American Health Care Act to the complexity and nuances of the legislative process.
“Any time [legislation] goes to the greater body, there are some other ideas,” he said. “There were some people who insisted their ideas be in it before it was voted on.”
A staff member from Greybull Middle School asked Enzi whether he thought Sec. DeVos’ “single controlling belief about education — that choice is good” fits rural districts across Wyoming.
Enzi responded by stating a portion of Sec. DeVos’ job will be to “shut down a big part of the federal Department of Education.”
“There were a whole bunch of forms that people had to fill out to see if they met the federal compliance or not. That adds a huge cost,” he said, going on to state 259 individuals are currently employed to help ensure districts are in compliance with federal regulations.
Enzi said cutting that part of the department would provide more funds for education.
“They get paid more than any teacher in Wyoming,” he said. “That should be a little bit of savings in education money that actually comes back to the states. That’s what Sec. DeVos is in charge of — finding out what shouldn’t be working at the federal level and shutting that down.”
Enzi closed his remarks on Sec. DeVos by praising her memory for rural issues, referencing an instance during her confirmation testimony where she recalled Wapiti Elementary School’s “bear fence” as a potential justification for allowing guns in schools.
For the last question from students, sophomore Bailee Foster asked Sen. Enzi about the LGBTQ community — specifically what he was doing to help Wyoming live up to its nickname as The Equality State.
Enzi prefaced his response by stating that several situations across Wyoming cannot be taken care of by laws alone; that not every issue has a “federal, one-size-fits-all solution.”
“That’s one of the problems we have in this country; thinking that everything could be done by law,” he said. “What we need to have is a little civility between people.”
Enzi went on to say that he enjoys Wyoming because “you can be just about anything you want to be, as long as you don’t push it in somebody’s face.” He followed his statement up with an anecdote about a man wearing a tutu being surprised that he gets in fights at the bar.
“I know a guy who wears a tutu and goes to bars on Friday night and is always surprised that he gets in fights. Well, he kind of asks for it. That’s the way that he winds up with that kind of problem,” he said, reemphasizing his belief that “everything can’t be done by law.”
“The biggest thing that we need is civility,” he said.
In a statement issued by the Wyoming Democratic Party, Chair Joe Barbuto wrote that Enzi’s comments were “not just inappropriate,” but also ugly and backwards.
“Senator Enzi’s comment was not just inappropriate, it was ugly and indicative of a kind of backwards thinking that has no place in today’s society. It only makes matters worse that his remark was made to a group of young students,” he wrote.
“Let me be clear: no one deserves or is asking to be punished for simply being who they are. The Senator should already know that,” Barbuto added.
According to Enzi’s Press Secretary Max D’Onofrio, the Senator’s comments have been taken out of context.
“Senator Enzi believes all individuals should be treated with respect,” he wrote. “[Enzi] does not believe that anyone should be bullied, intimidated or attacked because of their beliefs. This is a hot button issue and emotions can run high, but no one should take his remarks out of context or misconstrue them to mean anything but advocacy of kindness toward our fellow citizens.
A rough transcript of Sen. Enzi’s remarks to Greybull students can be found here.
You can listen to Sen. Enzi’s full Q&A here.