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Sen. Mike Enzi announces he will retire rather than seek a fifth term

Wyoming Republican has served in the Senate for more that two decades

Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., announced Saturday that he will not run for re-election in 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., announced Saturday that he will not run for re-election in 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Wyoming Republican Michael B. Enzi announced Saturday that he will not run for re-election in 2020 after more than two decades in the Senate.

Enzi’s decision — which he announced at a press conference in Wyoming, according to the Casper Star-Tribune — opens up a seat in the strongly Republican state.

In a statement, Enzi, 75, described some of the less glamorous parts of being in the Senate. They include he and his wife being on planes eight to 14 hours each week.

“We live out of a suitcase on both ends,” he said. “I’m not complaining. I chose the job and … was taught to do a job so well that I would be proud to put my name on it. In two more years, Diana and I will have done that for 24 years for you. That’s a longer elected Senate service than anyone in Wyoming history.”

He said he still had work to do before his term ends in 2021, including overhauling the budget process to get control of the national debt, and small business initiatives.

Enzi won his last election in 2014 with 72 percent of the vote, and President Donald Trump carried Wyoming by 46 points in 2016. Before Enzi’s announcement, Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales had rated the Wyoming Senate race Solid Republican.

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“I’m confident Wyoming will elect another Republican who will best represent the state’s values,” Indiana Sen. Todd Young, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement.

One potential candidate for the seat is House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney, who briefly challenged Enzi in the 2014 GOP primary. Under new conference rules adopted this year, Cheney would have to give up her leadership post if she runs.

“For more than four decades, Mike Enzi has devoted himself to serving our state and the country. He never forgot where he came from and always put the interests of Wyoming first, constantly championing our Western way of life,” Cheney said in a statement.  “I’m privileged to have had the opportunity to work alongside him for the people of Wyoming and am proud to call him a friend.” 

Enzi’s open Senate seat will be the first in more than a decade for Wyoming. In 2007, GOP Sen. Craig Thomas died in office and now-Sen. John Barrasso was appointed to replace him.

Barrasso, now a member of Senate GOP leadership, lauded his colleague in a statement after Enzi’s announcement. 

“Mike Enzi’s character, courage and credibility have made him a respected moral leader in the U.S. Senate. In four terms in the Senate he has never wavered in his commitment to God, family or Wyoming,” he said. “The Senate and Wyoming will miss the valued leadership of the trusted trail boss of our congressional delegation.”

Enzi has led the Senate Budget Committee since 2015, which put him in the thick of some important actions in recent years because of efforts to use rules for “reconciliation” to avoid the 60-vote threshold typically needed to end debate on legislation. The budget resolution adopted in 2017, for example, cleared the way for passing sweeping tax overhaul at the end of the year without needing votes from Democrats, who could have blocked it if a 60-vote threshold had been used.

“His departure will be our loss,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. “His leadership at budget was essential to the historic tax relief that Republicans were able to deliver to middle-class families and job creators in 2017.”

Enzi has long championed changing the way lawmakers put their stamp on the federal budget process. In 2017, he reached bipartisan consensus on his Senate panel to implement changes such as releasing the annual budget resolution text to committee members ahead of markups and imposing deadlines for filing amendments. More substantive changes, including biennial budgeting and moving the start of the fiscal year, have been elusive.

In March 2015, the onetime accountant shepherded through a fiscal 2016 budget resolution that was the first adopted by the House and Senate since a Democrat-led Congress passed a budget in 2009.

Enzi has said his previous experience selling shoes has proved valuable in the Washington.

“You have to know that there’s a customer, you have to listen to the customer, and you have to see how what the customer wants matches up with the inventory, and around here the inventory is legislation,” he said of his experience.

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