Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Sen. John Barrasso (R)

Wyoming

Leadership: Republican Policy Committee Chairman

N/A

barrasso.senate.gov

Biography

Elected: Appointed June 2007, term expires 2018, 1st full term.

Born: July 21, 1952, Reading, PA

Home: Casper

Education: Georgetown U., B.A. 1974, M.D. 1978

Professional Career: Orthopedic surgeon 1983-2007; RNC Committeeman, 1992-96; Chief of staff, WY Medical Center, 2003-05.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Presbyterian

Family: married (Bobbi) , 3 children

Republican John Barrasso, Wyoming’s junior senator, was appointed in June 2007 after Republican Sen. Craig Thomas died in office of leukemia. Barrasso was then elected in November 2008 to fill the remaining four years of Craig’s unexpired term and reelected four years later. Barrasso’s intellect and unwavering conservatism have helped him quickly climb the GOP leadership ladder; he is chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee and in 2015 took the helm of the Indian Affairs Committee.

Barrasso (bah-RAH-soh) grew up in Reading, Pa., the son of a World War II veteran who made a living as a cement finisher and who took his family to Washington every four years for the president’s inauguration. John Barrasso got his undergraduate and medical degrees from Georgetown University, moved to Wyoming in the 1980s, and set up practice as an orthopedic surgeon in Casper. Barrasso quickly made his name in local Republican politics, serving as a Republican national committeeman and as state party treasurer. He also was a local radio and television personality, dispensing practical medical advice on news programs and in public service announcements. He hosted the annual Jerry Lewis telethon for muscular dystrophy.

In 1996, Barrasso ran for the U.S. Senate when Republican Alan Simpson retired. He faced then-state Sen. Michael Enzi in a crowded GOP primary where the abortion issue played a key role. Running as a moderate, Barrasso favored abortion rights and had opposed a 1994 constitutional amendment to ban most abortions. Enzi, who had support from social conservatives, opposed abortion rights and narrowly edged out Barrasso 32% to 30%. The two then joined forces for the general election, with Barrasso serving as Enzi’s finance chairman in the fall.

In 2002, Barrasso won election to the state Senate, where he worked on health care issues and chaired the Transportation, Highways, and Military Affairs Committee. He sponsored a bill to increase the criminal penalty for killing a pregnant woman, but then-Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal vetoed it. He occasionally crossed the political aisle to join with Democrats, backing a bill to exempt food from the state sales tax and supporting a ban on smoking in public buildings. He also sponsored a law enabling physicians to talk freely with patients about medical complications, without the risk that the conversations could be used against them in a lawsuit.

After Thomas died on June 4, 2007, Wyoming’s Republican State Central Committee had 15 days to select three candidates to fill the vacancy, from which the governor was required to pick the successor. That triggered a scramble by 31 candidates who applied for consideration. They conducted a week-long beauty pageant among the 71 members of the party committee. The roster of applicants included state Rep. Colin Simpson, the son of former U.S. Sen. Simpson, and numerous state legislators, lawyers, ranchers, and other professionals. Barrasso emphasized his strong conservative credentials, saying in a statement to the committee, “I believe in limited government, lower taxes, less spending, traditional family values, local control, and a strong national defense.” He noted that he had an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, voted for prayer in public schools, sponsored legislation “to protect the sanctity of life,” and opposed gay marriage.

The Republican committee named three finalists: Barrasso; Cynthia Lummis, who served 14 years in the legislature and two terms as state treasurer; and Tom Sansonetti, who had been Thomas’ chief of staff and an assistant attorney general in the Bush administration. Barrasso’s competitors had drawbacks: Lummis was not on good terms with the governor, and Sansonetti had been a lobbyist for mining and ranching interests at a time influence-peddling in Congress was a major issue. Barrasso had worked with Freudenthal on health care issues in the legislature, and on June 22, the governor announced Barrasso as his choice.

In the Senate, Barrasso is known for his no-holds-barred condemnations of President Obama, particularly on the Affordable Care Act. He attacked the president in November 2013 for saying that people could keep their insurance plans if they liked them. “The president needs to quit doubling down on the dishonesty and come forth and tell the American people that he misled them. He intentionally misled the American people and what he told them just wasn’t true,” he told MSNBC.

Barrasso quickly gained recognition from his peers. Washingtonian magazine’s anonymous survey of Capitol Hill staffers named him “brainiest senator” in 2010, along with Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. In May of that year, Barrasso attacked the Democrats’ health care law in a closed-door meeting that Obama held with Republicans. Obama became so irked by Barrasso’s comments that he reportedly reminded him there were no TV cameras in the room, prompting the senator to answer, “I’m saying this out of my most firm beliefs.” Barrasso became Republican Conference vice chairman in September, after Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski stepped aside when she decided to run—successfully—as a write-in candidate for election that fall. He was reelected to another term in the position in November.

Barrasso moved up to take over the Policy Committee, the fourth-ranking GOP leadership post, in December 2011, after Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander resigned as GOP Conference chairman and Policy Committee chair John Thune of South Dakota took Alexander’s place. Barrasso has been a firm ally of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, regularly appearing on TV with his Kentucky colleague to blast Senate Democrats and Obama. He bluntly told The New York Times in January 2012 that his party was committed to rejecting the president’s nominees: “It’s going to be very difficult for him to get anybody confirmed by the United States Senate.” But he did work a year later on a bipartisan compromise aimed at tamping down Republicans’ widespread use of filibusters, telling The Times: “I hope we’re more functional. I want (the Senate) to function.”

Although Barrasso opposed the Democratic proposal to extend the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in 2009, he successfully included a provision in the bill to benefit rural doctors and hospitals. Among his first bills was a proposal to withhold 10% of highway funds from states that issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. He does break with some conservatives in calling for lifting the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba, saying U.S. citizens should be free to visit relatives in the communist country.

Barrasso focuses heavily on energy and public lands issues and has been a particularly vehement critic of the Environmental Protection Agency. He lashed out at Obama’s nominee to head the agency, Gina McCarthy, at an April 2013 confirmation hearing, asserting that the EPA was “making it impossible for our coal miners to feed their families.” That led the liberal Center for American Progress to respond that the number of coal-mining jobs under Obama was higher on average than under President George W. Bush. Barrasso also introduced a bill in February 2011 to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. “This is not your parents’ EPA,” he said in a May 2011 speech. “Your parents’ EPA focused on rebuilding the environment. This EPA is focused on remaking society.”

Barrasso also loudly objected to a CIA center on climate change, an area that experts increasingly regard as a national security challenge. The agency closed the center in 2012. He repeatedly rebuffed a National Journal reporter who asked him in 2011 for his views on climate change. Barrasso said the cap-and-trade bill regulating carbon emissions that failed to get through the Senate in 2009 would unfairly punish his state’s farmers and ranchers. In opposing similar legislation in 2008, he said the bill would harm Wyoming’s coal industry.

Continuing work on an issue that was dear to Thomas’ heart, Barrasso pushed for more protection of Wyoming wilderness and wildlife. He proposed legislation to protect undeveloped areas of the Wyoming range from oil and gas development and to preserve 387 miles around the Snake River. It became law as part of a larger land management bill in March 2009. Barrasso also supported removing gray wolves from the Endangered Species List. He told the Associated Press, “This is a Wyoming concern that requires a Wyoming solution. It does not require interference from Washington.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service eventually removed gray wolves from the list.

On the Indian Affairs Committee, Barrasso said in January 2015 that his top priorities were "jobs, energy and natural resource development, health care, education, juvenile justice, and tribal self-governance." He and Montana's Jon Tester, the committee's vice chairman, reintroduced a bill they had sponsored to streamline federal reviews of Indian energy projects.

Barrasso introduced a bipartisan bill in April 2011 that became law a year later to pave the way for tribes to pursue homeownership and other economic development opportunities on tribal lands. But in 2013, he angered Indian tribes when he opposed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that would allow tribal courts to have jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit crimes against Indians on reservations.

In 2008, Barrasso was unopposed in the Republican primary, and his eventual Democratic challenger was Gillette lawyer Nick Carter, a political newcomer. Carter tried to tie Barrasso to national Republicans and corporate special interests, but the assertions didn’t stick. Barrasso vastly outspent Carter, $2 million to $274,000, and won easily 73%-27%. Barrasso had even less trouble four years later, trouncing Democrat Tim Chesnut, a longtime Albany County commissioner, 76%-22%.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6441

(202) 224-1724

DSOB- Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 307
Washington, DC 20510-5005

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6441

(202) 224-1724

DSOB- Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 307
Washington, DC 20510-5005

DISTRICT OFFICE

(307) 261-6413

(307) 265-6706

100 East B Street Suite 2201
Casper, WY 82601

DISTRICT OFFICE

(307) 261-6413

(307) 265-6706

100 East B Street Suite 2201
Casper, WY 82601

DISTRICT OFFICE

(307) 772-2451

(307) 265-3512

Federal Center Suite 2013
Cheyenne, WY 82001-3631

DISTRICT OFFICE

(307) 772-2451

(307) 265-3512

Federal Center Suite 2013
Cheyenne, WY 82001-3631

DISTRICT OFFICE

(307) 362-5012

(307) 362-5129

Commerce Bank Building Suite 218
Rock Springs, WY 82901

DISTRICT OFFICE

(307) 362-5012

(307) 362-5129

Commerce Bank Building Suite 218
Rock Springs, WY 82901

DISTRICT OFFICE

(307) 672-6456

(307) 672-8227

2 North Main Street Suite 206
Sheridan, WY 82801-6322

DISTRICT OFFICE

(307) 672-6456

(307) 672-8227

2 North Main Street Suite 206
Sheridan, WY 82801-6322

DISTRICT OFFICE

(307) 856-6642

(307) 856-5901

324 East Washington Avenue
Riverton, WY 82501

DISTRICT OFFICE

(307) 856-6642

(307) 856-5901

324 East Washington Avenue
Riverton, WY 82501

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(307) 234-0819

6896 Casper Mountain Road
Casper, WY 82601

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(307) 234-0819

6896 Casper Mountain Road
Casper, WY 82601

Staff Leadership Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Jay Eberle
Legislative Assistant

Acquisitions

Bryn Stewart
Legislative Director; General Counsel

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Brian Clifford
Legislative Assistant

Aerospace

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Agriculture

Jay Eberle
Legislative Assistant

Travis McNiven
State Policy Advisor

Kaitlynn Glover
Legislative Assistant

Rob Daley
Legislative Aide

Appropriations

Bryn Stewart
Legislative Director; General Counsel

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Brian Clifford
Legislative Assistant

Arts

Amber Bland
Legislative Assistant

Banking

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Budget

Bryn Stewart
Legislative Director; General Counsel

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Brian Clifford
Legislative Assistant

Campaign

Charles Ziegler
Legislative Assistant

Commerce

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Communication

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Crime

Charles Ziegler
Legislative Assistant

Economics

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Education

Amber Bland
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Brian Clifford
Legislative Assistant

Justin Memmott
Energy Policy Advisor

Environment

Brian Clifford
Legislative Assistant

Kaitlynn Glover
Legislative Assistant

Family

Amber Bland
Legislative Assistant

Finance

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Foreign

Amber Bland
Legislative Assistant

Govt Ops

Charles Ziegler
Legislative Assistant

Gun Issues

Charles Ziegler
Legislative Assistant

Health

Jay Eberle
Legislative Assistant

Rob Daley
Legislative Aide

Homeland Security

Charles Ziegler
Legislative Assistant

Housing

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Human Rights

Amber Bland
Legislative Assistant

Charles Ziegler
Legislative Assistant

Immigration

Charles Ziegler
Legislative Assistant

Insurance

Amber Bland
Legislative Assistant

Intelligence

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Internet

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Judiciary

Charles Ziegler
Legislative Assistant

Labor

Amber Bland
Legislative Assistant

Land Use

Brian Clifford
Legislative Assistant

Travis McNiven
State Policy Advisor

Medicare

Jay Eberle
Legislative Assistant

Military

Charles Ziegler
Legislative Assistant

Daniel Gallegos
Military Liaison

Minorities

Jay Eberle
Legislative Assistant

Travis McNiven
State Policy Advisor

Native Americans

Jay Eberle
Legislative Assistant

Kaitlynn Glover
Legislative Assistant

Privacy

Amber Bland
Legislative Assistant

Public Works

Charles Ziegler
Legislative Assistant

Recreation

Travis McNiven
State Policy Advisor

Rules

Bryn Stewart
Legislative Director; General Counsel

Science

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Social Security

Amber Bland
Legislative Assistant

Tax

Bryn Stewart
Legislative Director; General Counsel

Technology

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Telecommunications

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Trade

Brad Bunning
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Transportation

Charles Ziegler
Legislative Assistant

Veterans

Charles Ziegler
Legislative Assistant

Welfare

Amber Bland
Legislative Assistant

Jay Eberle
Legislative Assistant

Women

Amber Bland
Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
John Barrasso
Votes: 185,250
Percent: 75.78%
Tim Chesnut
Votes: 53,019
Percent: 21.69%
2012 PRIMARY
John Barrasso
Votes: 73,516
Percent: 90.24%
Thomas Bleming
Votes: 5,080
Percent: 6.24%
2008 GENERAL
John Barrasso
Votes: 183,063
Percent: 73.35%
Nick Carter
Votes: 66,202
Percent: 26.53%
2008 PRIMARY
John Barrasso
Votes: 68,194
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2008 special (73%)

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