Michael Enzi, Long-Serving U.S. Senator From Wyoming, Dies at 77

Michael B. Enzi, a long-serving United States senator from Wyoming who had a reputation as a low-key, consensus-seeking conservative and who led the Senate Budget Committee for several years before he retired in January, died on Monday, days after a bicycle accident. He was 77.

A former spokesman, Max D’Onofrio, confirmed Mr. Enzi’s death to The Associated Press.

He had been airlifted to the UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies, in Loveland, Colo., after an accident in Gillette, Wyo., on Friday.

He served four terms in office, overwhelmingly winning re-elections. He easily fended off a primary challenge in 2014 from Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, despite her national name recognition and greater fund-raising ability.

“I’ve really enjoyed being a senator,” Mr. Enzi said in a retirement speech on the Senate floor last December. “Not for the title, not for the recognition and certainly not for publicity. I love solving problems for folks in Wyoming and America. I like working on legislation.”

In a statement after Mr. Enzi announced his retirement in May 2019, Ms. Cheney said that he had fought for a small, efficient government. “He recognized that empowering people, not politicians, was the best way to expand opportunity,” she said, “and he worked tirelessly toward that goal.”

Michael Bradley Enzi was born in Bremerton, Wash., on Feb. 1, 1944, and grew up in Wyoming, where he attended public schools in Thermopolis and Sheridan. He received a degree in accounting from George Washington University in 1966, and an M.B.A. in retail marketing from Denver University in 1968.

Mr. Enzi served in the Wyoming National Guard from 1967 to 1973. He married Diana Buckley in 1969, and the two moved to Gillette, where he ran a shoe store.

Mr. Enzi did not initially intend to get into politics, he said. But he was a member of the Jaycees, a national leadership training and civic organization for men, and ultimately served as the president of its Wyoming chapter. When he was 29, he recalled, he was asked to speak at an event in Cody, Wyo., where another speaker, Alan Simpson, a state representative who would go on to serve as a United States senator, pulled him aside.

According to Mr. Enzi, Mr. Simpson encouraged him to run for mayor of Gillette, the city to which he had moved only a few years earlier.

“On the way home from that Cody meeting while my wife was driving, I told her what Senator Simpson had said, and that I was thinking maybe I should run for mayor,” Mr. Enzi said in his retirement speech. “It must have come as quite a shock, because she ended up swerving into the barrow pit and then coming back up onto the road.”

At the time, Mr. Enzi said, Gillette was a place where recent discoveries of oil, gas and coal were drawing more and more people — and putting a strain on municipal services. The city, he said, was in need of three things that would become a recurring theme in Mr. Enzi’s political career: budgets, agendas and planning.

“Not the most exciting topics,” he said in his retirement speech.

Mr. Enzi was elected mayor in 1974 and served two four-year terms, during which time he also traveled to and from Washington as a member of the Coal Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Interior and served as the president of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities.

He soon set his sights on state politics, joining the Wyoming House of Representatives in 1987, and the Wyoming State Senate in 1991. He was first elected to the United States Senate in 1996. He led the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions from 2005 to 2007, and was the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee from 2015 to 2021.

In 2009, Mr. Enzi was a member of what came to be known as the Gang of Six, a group of Senate Finance Committee members — three Democrats and three Republicans — who held lengthy negotiations on a health care overhaul. The talks dragged on, and Republicans ultimately backed away from those compromise efforts amid protests from their constituents. The Affordable Care Act would pass in 2010, without support from Republicans in Congress. Mr. Enzi had sought to repeal the legislation.

In 2017, Mr. Enzi was one of 22 senators who signed a letter asking President Donald J. Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

In May 2019, Mr. Enzi became the fourth senator to announce his intention to step down ahead of the 2020 election, following two other Republicans, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and one Democrat, Tom Udall of New Mexico.

His seat, in a state that Mr. Trump won by 43 points in last year’s election, remained in Republican hands. It was won by Cynthia Lummis, a Republican who was the only woman to have been newly elected to the Senate last year.

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