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Sen. Mike Enzi stands by no votes on debt limit

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Sen. Mike Enzi is standing by his recent votes against raising the federal debt limit, saying lawmakers and President Barack Obama need to have a plan to get federal spending and the national debt under control.

Interest alone on the debt is on track to surpass current military spending, Enzi said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press.

He referred to a recent Congressional Budget Office estimate that such payments could reach $880 billion annually in 10 years. The 2014 U.S. military budget is about $630 billion.

"No plan, no vote. I really do expect that they ought to be able to come up with a plan," he said. "It doesn't have to be my plan. But there's no plan out there."

Most Republicans had been eager to avoid another showdown over shutting down the federal government after last year's shutdown instigated by their party.

But last week, Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz sought to filibuster a bill to raise the federal debt ceiling. That meant the measure needed not a simple majority but at least 60 votes to move ahead.

Not raising the debit limit could have shut down the government again, yet Enzi and Cruz voted twice against the debt-ceiling bill. Both were among the minorities in a 67-31 vote to end the filibuster on the bill and 55-43 vote to pass it.

Wyoming's other Republican senator, John Barrasso, voted for the bill both times.

"I've found that if you give away all of your negotiation points, you usually don't wind up very good at negotiating," Enzi said. "And at some point, we've got to figure out a way to get the spending under control, or at least to get the revenues to match up with the spending."

His spending-reduction plan — the so-called "penny plan" — would cut federal spending by 1 percent, across the board, every year for seven years, he said.

Enzi made the remarks after telling the Wyoming House and Senate about his efforts to make sure the state got its fair share of federal royalties on minerals extracted from Wyoming and from the federal Abandoned Mine Lands program. The program helps states pay for mine reclamation through taxes on coal production.

Wyoming has the biggest active coal mines and most coal production of any state by far, but it has relatively few old mines in need of reclamation compared with some Eastern states. Congress in 2012 voted to cut $700 million Wyoming was owed through the program.

To Enzi, cutting the debt and preserving such funding aren't conflicted.

"It's not federal funding for Wyoming. It's federal funding from Wyoming. It's an important distinction," he said.

Instead, eliminating duplicative federal programs could save hundreds of billions, the senator said.

Enzi is running for a fourth term, and his campaign finances are robust. He ended 2013 with $1.8 million on hand, according to his year-end campaign finance reports.

That was three times the amount his Republican challenger, Liz Cheney, still had banked just before she quit the race Jan. 6, citing health problems in her family.

Enzi's remaining Republican opponent is Thomas Bleming, of Lusk. Democrats Charlie Hardy and Rex Wilde, both of Cheyenne, also are running.

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