Congresswoman Yvette Herrell (R-NM) tells me serving in the 117th Congress is a “humbling” experience so far.
Last November, she flipped New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District back to the Republican column. After narrowly losing to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in 2018, Herrell walloped her in last year’s rematch by 7.4 points.
The former state lawmaker is the first Native American Republican woman—and first Cherokee woman—in the chamber. And she belongs to the largest class of Republican women to ever serve in Congress.
Earlier this week I spoke to Congresswoman Herrell about her top priorities in the 117th Congress, her committee assignments, and her thoughts on the immediate impact of President Biden’s executive orders on her state.
Lone Conservative Voice in NM Delegation
Rep. Herrell describes her district as “one of the largest districts in the country that's not an individual state.”
Despite the Land of Enchantment’s Democrat blueward shift in recent years, the congresswoman plans to balance the delegation out with her conservative perspective. For her, it’s prioritizing “people over politics” and emulating servant leadership.
“The freshman class—what a great class of people,” the New Mexico representative excitedly said. “And what's really great is coming from all over the country with all different life experiences, different business backgrounds.”
She added, “I believe we all came in...with the same mindset of just a passion for serving and for working for the people of America because we obviously love this nation and want to do our part in preserving our prosperity and the growth of our nation.”
On Her Committee Assignments
Congresswoman Herrell was recently awarded assignments on the House Natural Resources Committee and House Oversight Committee.
“[I] look forward to working with Congressman [Bruce] Westerman (R-AR),” she said of the Ranking Member and lone registered forester in Congress.
“We have forest issues. We have endangered species, water rights, land rights. I mean, just all of that really is encompassed in the district,” she added
“Natural Resources was, of course, just a perfect fit for me in representing the district,” Herrell said. “And then, of course, on...Oversight.”
“I come from a real estate background and a small business background. The real estate industry, as a whole, is very heavily regulated. And to be sitting on a committee where we can really take a hard look at some of the regulatory issues that come through. Again, looking at the executive orders and understanding the constitutionality of these and how we can work through those to help the American worker, the American business owner.”
Fighting President Biden’s Energy Executive Orders
The freshman congresswoman recently co-authored a piece with Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) excoriating President Biden’s executive orders on energy development.
This move, Herrell remarked, will harm her state’s oil and gas industry —an industry that employs over 100,000 workers statewide and generates $1.5 billion, or 54%, of the state’s revenue.
“When you ban leasing permits on public lands in a state like New Mexico, where 60% of our natural gas comes off of public lands— over 50% of our oil production comes from public lands—this is a direct hit to our state's budget. [And] to our education system, because these are the resources that we put into the teacher salaries, into the classrooms,” she added.
“We want to protect our land,” Herrell remarked. “And what we want is public access—where everybody can enjoy the land. But we don't cut off our ag industries from the ability to...graze cattle on these public lands.”
With just a month under her belt, Rep. Herrell has lent her name to over 10 House bills. And she’s just getting started.
In addition to her committee assignments, she hopes to champion other issues like border security, the right-to-life, and small business.
Getting a handle on COVID, of course, remains a chief concern for Rep. Herrell too.
“We've had a record number of teen suicides in the state of New Mexico. And we just can't allow that to continue to happen,” she stressed to me. “Hopefully we can work...on a state, federal, and local level to ensure that we can get our schools open, get our economy open, and get people back to work.