"Barbara Cubin" in Profiles in Character: The Values that Made America. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.
As the first woman to represent Wyoming in Congress, Barbara L. Cubin quickly established herself as a defender of western state interests in the United States House of Representatives. Cubin also became one of the highest-ranking women in the GOP, serving as Secretary of the House Republican Conference and chairing the Committee on Resources’ Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.
Barbara Cubin was born Barbara Sage in Salinas, California, on November 30, 1946, the daughter of Russell and Barbara Sage. She was raised in Casper, Wyoming, and graduated from Natrona County High School. In 1969 Cubin earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. She later took graduate courses in business administration at Casper College. She worked as a chemist, a substitute math and science teacher, and a social worker for the elderly and people with disabilities. She married Frederick W. Cubin, a physician, and they raised two sons: William and Eric. From 1975 to 1994, while Barbara Cubin managed her husband’s medical practice, she also was active in the local parent teacher association and as a shelter volunteer.1
In 1986 Cubin won election to the Wyoming house of representatives, where she chaired the joint interim economic development subcommittee. Cubin also served as the Natrona County chair for Craig Lyle Thomas during his successful bid for Wyoming’s At-Large seat in the U.S. House. In 1992 Cubin won a Wyoming state senate seat, where she served on the revenue committee.2
In 1994, when Thomas decided to leave the House to campaign for the U.S. Senate, Cubin won the primary to succeed him in the At-Large House seat, beating four other candidates, including the Wyoming house speaker, a rancher, and a livestock lobbyist.3 In the general election, she ran against Democrat Robert Schuster on an anti-abortion platform and pledged to curb the federal government’s control over public lands in the West. On Election Day, Cubin prevailed with 53 percent of the vote, becoming the first woman to represent Wyoming—whose nickname is the “Equality State”—in Congress.4 She won her five subsequent re-elections with majorities of between 55 and 61 percent. In 2006, however, when House Republicans lost their majority for the first time in 12 years, Cubin narrowly survived a challenge by Democrat Gary Trauner, garnering a plurality of 48.3 percent of the vote to Trauner’s 47.8 percent—with 3 percent going to a third-party candidate.5
When Cubin took her seat in the 104th Congress (1995–1997) in January 1995, she received assignments on the Resources and Science Committees. In the 105th Congress (1997–1999), she left Science in favor of a spot on the powerful Commerce Committee (later renamed the Energy and Commerce Committee). On the Resources Committee, which had important jurisdiction over public land policy and oil and gas extraction issues, Cubin chaired the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee from the 105th through the 108th Congresses (1997–2005).6
In the House, Cubin focused on policies dealing with land and mineral use, and infrastructure and transportation issues. During her 14 years in Congress, she earned a reputation as a tenacious fighter for western interests.7 Roughly half of the land in Wyoming was public domain, held and administered by the federal government. Much of Cubin’s legislative program was aimed at relaxing federal land use restrictions and bringing her small state of roughly 500,000 people a higher profile in Washington.8
As a cofounder of the Congressional Mining Caucus, Cubin drew attention to the mining industry back home, particularly coal and trona (a soda ash used in glass and baking soda) extraction. As chair of the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee in the 106th Congress (1999–2001), Cubin looked to nationalize a Wyoming pilot program that allowed mining companies working on public lands to pay federal taxes in minerals rather than dollars. And in 2000, her bill relaxing limits on the number of acres leased by sodium mining operations working on federal land became law.9
Cubin backed the George W. Bush administration’s effort to loosen regulations over national energy development beginning in 2001. She also advocated the development of alternative sources of energy, including coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, and wind.10 Tending to interests back home, Cubin’s bill lowering fees on soda ash profits first passed the House in 2004 and became law in the next Congress in 2006 as part of a large federal land bill.11 Cubin also pushed for the placement of a federal meat inspector in Wyoming to encourage growth of meat packing plants in the state.12
On major social and cultural issues, Cubin was an outspoken conservative. She voted against a measure which allowed federal funds to pay for contraception.13 And she supported a measure that increased fines for instances of “indecency” on television broadcasts. Her constituents, she said, “correctly note the gradual degradation of the quality and decency of programming on TV and radio—and I agree.”14 She criticized America’s welfare system and its recipients, was a staunch opponent of abortion, and an unwavering critic of gun control. In 2000 she was elected to the National Rifle Association’s board of directors. “The Second Amendment was originally crafted so that people could defend themselves from their government, from an overzealous, punitive federal government,” Cubin said.15
In October 1998, when Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was tortured and brutally murdered because he was gay, Cubin, whose sons also attended the school, condemned the killing on the House Floor. “We cannot lie down, we cannot bury our heads, and we cannot sit on our hands,” she said, cosponsoring a motion expressing the House’s outrage over the incident. Cubin later opposed efforts to expand the definition of federal hate crimes to include sexual orientation, saying it was a matter that should be left to the states.16
Cubin rose through the GOP leadership quickly. In her early terms, she served as a Deputy Majority Whip, and in the 107th Congress (2001–2003), she was elected Secretary of the Republican Conference, the sixth-ranking GOP leadership position in the House. During the race for Secretary—which is voted on by every Republican Representative—Cubin argued that Republican leaders should come from every corner of the country, but that a western state perspective was particularly important. “I believe the views of a Member from a Mountain West public lands state have too long been absent from the leadership table,” she said. “Achieving a better working relationship through issue education with Members who don’t have to deal with an absent landlord is important to me and to the well-being of our conference.”17 Cubin also joined the Steering Committee, which parcels out committee assignments and helps set the party’s agenda. She served as a Deputy GOP Whip in the 110th Congress (2007–2009).18
In November 2007, Representative Cubin announced her decision not to run for re-election to the House in 2008.19 Her term expired at the conclusion of the 110th Congress on January 3, 2009.
1“Barbara Cubin,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, https://bioguide.congress.gov; Barbara J. Saffir and Jeannette Belliveau, “Firsts in the 104th Congress,” 3 January 1995, Washington Post: A13; “Political News: Biographical Information on U.S. Senate, House Candidates,” 2 November 2000, Associated Press.
2Jessica Lowell, “Cubin Faces Criticism for Missing Meetings with Constituents,” 18 July 2004, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne): n.p.
3Alan McConagha, “Inside Politics,” 14 February 1994, Washington Times: A7; No author, “Colo. Democrats Find Foe for McInnis, None for Hefley,” 7 June 1994, National Journal Congress Daily: n.p.; Associated Press, “Primary Votes Cast in Wyo.; Senator Wins GOP Gubernatorial Race,” 17 August 1994, Denver Post: n.p.
4Pete Yost, “Opening Wallets, Taking Out Big Personal Loans for House, Senate Seats,” 28 October 1994, Associated Press.
5Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present”; Politics in America, 2008 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2007): 1125–1126.
6Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, “Women Members’ Committee Assignments (Standing, Select, Joint) in the U.S. House, 1917–Present”; Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, “Women Chairs of Subcommittees of Standing Committees in the U.S. House, 1947–Present.”
7Joel Achenbach, “See You in September: The GOP Freshmen Had a Giddy First Semester, but the Grading Gets Tougher When They Return,” 14 August 1995, Washington Post: D1.
8“Census 2000 Data for the State of Wyoming,” U.S. Census Bureau, last updated 6 October 2011, accessed 10 May 2020, https://www.census.gov/census2000/states/wy.html.
9Federal Oil and Gas Lease Management Improvement Act of 1999, H.R. 1985, 106th Cong. (1999); To amend the Mineral Leasing Act to increase the maximum acreage of Federal leases for sodium that may be held by an entity in any one State, and for other purposes, PL 106-191, 114 Stat. 291 (2000).
10Chris George, “Cubin Favors Seeking New Energy Sources, Drilling in Arctic Lands,” 15 August 2000, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle: A6.
11Soda Ash Royalty Reduction Act of 2004, H.R. 4625, 108th Cong. (2004); National Heritage Areas Act of 2006, PL 109-338, 120 Stat. 1783 (2006).
12Charles Davant, “Away from Spotlight, Wyoming Congresswoman Prepares for Business,” 8 January 1999, States News Service.
13Ray Ring, “A Fractured Party,” 11–18 September 2008, Missoula Independent (MT): 15; Judy Mann, “Contraception Foes Revealed,” 22 July 1998, Washington Post: D14.
14David Lightman, “Personal Duty vs. Public Duty; Policymakers Debate Legislation on Issues of Responsibility,” 8 April 2004, Hartford Courant (CT): A1.
15Robert Pear, House Backs Bill Undoing Decades of Welfare Policy,” 25 March 1995, New York Times: 1; No author, “GOP Welfare Bill Clears the House; Republicans Rejoice; Clinton Looks to Senate,” 25 March 1995, St. Louis Dispatch: 1A; Politics in America, 2002 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2001): 1121–1122. Quotation in Saul Friedman Charles V. Zehren, “GOP Splits Over Militants,” 14 June 1995, Newsday: 4.
16“House Expresses Dismay at Murder of Gay Student in Wyoming,” 16 October 1998, Washington Post: A24; David S. O’Malley and Michael Janofsky, “Public Lives: Gay Man’s Death Led to Epiphany for Wyoming Officer,” 30 September 2000, New York Times: A9; Chris George, “Delegation Objects to Hate-Crimes Law,” 7 April 1999, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle: A7; Charles Davant, “Shepard’s Mother Pleads for New Laws,” 24 March 1999, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle: A14.
17John Bresnahan, “Cubin Launches Leadership Bid; Wyo. Member Joins Conference Secretary Race,” 3 July 2000, Roll Call: n.p.
18Karen Foerstel, “Choosing Chairmen: Tradition’s Role Fades,” 8 December 2000, Congressional Quarterly Weekly: n.p.; Alexander Bolton, “GOP Finds Skirting Seniority Pays,” 25 April 2001, The Hill: n.p.
19Bill McCarthy, “Cubin to Retire, Officials Say,” 10 November 2007, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle: A1; David M. Drucker, “Crowded Race Likely for Cubin’s Seat,” 14 November 2007, Roll Call, https://www.rollcall.com/2007/11/14/crowded-race-likely-for-cubins-seat/.
"Barbara Cubin" in Profiles in Character: The Values that Made America. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.
"Barbara L. Cubin" in Women in Congress, 1917-2006. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of History & Preservation, U. S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2006.