Mike Lee on Government Reform



Congress constitutionally lacks general police powers

The Constitution did nothing to abandon the widely shared consensus that our national government should be vested only with limited and enumerated powers. In fact, it explicitly preserved that understanding. There was not--and to this day there still is not--any provision authorizing Congress to simply pass any law it sees fit.

Unlike legislative bodies in other countries, Congress does not have a general-purpose license to legislate for the "good of the public"; it must act pursuant to an affirmative constitutional grant of authority. In other words, Congress lacks what jurists and political scientists characterize as "general police powers." And it lacks such powers by explicit design.

This original understanding was reverently observed for nearly a century and a half. This limited purpose understanding began to crumble during the era of the New Deal.

Source: Now Or Never, by Sen. Jim DeMint, p. 63-64 , Jan 10, 2012

Limited government must come politically, not judicially

In April 1937, the Supreme Court [decided on a] new approach: the courts will essentially leave Congress alone--giving federal legislators the liberty to determine and police the extent of their own powers.

Guided by this exceedingly permissive standard, which remains in effect to this day, Congress has been steadily expanding the scope of its authority since 1937.

For a variety of reasons, the Supreme Court is unlikely to retreat from this standard. We therefore cannot rely on the Supreme Court to restore a constitutional form of government to America. But fortunately, there is another way of recovering what has been lost.

Restoring constitutionally limited government must, I believe, be accomplished through the political process and not through the courts. The fact that federal courts have been disinclined to enforce that obligation since 1937 does not mean that the requirement no longer exists.

Yet, such debate & discussion is unlikely to occur in Congress until voters demand it.

Source: Now Or Never, by Sen. Jim DeMint, p. 65-66 , Jan 10, 2012

Antidote to federal "mission creep" is enumerated powers

The antidote to the perpetual expansion and "mission creep" of the federal government is found in the enumerated-powers doctrine--that is, the notion that the Constitution gives the federal government only limited, enumerated powers, while reserving all other powers to the states. This doctrine could serve as the basis for a new, limited-government political movement - one focusing on the Constitution's bedrock, party-neutral principles of federalism.

Still, in 2009, I doubted any candidate could get elected on such a platform. I thought voters would be bored by talk about things like Article I, Section 8 (where the Constitution lists nearly every power possessed by Congress), the Tenth Amendment (explaining that powers not granted to Congress are reserved to the states), textualism (a strict, literal reading of the Constitution), and originalism (a reading that focuses on the founding generation's understanding of each word and phrase at the time it was added to the Constitution).

Source: The Freedom Agenda, by Sen. Mike Lee, p. 5-6 , Jul 18, 2011

Constitution says Congress is not about making life better

The Constitution does not grant Congress the power to pass any and every piece of legislation it deems necessary to make life "better" or more "fair." Nor can it fairly be read to empower Congress to:No matter how great the idea, and no matter how pressing the perceived need, Congress may not legislate in any area in which it is not explicitly authorized to act; power in all those areas is vested in the states.
Source: The Freedom Agenda, by Sen. Mike Lee, p. 27 , Jul 18, 2011

Citizens need to hold elected representatives accountable

If we want to cut our federal government down to its proper size, we have to vote differently. We simply can't afford to continue re-electing members of Congress who interpret the Commerce Clause in a way that obliterates the crucial distinction between federal power (which is limited) and state power (which is relatively open-ended). We have to repopulate Congress with men and women who understand the state-federal distinction and will fight to defend it. Specifically, we as citizens need to do 3 things:
  1. Learn the language of limited government found in the Constitution.
  2. Share that knowledge with our freedom-loving friends and family members.
  3. Hold our elected representatives accountable when they fail to respect that language.
In other words, we need to restore the constitutional debate to Congress, one senator and one representative at a time.
Source: The Freedom Agenda, by Sen. Mike Lee, p. 39-40 , Jul 18, 2011

Make "no" the default vote on all spending measures

The compromises and negotiations needed to keep the legislative process moving will always result in spending packages that fund numerous programs. But some of the damage could be mitigated if members of Congress, at the urging of their constituents, would make "no" their default vote on all spending measures. In other words, constituents should demand that their senators and representatives stop approving spending bills simply because they contain certain items they support; if the bill contains other things they don't support, they should vote against it.

Many members of Congress would adhere to this strategy if a large, vocal segment of their constituency demanded it and voted on the issue.

Source: The Freedom Agenda, by Sen. Mike Lee, p. 61 , Jul 18, 2011

Always ask, should program be federal or state?

Even when a program is clearly within the rightful scope of government, we must ask whether it falls within the constitutionally enumerated powers of the federal government, or within the broad, undefined powers of state governments.

Each of America's 50 state governments is sovereign within its own sphere of authority and is not a mere political subdivision of a single, national sovereign. Given that the most basic purpose of government is to maintain order and prevent anarchy, the federal government should go to great lengths to prevent the kind of conflict and confusion that emerges when one sovereign government steps on another's domain.

Because Congress, unlike the states, is vastly exceeding its authority today, it is Congress's powers that must be curtailed. Otherwise the distinction between federal and state power will continue to fade, risking a dangerous clash between the federal government and aggrieved state representatives.

Source: The Freedom Agenda, by Sen. Mike Lee, p. 90-91 , Jul 18, 2011

Reclaim right to constitutionally limited government

Granato charged that Lee is too extreme for Utah as a darling of the tea party. But Lee said most Utahns cheer his push to return to constitutionally limited government."Utahns have a real opportunity this year to either elect a mainstream candidate or an extreme candidate," Granato said.

Lee said that his views match Utahns who "are reclaiming their right to constitutionally limited government. We have to focus on limiting the size, scope, reach and power of the federal government."

Source: Salt Lake Tribune coverage of 2010 Utah Senate debate , Sep 17, 2010

Reduce government bureaucracy to improve economy

The answer to an economic downturn is not a government stimulus, but a reduction in government regulation and bureaucracy to allow the natural forces of our private enterprise system to rebound without undue interference.
Source: 2010 Senate campaign website, www.mikelee2010.com, "Issues" , Jul 19, 2010

Limit congressional terms to 12 years

The runaway growth of the federal government will continue as long as we retain a system that assures the existence of lifetime politicians. A career member of Congress inevitably will come to believe that that body has the answer to all social problems. The Constitution should be amended to limit service in each house of Congress to 12 years.
Source: 2010 Senate campaign website, www.mikelee2010.com, "Issues" , Jul 19, 2010

Identify constitutionality in every new congressional bill.

Lee signed the Contract From America

The Contract from America, clause 1. Protect the Constitution:

Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.

Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA01 on Jul 8, 2010

Audit federal agencies, to reform or eliminate them.

Lee signed the Contract From America

The Contract from America, clause 5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington:

Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality,

Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA05 on Jul 8, 2010

Moratorium on all earmarks until budget is balanced.

Lee signed the Contract From America

The Contract from America, clause 9. Stop the Pork:

Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.

Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA09 on Jul 8, 2010

Prohibit IRS audits targeting Tea Party political groups.

Lee co-sponsored Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act

Congressional summary:: Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act: Requires the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) standards and definitions in effect on January 1, 2010, for determining whether an organization qualifies for tax-exempt status as an organization operated exclusively for social welfare to apply to such determinations after enactment of this Act. Prohibits any regulation, or other ruling, not limited to a particular taxpayer relating to such standards and definitions.

Proponent's argument in favor (Heritage Action, Feb. 26, 2014): H.R. 3865 comes in the wake of an attack on the Tea Party and other conservative organizations. The current IRS regulation is so broad and ill-defined that the IRS applies a "facts and circumstances" test to determine what constitutes "political activity" by an organization. This test can vary greatly depending on the subjective views of the particular IRS bureaucrat applying the test. IRS employees took advantage of this vague and subjective standard to unfairly delay granting tax-exempt status to Tea Party organizations and subject them to unreasonable scrutiny.

Text of sample IRS letter to Tea Party organizations:We need more information before we can complete our consideration of your application for exemption. Please provide the information requested on the enclosed Information Request by the response due date. Your response must be signed by an authorized person or officer whose name is listed on your application.

Source: H.R.3865 & S.2011 14-S2011 on Feb 11, 2014

President Trump not guilty of inciting insurrection.

Lee voted NAY removing President Trump from office for inciting insurrection

GovTrack.us summary of H.Res.24: Article of Impeachment Against Former President Donald John Trump:

The House impeached President Trump for the second time, charging him with incitement of insurrection. The impeachment resolution accused the President of inciting the violent riot that occurred on January 6, when his supporters invaded the United States Capitol injuring and killing Capitol Police and endangering the safety of members of Congress. It cites statements from President Trump to the rioters such as `if you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore,` as well as persistent lies that he won the 2020 Presidential election.

Legislative Outcome:

Bill introduced Jan 11, 2021, with 217 co-sponsors; House rollcall vote #117 passed 232-197-4 on Jan. 13th (a YES vote in the House was to impeach President Trump for inciting insurrection); Senate rollcall vote #59 rejected 57-43-0 on Feb. 13th (2/3 required in Senate to pass; a YES vote in the Senate would have found President Trump guilty, but since he had already left office at that time, a guilty verdict would have barred Trump from running for President in the future)

Source: Congressional vote 21-HR24S on Jan 11, 2021

Voted NO on two articles of impeachment against Trump.

Lee voted NAY Impeachment of President Trump

RESOLUTION: Impeaching Donald Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors.

    ARTICLE I: ABUSE OF POWER: Using the powers of his high office, Pres. Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 US Presidential election. He did so through a course of conduct that included
  1. Pres. Trump--acting both directly and through his agents--corruptly solicited the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into a political opponent, former Vice President Joseph Biden; and a discredited theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine--rather than Russia--interfered in the 2016 US Presidential election.
  2. With the same corrupt motives, Pres. Trump conditioned two official acts on the public announcements that he had requested: (A) the release of $391 million that Congress had appropriated for the purpose of providing vital military and security assistance to Ukraine to oppose Russian aggression; and (B) a head of state meeting at the White House, which the President of Ukraine sought.
  3. Faced with the public revelation of his actions, Pres. Trump ultimately released the [funds] to the Government of Ukraine, but has persisted in openly soliciting Ukraine to undertake investigations for his personal political benefit.
These actions were consistent with Pres. Trump's previous invitations of foreign interference in US elections.
  1. Pres. Trump defied a lawful subpoena by withholding the production of documents sought [by Congress];
  2. defied lawful subpoenas [for] the production of documents and records;
  3. and directed current and former Executive Branch officials not to cooperate with the Committees.
These actions were consistent with Pres. Trump's previous efforts to undermine US Government investigations into foreign interference in US elections.
Source: Congressional vote ImpeachK on Dec 18, 2019

Other candidates on Government Reform: Mike Lee on other issues:
UT Gubernatorial:
Aimee Winder Newton
Chris Peterson
Gary Herbert
Greg Hughes
Jeff Burningham
Jon Huntsman
Mike Weinholtz
Rocky Anderson
Spencer Cox
UT Senatorial:
Craig Bowden
Jenny Wilson
Jonathan Swinton
Misty Snow
Mitt Romney

UT politicians
UT Archives
Senate races 2021-22:
AK: Incumbent Lisa Murkowski(R)
vs.Challenger Kelly Tshibaka(R)
vs.2020 candidate Al Gross(D)
AL: Incumbent Richard Shelby(R) vs.U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks(R) vs.Ambassador Lynda Blanchard(R) vs.Katie Britt(R) vs.Judge Jessica Taylor(R) vs.Brandaun Dean(D) vs.State Rep. John Merrill(R)
AR: Incumbent John Boozman(R)
vs.Candidate Dan Whitfield(D)
vs.Jake Bequette(R)
AZ: Incumbent Mark Kelly(D)
vs.CEO Jim Lamon(R) vs.Blake Masters(R)
vs.A.G. Mark Brnovich(R) vs.Mick McGuire(R)
CA: Incumbent Alex Padilla(D)
vs.2018 Senate candidate James Bradley(R)
vs.Lily Zhou(R)
vs.State Rep. Jerome Horton(D)
CO: Incumbent Michael Bennet(D)
vs.Eli Bremer(R)
vs.USAF Lt. Darryl Glenn(R)
CT: Incumbent Richard Blumenthal(D)
vs.Challenger Joe Visconti(R)
vs.2018 & 2020 House candidate John Flynn(R)
FL: Incumbent Marco Rubio(R)
vs.U.S.Rep. Val Demings(D)
vs.U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson(D)
GA: Incumbent Raphael Warnock(D)
vs.Navy vet Latham Saddler(R)
vs.Gary Black(R)
vs.Herschel Walker(R)
HI: Incumbent Brian Schatz(D)
vs.Former State Rep. Cam Cavasso(R ?)
IA: Incumbent Chuck Grassley(R)
vs.State Sen. Jim Carlin(R)
vs.Michael Franken(D)
vs.Bob Krause(D)
vs.Former U.S. Rep IA-1 Abby Finkenauer(D)
ID: Incumbent Mike Crapo(R)
vs.James Vandermaas(D)
vs.Natalie Fleming(R)
IL: Incumbent Tammy Duckworth(D)
vs.U.S.Rep. Adam Kinzinger(? R)
vs.Peggy Hubbard(R)
IN: Incumbent Todd Young(R)
vs.Challenger Haneefah Abdul-Khaaliq(D)
vs.Psychologist Valerie McCray(D)
vs.Thomas McDermott(D)
KS: Incumbent Jerry Moran(R)
vs.Michael Soetaert(D)
vs.Mark Holland(D)
vs.Joan Farr(R)
KY: Incumbent Rand Paul(R)
vs.State Rep Charles Booker(D)
LA: Incumbent John Kennedy(R)
vs.Luke Mixon(D)
vs.Gary Chambers(D)

MD: Incumbent Chris Van Hollen(D)
vs.Colin Byrd(D)
MO: Incumbent Roy Blunt(R)
vs.Eric Greitens(R) vs.Scott Sifton(D)
vs.Eric Schmitt(R) vs.Lucas Kunce(D)
vs.Mark McClosky(R) vs.Vicky Hartzler(R)
vs.Tim Shepard(D) vs.Billy Long(R)
NC: Incumbent Richard Burr(R,retiring)
Erica Smith(D) vs.Mark Walker(R)
vs.Ted Budd(R) vs.Pat McCrory(R)
vs.Cheri Beasley(D) vs.Rett Newton(D)
vs.Jeff Jackson(D) vs.Marjorie K. Eastman(R)
ND: Incumbent John Hoeven(R)
vs.Michael J. Steele(D)
NH: Incumbent Maggie Hassan(D)
vs.Don Bolduc(R)
vs.Chris Sununu(R ?)
NV: Incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto(D)
vs.Adam Laxalt(R)
NY: Incumbent Chuck Schumer(D)
vs.Antoine Tucker(R)
OH: Incumbent Rob Portman(R,retiring)
Bernie Moreno(R) vs.Tim Ryan(D)
vs.Jane Timken(R) vs.Josh Mandel(R)
vs.JD Vance(R) vs.Mike Gibbons(R)
vs.Morgan Harper(D) vs.Matt Dolan(R)
OK: Incumbent James Lankford(R)
vs.Nathan Dahm(R)
vs.Joan Farr(R)
OR: Incumbent Ron Wyden(D)
vs.QAnon adherent Jo Rae Perkins(R)
vs.Jason Beebe(R)
PA: Incumbent Pat Toomey(R,retiring)
vs.Everett Stern(R) vs.Jeff Bartos(R)
vs.Val Arkoosh(D) vs.Carla Sands(R)
vs.John Fetterman(D) vs.Malcolm Kenyatta(D)
vs.Kathy Barnette(R) vs.Sharif Street(D)
vs.Conor Lamb(D) vs.Sean Parnell(R)
vs.Craig Snyder(R) vs.Mehmet Oz(R)
SC: Incumbent Tim Scott(R)
vs.State Rep. Krystle Matthews(D)
SD: Incumbent John Thune(R)
vs.State Rep. Billie Sutton(? D)
UT: Incumbent Mike Lee(R) vs.Allen Glines(D)
vs.Austin Searle(D) vs.Evan McMullin(I)
VT: Incumbent Patrick Leahy(D)
vs.Scott Milne(? R)
vs.Peter Welch(D)
WA: Incumbent Patty Murray(D)
vs.Challenger Tiffany Smiley(R)
WI: Incumbent Ron Johnson(R) vs.Tom Nelson(D)
vs.Sarah Godlewski(D) vs.Alex Lasry(D)
vs.Chris Larson(D) vs.Mandela Barnes(D)
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Social Security
Tax Reform

Other Senators
Senate Votes (analysis)
Bill Sponsorships
Policy Reports
Group Ratings

Page last updated: Dec 28, 2021