Senator Mike Lee thinks we’ve forgotten some important parts. Jun 15, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 38 • By TERRY EASTLAND
In his new book on the Constitution, Senator Mike Lee, the first-term Utah Republican, recalls his decision to run for the upper chamber in 2010. “It bothered me that even in the Republican Party, far too many elected officials have been reluctant to engage the public in a meaningful constitutional discourse . . . one that attempts to identify limits on federal power and extends beyond a facile assessment of how likely the courts might be to invalidate a particular law.”
Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America’s Founding Document is Lee’s effort to engage the public in such “a national conversation,” as he also calls it. The book arrives as another election year draws near—a time when the public, or at least the likely-to-vote public, becomes more attentive to the choices ahead.
The book’s title refers to five “lost” or “forgotten” provisions whose principles Lee wants to see “restored” through litigation and legislation, among other means. There are other lost provisions “I could have chosen to address,” the senator says in an interview, adding that he picked the ones he did on account of the compelling stories they involve. Those stories—Lee says he took “dramatic license” in telling some of them—are meant to convey the elemental role the American people have played in making the Constitution and governing themselves under it.
Lee quotes Alexander Hamilton’s famous remark in the New York ratification fight: “Here, sir, the people govern.” Those five words, Lee exhorts readers, “capture the reason why the Lost Constitution will never be a lost cause. In the United States the people always ultimately have the power to rein in, redirect, or kick out their elected representatives. They need only marshal the political will to do so.”
Lee’s five lost provisions are a diverse group: the legislative vesting clause, which begins Article I, and the obscure origination clause, also in that article, as well as the First Amendment’s establishment clause, the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Tenth Amendment.
In his discussion of the Fourth Amendment, Lee tells the story of the English parliamentarian John Wilkes, who successfully challenged general warrants—those that “fail to name the person, place, or things to be searched or seized or that fail to show that here is probable cause to believe that the named target of search or seizure has committed a crime.” In America, Wilkes’s story was well known and admired—think of Wilkes-Barre and other places named after him—and it inspired the Fourth Amendment. But, Lee argues, the amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures has been compromised by interpretations of the Patriot Act authorizing the National Security Administration to obtain “the information-age equivalent of a general warrant, enabling government agents to search through the phone records of hundreds of millions of innocent Americans.”
Lee thinks the bulk collection effort violates the “core interests” of the Fourth Amendment. That has been a minority view among Senate Republicans, but last week the Senate joined the House in voting to end the practice. Lee sees a marshaling of political will going on, such that what was lost has now been restored. “This reflects,” he told me, “how voters are feeling. . . . They’re just uncomfortable with the idea of government telling telephone companies to send us all of your records.”
The establishment clause states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” and Lee tells the story of its origins, highlighting the contributions of John Adams and James Madison. They agreed that “government establishes a religion only when it declares a particular denomination to be the religion of the state.” Importantly, the clause was also understood to apply “only to the federal government”—and not to the states. As for how the clause was lost, Lee says that a string of Supreme Court decisions starting with the 1947 case of Everson v. Board of Education, “one of the most transparently misleading and historically inaccurate opinions in Supreme Court history,” did the deed. Lee quotes Justice Potter Stewart, writing in 1963 in one of the public-school prayer cases: “It is not without irony that a constitutional provision evidently designed to leave the States free to go their own way should now have become a restriction upon their autonomy.”
A surprising divide on a core issue.
May 18, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 34 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan has an unusual decoration on the wall of his Capitol Hill office: a framed Laffer curve. This totem of supply-siders everywhere is drawn on a napkin and signed by the economist Art Laffer himself. “To my friend, Paul Ryan,” reads the note.
4:04 PM, Apr 15, 2015 • By MICHAEL WARREN
While Hillary Clinton was meeting with voters in Iowa on her second full day as a presidential candidate, Marco Rubio spent part of his discussing a tax policy white paper at a Washington think tank. The newly declared candidate joined with Utah Republican Mike Lee at the Heritage Foundation to talk about their proposal to reform the tax code, which has already become a point of contention in Rubio's nascent presidential campaign.
2:01 PM, Apr 10, 2015 • By MICHAEL WARREN
It appears to be a three-way tie in the Mike Lee presidential primary. At a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington Friday morning, the Republican and first-term senator from Utah spoke glowingly about his “three best friends” in the Senate who are or are preparing to run for president: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio. Lee wouldn't say which candidate he preferred, though he seemed particularly laudatory of Rubio.
7:31 AM, Mar 4, 2015 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Republican senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah have returned to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to tout their latest tax reform proposal. The Republicans call their plan both "pro-growth" and "pro-family," and say it addresses inequities in the tax code for businesses and middle-class families.
Here's an excerpt:
3:21 PM, Feb 18, 2015 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Republican senators Mike Lee, Ben Sasse, and Rand Paul have all been high profile opponents of the Obama administrations current plan to regulate the internet -- in particular, Lee has called the regulation a government "takeover" of the internet and says it amounts to a "a massive tax increase on the middle class, being passed in the dead of night without the American public really being made aware of what is going on.”
Utah’s Mike Lee is the most important Republican not running for president Feb 9, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 21 • By MICHAEL WARREN
There’s an old saw in Washington that every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president. Utah’s Mike Lee doesn’t, though you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Over the past two years, Lee has been delivering speeches and introducing policy proposals at a pace that far outstrips his tenure and experience. On the whole, it looks like the beginnings of a domestic policy agenda for a future presidential candidate.
5:28 PM, Dec 15, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
In one final ignominious act of parliamentary genius, outgoing Senate majority leader Harry Reid rolled Republican troublemaker Ted Cruz of Texas over the weekend, robbing the GOP of a chance to stop Democrats in the lame-duck session.
The demise of the GOP has been greatly exaggerated. Nov 24, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 11 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Ever since the Democrats were trounced in the midterm elections, they and the media have been trying to figure out how Republicans triumphed so thoroughly. Wasn’t the GOP supposed to be in permanent decline, on the wrong side of history, demography, and the issues? So far the soul searching has been almost nonexistent. National Journal’s Ron Fournier, a weathervane for centrist Beltway journalists, tried to dismiss the GOP’s triumph out of hand: “The Republican Party didn’t win the overall election—not with numbers like that.
10:31 AM, Nov 13, 2014 • By BRIAN BLAKE
As Republican euphoria over the November 4 election begins to subside and more practical considerations emerge, a looming question is whether the various factions within the Republican party will be able to work together. One recent but little-noted change in Senate leadership may have increased the likelihood of success: On September 16, Republican senators elected Senator Mike Lee of Utah as the new chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, the Senate’s conservative caucus. Replacing Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Lee will be given the reins of an organization that
9:32 AM, Apr 7, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Republican senator Mike Lee has an op-ed decrying cronyism. But first, he says, the Republicans must purge the unseemly activity from within its "own ranks."
9:20 AM, Mar 5, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Mike Lee, perhaps the United States Senate’s leading voice for a conservative reform agenda, has now endorsed Ben Sasse in Nebraska’s Senate race. Lee declared, “Nebraskans need Ben Sasse to represent their values, reformers in the Senate need his conservative vote, our country needs his voice.” Lee added that Sasse is “a strong constitutional conservative who understands the proper role of government” and who “also recognizes that we must run and win on the power of our positive ideas.”
11:31 AM, Feb 21, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Four United States Senators have a written a letter to FBI director James Comey about the indictment of author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza. Senators Charles Grassley, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Jeff Sessions, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee are the four senators, all Republicans, to have signed the letter.
The letter quotes Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz as saying, "I can't help but think that [D'Souza's] politics have something to do with it. ... It smacks of selective prosecution."
Sep 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 04 • By YUVAL LEVIN
Republicans these days are eager to replay the Reagan revolution. It is not hard to see why: In the 1980s, the GOP was the party of ideas, and the vision that Ronald Reagan and his supporters brought to Washington proved immensely popular with voters and profoundly improved American life. But in their effort to repeat Reagan’s particular policies, rather than his more impressive feat of developing policies that applied conservative principles to the problems of his day, today’s Republicans risk becoming detached from the country’s real concerns.