CEDAR CITY — United States Sen. Mike Lee hosted a town hall meeting Friday at Southern Utah University.
Lee visited SUU’s Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service to discuss current issues and answer questions from community members. He began the meeting by briefly introducing himself and expressing his appreciation for the Leavitt Center.
Lee commented on the public’s current perception of the United States Senate.
“A lot of people aren’t happy with Congress, and it’s understandable,” Lee said. “I think some of the reasons for that can be explained by virtue of the fact that when you have a government that tries to do too many things and be too many things to too many people as diverse and as varied in their opinions as is our great country of some 330 million people, you’re going to leave some people disappointed. You’re going to leave some people out, you’re going to leave some people very angry.”
Lee said this is the case particularly when most of the nation has to work weeks or months out of the year to pay federal taxes, and the government is currently spending $1 trillion more than it’s collecting in taxes. He said the government is collecting more tax revenue than it’s ever seen, and yet the national deficit is also at its highest.
He discussed the effects federal regulations have on the cost of goods — particularly for working, middle and lower class citizens — of increasing the price of goods by roughly $2.2 trillion a year.
“It’s not the rich who get hit by regulatory compliance costs,” Lee said. “All this comes about as a result of lazy law-making on the part of members of congress.”
Lee attributed this problem to both major parties, Democrats and Republicans, and the current tendency of overregulation within the federal government as well as relying on outside agencies for regulations. Citing the United States Constitution, Lee said all federal laws must go through Congress before being presented to the president for approval or veto.
“If you don’t follow that format, you don’t get a federal law,” he said. “We cheated around that, under the false, flawed, fatally short-sighted leadership of Houses of Representatives, of Senates and of White Houses of every conceivable partisan combination over the last 80 years. We’ve done that because it makes life easier for members of Congress. Why? Because they don’t have to vote on the hard stuff; they don’t have to vote on the very same things they’re delegating to unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.”
He continued to discuss the overregulation of the federal government.
“The job of the federal government is supposed to be to focus on national defense, weights and measures, trademarks, copyrights and patents, bankruptcy laws, postal roads, regulating trade or commerce between states with foreign nations and within the U.S, but that’s about it,” he said. “We’re not supposed to be the auto manufacturer, or the healthcare provider, or the forester, or the farmer of first and last resort — yet that is what we have become. It is no wonder, why, when we set ourselves up like that, we’ve created an institution that’s less popular than Fidel Castro and soon will be less popular, even, than the influenza virus.”
Lee said the solution to this problem is rather simple: Reinstating the Constitution at the center of national political and policy discourse. He posed two tasks to audience members to accomplish this, encouraging people to ask congressional candidates on their views of what is appropriate within the power of the federal government; and ask candidates, “is it okay to outsource the task of lawmaking to unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats?”
“We need to be in charge of our own government again,” Lee said. “We also need to follow the framework in our Constitution for important things, like going to war.”
Lee said it’s become too easy to go to war, and the authorizations to use military force governing war in Iraq and Afghanistan have justified measures beyond necessity.
“The authorizations for those two wars passed by Congress are so broad, they’ve taken us to war, they’ve been used to justify war all over the world, in places that have nothing to do with Iraq and Afghanistan,” Lee said. “We have no business putting American blood and treasure on the line without having the decency, for the brave young men and women, to say nothing of their parents and their children and their siblings and their coworkers, to do them the decent honor of at least declaring war before we send them off into battle.”
Lee also addressed several questions from residents in attendance, ranging from war policies and foreign relations to President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial and bills currently under review.
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