Sen. Mike Lee addresses high school students at Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort
U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, took a break from his competitive Senate race to deliver an address to more than 130 high schoolers in which he discussed the historical growth of the federal government, warned against “tinkering” with the Supreme Court and shared anecdotes about former President Donald Trump.
The address, which took place Friday afternoon at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort, was delivered to an audience that included students attending the Young America’s Foundation’s October High School Conference at Reagan Ranch.
The event was part of the Wendy P. McCaw Reagan Ranch Roundtable Series. Ms. McCaw is co-publisher of the News-Press.
Much of Sen. Lee’s address centered around his belief that the growth of the federal government has vastly expanded outside the scope that the founders intended in the U.S. Constitution.
“For the first 150 years of our republic (the United States experienced) human flourishing on a scale we’ve never seen, the biggest period of peacetime economic expansion the world has ever known, more men, women and children being lifted out of poverty than any government program could ever have provided,” Sen. Lee said, praising the founder’s vision. “All that started to change in the first half of the last century that I trace back to April 12, 1937 … when the Supreme Court decided National Labor Relations Board v. Jones and Laughlin Steel Co.”
The decision, according to Sen. Lee, expanded the regulatory authority of Congress to a degree that essentially permitted it to regulate “anything,” which in his opinion left the congressional branch unable to “keep up with the legislative demands” that resulted from their expanded authority.
Sen. Lee said that subsequently led to a trend in which Congress “outsources” its regulatory authority to federal bureaucracies.
“About a year ago, OSHA came out with this rule that says if you’re an employer and you’ve got more than 99 workers, (OSHA is) going to fine you $15,000 per day for every employee that has not received the COVID-19 vaccine,” Sen. Lee said. “Congress never made that law. Congress could never have passed that law. Nonetheless, Congress empowered that by empowering these agencies.”
According to Sen. Lee, this was all made possible by President Franklin Roosevelt’s threats to pack the Supreme Court, which he believed caused the court to adopt a more acquiescent stance towards the New Deal agenda.
“When you tinker with what the federal government’s purpose is, problems arise,” Sen. Lee said.
“When you tinker with what the purpose of the (Supreme Court) is, problems arise,” said Sen. Lee, author of “Saving Nine,” a book about the court. “When you threaten the court with a political solution designed to make the court a political entity, the court will start behaving in a political manner.”
Sen. Lee then went on to express his concern with what he views as moves by President Joe Biden to make expanding the Supreme Court a reality. The Utah senator pointed to the establishment of a presidential commission to study potential overhauls to the court as an example.
“Anyone who increases (the size of the Supreme Court) at any moment will almost certainly have political motives as their purpose, rather than the effective administration of justice,” Sen. Lee cautioned.
He also took some time to recount some of his experiences with President Trump, which included the retellings of a tense first meeting between the two and an early collaboration with the former president on health care legislation.
“At the urging of some mutual acquaintances, I flew back to New York to sit down with the president-elect, Donald Trump, to break the ice and get to know him a little bit,” Sen. Lee said, noting the two’s relationship got off to a “rocky start” due to the senator’s initial skepticism of the former president. “Let’s just say it wasn’t a pleasant thing for the first 10 or 15 minutes.”
Sen. Lee recounted that his initial attempts to steer the conversation away from the subject of his early estimations of Mr. Trump were unsuccessful. That led him to take a more direct approach by telling the president-elect that “Insofar as you fight as president to restore federalism, separation of powers and constitutionally-limited government generally, you will have no better friend, no greater ally in the United States Senate.”
“Insofar as you work to undercut, undermine and demean any of those constitutional interests, I will be a thorn in your side, a pain in your neck, your worst nightmare, and you will wish I was never born,” Sen. Lee continued. “And he said ‘all right,’ and from that moment forward we got along great because he understood me.”
A few weeks after that, according to Mr. Lee, the senator received a phone call from Mr. Trump asking him to help gain the House Freedom Caucus’ support on a bill regarding the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“The Freedom people don’t like the bill, and the Freedom people like you (and) respect you,” Sen. Lee recalled Mr. Trump telling him.“If you vote for it, (the Freedom Caucus will) vote for it. If you vote for it, it will pass the House, and if it passes the House, it will pass in the Senate. And when you pass this into law, I will have you stand at my right side in the Oval Office.”