Opinion: As your senator, I’ve always defended federalism and the Constitution
As Utah’s U.S. senator since 2011, Mike Lee advocates for upholding the U.S. Constitution and championing federalism
My first campaign didn’t start as a run for elected office. Instead, in one of the quirky but beautiful traditions of our state, I gave speeches about the Constitution and the powerful constitutional principles that protect our liberties. I spoke in living rooms and school auditoriums, I spoke to friends, acquaintances and total strangers. While the ideas I talked about are as old as our nation, they struck a chord.
Then our national debt was around a third of what it is today. Our federal government hadn’t yet claimed the authority to mandate medical procedures or recommend the shuttering of businesses. Inflation had not yet risen to historic highs, causing mothers and fathers to dip deep into savings or further cut corners already cut after a devastating pandemic. The federal government had not before chosen economic winners and losers through industry or business-model-specific relief packages.
Back then, the president of the United States was not threatening to pack the Supreme Court or unilaterally cancel the student-loan debts of wealthier, better-educated Americans. Nonetheless, people recognized the need for a return to the key checks and balances of federalism and separation of powers.
Upholding the Constitution has been my primary aim while serving as Utah’s senator. The need for its critical protections of federalism and separation of powers has never been greater, particularly for our state.
Utah has one of the strongest economies in the nation and consistently ranks as the best-run state. Our state legislature and governor are dedicated to fiscal responsibility and the prosperity and success of Utah’s communities and families. Our state, counties, towns and cities are among the best in the nation when it comes to allowing citizens to succeed.
Federalism is what allows Utah to be exceptional.
It is this principle, mandated by the Constitution, that requires most government decisions to be made at the state or local levels. Tragically, federalism is under attack in areas ranging from land management to housing policy and everything in between. Congress, presidents, and bureaucrats have combined to force out state autonomy. This comes in many forms, but the results are always the same: decisions affecting Utahns are made by people who are unaccountable to them and who live across the country.
Similarly, the separation of powers has been under attack for decades. Presidents and Congresses of every possible partisan combination have combined to push power to the executive branch and away from the people’s elected representatives in Congress.
This has proven beneficial to politicians of both political parties. The presidency gains more power while Congress needs not claim responsibility for the blunders of government. Those who do lose and ultimately pay the price are the American people. Americans lose the ability to direct their government. They lose a constitutional structure designed to protect their liberties. This continues with the dangerous efforts to pack the Supreme Court. Our constitutional guardrails are being eroded by the consolidation of power in the hands of the few.
I have always advocated for federalism, the separation of powers, and a strict adherence to the Constitution. That commitment has placed me occasionally at odds with Presidents Obama, Trump and Biden. Often, that commitment allows me to find common ground with those across the aisle like Sens. Pat Leahy, Bernie Sanders, Chris Murphy and even President Obama.
Being guided by these principles, I look intently at each bill that comes before me as a senator. I offer hundreds of amendments each Congress to work with my colleagues to keep these principles. The resulting negotiation process routinely facilitates bipartisan collaboration.
I am grateful for the wise founders who crafted the Constitution and enshrined these principles in our government. Together, we can ensure that Utah remains exceptional, the Constitution endures as our great guiding document, and our American republic stands as an example to the world of what liberty can create.
I thank you for your support.
Mike Lee is the senior United States senator from Utah. He is currently running for reelection to the Senate.