By electing Mike Lee as the Republican nominee for Senate in Utah on Tuesday, voters in the state's open primary may also have picked the man who will ultimately fill GOP incumbent Bob Bennett's long-held seat come November.
Lee will face-off against Democratic candidate Sam Granato in the state's general election. Ratings from the Cook Political Report and CQ suggest the Utah seat is very likely to remain in Republican hands.
Bolstered by support from the Tea Party, Lee has made his "love" and -- as he puts its -- "complete, practical understanding" of the Constitution a cornerstone of his campaign platform. The Republican hopeful touted extremely conservative views on a wide range of issues throughout Utah's Republican primary that mirror many of the policy positions held by Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul.
Lee's hard-lined views on health care reform, immigration and tax-related issues as well as solutions he's offered to drastically reduce the size of federal government -- including eliminating the Departments of Education and Energy -- have even earned him the nickname "the Rand Paul of the West."
The Salt Lake Tribune recently took aim at Lee's political perspectives:
Lee's expertise is his encyclopedic knowledge of the Constitution. But his notions of the founding document are reactionary, so extreme, in fact, that we doubt they will ever find traction in mainstream American legal or political thinking. To do so would require reversing much of the jurisprudence of the 20th century.
The blunt criticism from the Tribune came in an editorial endorsing Lee's former Republican rival, Tim Bridgewater, in the state's primary race.
"To be fair, Bridgewater's policies are almost as radical," said the Tribune. "This is, after all, a contest between hard-right ideologues. But we sense from our discussion with Bridgewater at least a modicum of openness to the spectrum of ideas, a glimmer of a pragmatism. We can't say that of Lee."
Lee's primary win on Tuesday may mark the most significant electoral achievement for the Tea Party movement thus far given the conservative candidate's odds at capturing Utah's Senate seat in November.
Here's a slideshow of various policy views maintained by Utah's newly-minted GOP Senate nominee:
Mike Lee maintains a hard-lined stance on immigration and has made clear he opposes "amnesty in any form" for undocumented immigrants. Like Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul, Lee has suggested the United States should abandon its policy of guaranteeing citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. Lee defines his stance on the controversial -- even unconstitutional -- position on his campaign website. In tackling the issue, the Senate hopeful suggests congress must "clarify the original intent of the citizenship clause [of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution] through legislation specifying that children born to illegal-alien parents in the United States are not entitled to automatic citizenship." Lee also has expressed his support for legislative measures seeking to revoke the right of citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants in the U.S. -- a position that would appear to run counter to the 14th Amendment. "The way I read that amendment is that you're not necessarily subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. just because you're born here," Lee recently said when speaking at a Utah event. "If you're born to parents of illegal aliens who have come here in open violation of our laws, you're not born in the US and subject to the jurisdiction thereof." The GOP hopeful however admitted, "The 14th amendment provides that any person born in the US and subject to the jurisdiction thereof shall be a citizen of the US and of the state in which he shall reside." Lee's communication of his position on immigration comes despite the fact that he has made his "love" and superior "complete, practical understanding" of the Constitution a cornerstone of his campaign platform. He has articulated his support of the so-called Birthright Citizenship Act by saying, "I support H.R. 1868."
During Utah's Republican Senate primary, Mike Lee articulated his support for a resumption of underground nuclear weapons testing as well as for the importation of foreign nuclear waste. "I think we need always to be modernizing our equipment, including our nuclear weapons," Lee said in an interview last month. "I think any time you do that, you have to weigh the risks of it against the benefits. I think the big picture moving forward is you have to update technology and that's going to have some testing with it." The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Lee has signed onto a "Peace Through Strength" pledge consisting of "several defense policy positions, including protecting national sovereignty, not trying enemy combatants in U.S. courts, energy security and the modernization and testing of the U.S. nuclear arsenal." "We need to always have our eye on the ball for developing new weapons systems and that is going to require new testing," Lee said in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune . He said he wouldn't support above-ground testing -- which hasn't been conducted in the United States since 1963 -- but believes the U.S. could conduct underground testing. He said he assumes that would be done at the Nevada Test Site. As for the importation of foreign nuclear waste, Lee said at a debate held earlier this month that he doesn't "see a problem in taking a small amount of it in the interim period." The AP reports: Lee said he would only support a ban if his law firm's client were allowed to dispose of waste from Italy's shuttered nuclear power program in Utah first. ... Lee is an attorney representing Utah-based EnergySolutions Inc., which wants to import up to 20,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste from Italy. ... If approved, it would be the largest amount of nuclear waste ever brought into the country. After processing in Tennessee, about 1,600 tons would be disposed of at the company's facility in Utah's west desert.
Many Americans may not know much about the 17th Amendment of the United States Constitution -- which maintains Senators be elected by popular vote as opposed to being appointed by state legislatures -- but the body of text emerged as a prominent campaign issue over the course of Utah's Republican Senate primary. Mike Lee has suggested he'd like to repeal the 17th Amendment. In a recent New York Times editorial, David Firestone points out the irony of Lee's position, which has been met with increasing support in the Tea Party crowd: A modern appreciation of democracy — not to mention a clear-eyed appraisal of today’s dysfunctional state legislatures — should make the idea unthinkable. But many Tea Party members and their political candidates are thinking it anyway, convinced that returning to the pre-17th Amendment system would reduce the power of the federal government and enhance state rights. ... Not enough Americans vote. But, fortunately, almost all like the idea that they can, a thoroughly modern sentiment that will confine this elitist notion to the fringes. That means Tea Partiers who are infuriated by the health care law and everything else now going on in Washington can no longer look to James Madison for a bailout. Their best remedy is the one they seem to spurn: a vote at the ballot box.
During Utah's Republican Senate primary, Mike Lee made clear he favors weaning the country off of Social Security. The Tea Party-backed contender calls the federal government's decision to fund the program "irresponsible" on his campaign website. "While current Social Security beneficiaries must be held harmless, there needs to be a systemic overhaul to these programs, lest they bankrupt the country," says Lee. "To do so, people will need to realize that the benefits those older generations have had, may not be available in the future. But to not overhaul these programs cannot be postponed or overlooked any longer like the problem is going to go away." As for raising the retirement age: He says the retirement age for Social Security should be raised by 10 years to 75 over the next two decades so people draw fewer benefits and cost-of-living adjustments should be limited.
Mike Lee expressed during his primary campaign his strong support to repeal the health care reform bill recently signed into law by President Obama as well as his desire to eventually wipe federal funding of Medicare and Medicaid entitlement programs. The conservative candidate outlines his position on 'Obamacare' on his campaign website: First and foremost, we must work to defund and repeal Obamacare. Every possible means must be applied within Congress as well as through the application of the Constitution and the law to stop full implementation of this legislation. We must also support meaningful solutions to health care reform which increase the portability of insurance for individuals, allow individuals and small businesses to fully claim the same tax deductions large corporations currently enjoy, ease limitations on health savings accounts (HSAs), put an end to outrageous malpractice damage awards, and allow for communities and groups to unite in associated health plans. Enabling free market forces to work by allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines will also help drive down costs through positive price competition. Health care reform must never give government the authority to force Americans to buy health insurance, redistribute wealth to satisfy government mandates, or overburden small businesses which would contribute to job losses. The real solution to our current health care challenge is found in less government involvement in the process -- not more. Lee characterizes Medicare and Medicaid disturbing as "disturbing" and "unsustainable." The Tea Party-backed hopeful has suggested that he'd like to see the programs out of the control of federal government and turned over to the states to run. "Let's stop assuming that the federal government can be all things to all people," he says.
Mike Lee's grand vision for drastically reducing the size of federal government includes plans to disband the Departments of Education and Energy as well as that of Housing and Urban Development. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Lee expressed the drastic steps would be essential to reducing government spending. "I'd start by eliminating the U.S. Department of Education at a cost of $50 billion and then move on to Housing and Urban Development," said Mike Lee at a candidate forum back in April. The Tribune adds: Lee said afterward that there is no constitutional basis for Congress to involve itself in housing. "There are few things more local than housing. It's a very local enterprise," Lee said. But Lee said all of the cuts could be "like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic" if we don't address entitlements in a real way.
HuffPost's Jason Linkins reports: Lee favors a low liability cap on oil companies that destroy an entire region of the country. But, then, who will pay for it? Let's ask Lee Fang, of ThinkProgress: Lee was asked by the Tribune if he supported efforts, such as the one by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), to raise the liability cap for oil companies from the current $75 million to at least $10 billion. Lee's response was a blunt, "no," followed later by an explanation that the minuscule $75 million cap was part of a "set of settled expectations that you give to a business when it decides to make an investment." Lee said it would be a "mistake" to raise the liability cap for companies like BP and Anadarko, even if maintaining the status quo leaves "taxpayers on the hook for part of the damage." Oh, but surely Lee was more nuanced than that! LEE: This company is reliant, the entire industry, is reliant on the insurance its provided by law. Now had that cap not been in place, we would be facing a completely different question. But you have a set of settled expectations that you give to a business when it decides to make an investment in this. Our country benefits from this type of activity and allows us to produce more oil and allows more of our petro dollars to remain in the United States. We've relied on that, and to take that away I think would be a mistake. SL TRIBUNE: Does that leave taxpayers on the hook for part of the damage? LEE: Well yea probably does. And the government can look at that and say look, we put this damages cap in place, so we understood what that meant. SL TRIBUNE: Isn't that equivalent to a bailout? LEE: I don't think, well, I don't think that's equivalent to a bailout.
Mike Lee indicated he's a proponent of repealing the income tax. The Salt Lake Tribune had this to say in criticizing the Tea Party-backed candidate's support for the measure: Abandoning a progressive income tax would reverse a century of U.S. policy at a time when income discrepancy in the nation is widening and the middle class is disappearing. Such a policy could shift the tax burden from the wealthy toward the middle class and even the poor. Lee's plans for reforming the existing tax system include instating "a flat tax, fair tax, or other simplified system stated, “with 50% of wage earners paying little or no taxes."
Mike Lee: The second amendment protects the individual right to bear arms. I will vigorously oppose any effort to undermine this right.
Mike Lee maintains a strong pro-life stance on abortion issues and makes his position clear on his campaign website: Governments exist for the purpose of protecting life, liberty, and property. Few could dispute that, among these essential interests, the need to protect life is paramount. The Constitution says nothing that can plausibly be read to suggest—as the Supreme Court concluded in Roe v. Wade—that States are essentially powerless to protect unborn human life. This power to protect the most vulnerable members of society needs to be returned to the States.