POLITICS

Mike Lee, Tea Party-Backed Senate Candidate, Wants To Change The Constitution

09/08/2010 04:56 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Despite making his self-proclaimed "encyclopedic knowledge of the U.S. Constitution" a cornerstone of his U.S. Senate campaign, Utah Republican Mike Lee seems to have some serious problems with the historical text.

Take the 17th Amendment of the Constitution, for instance. While many Americans may be unfamiliar with the body of text -- which maintains Senators be elected by popular vote as opposed to being appointed by state legislatures -- the policy has been met with significant skepticism by Lee over the course of his campaign.

"People would be better off if senators, when they deliver their messages to Washington, remember the sovereignty of the states," explained the Tea Party-backed hopeful to CNN. He added, however, that he doesn't expect to see the measure repealed "in our lifetime."

In a New York Times editorial published earlier this year, David Firestone highlighted the irony at the core of Lee's position, which has also been echoed by other members of the Tea Party:

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.

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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.


Prior to becoming Utah's Republican Senate nominee to replace outgoing GOP Sen. Bob Bennett, who was kicked off the party's primary ballot earlier this year, Lee voiced opposition to the 14th amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees U.S. citizenship to all persons born in the country.

"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," explained the Senate hopeful earlier this year. "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."

Given the fact that Lee defines himself as a strong adherent to the word of the Constitution, it is perhaps ironic that the conservative contender seems so open to alternate interpretations, and even amending, the founding text.

CNN reports that Lee said at a Tea Party rally earlier this year, "I hereby pledge to you that I will not vote for a single bill that I can't justify by the text and original understanding of the Constitution."

But, when asked by the news network if his willingness to amend the Constitution conflicted with his staunch campaign platform, the GOP hopeful said, "Not at all." He added, "The Constitution was made to be amended from time to time. Sometimes we have to change it to make it more true to the American dream."

Lee is running against Democrat Sam Granato in Utah's general election for U.S. Senate. He is strongly favored to come out on top at the end of the race come November.

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