POLITICS
01/19/2011 06:07 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mike Lee: Federal Disaster Relief Is Unconstitutional (VIDEO)

Freshman Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) recently tallied a few more items on his growing list of government programs that he finds unconstitutional, saying that federal disaster relief, poverty nets and food-safety standards should all be left up to the states.

The latest chronicle of Lee's states'-rights musings were made this week in an interview with Utah public-radio host Doug Fabrizio, relayed by ThinkProgress:

LEE: The listener identifies an issue with flood and disaster relief--should that be a federal prerogative or is that a state power? I think a compelling point can be made that that's one thing that states historically have focused on...and I think that's one area where we ought to focus--one of many areas where we ought to focus -- on getting that power back to the states, keeping that money in the states to begin with.

FABRIZIO: But could Louisiana, for example, have dealt with Katrina? That would have absolutely broken the bank. Should the federal government, in an ideal way, should the federal government have been involved in that at all?

LEE: Well, look, they were, and I generally make a practice of not unnecessarily and futilely going back a few years and saying we shouldn't have done that because the fact is that we did. But looking forward...states will prepare differently if they understand that it's their responsibility rather than that of the federal government.

FABRIZIO: Are you saying that if the government would have stayed out of it, the country could have worked out the issues that are being dealt with by these programs, like poverty, like food safety...?

LEE: I've never said that isn't the proper role of government. What I've said is it's not necessarily the role of the federal government. I think it's important to ask the question, not just "should government do this? What is the proper role of government?" But "which government are you talking about?"

QUESTION: You said the framers intended state lawmakers deal with that, not the federal law?

LEE: Absolutely.

The extreme argument that the government is overstepping its bounds, even by providing disaster relief to a state hit by a devastating natural disaster, appears indicative of a politician who campaigned on intense stated desires to dismantle many aspects of the federal government in order to strip away national regulations and delegate many of those responsibilities to the states.

However, the argument that such actions by the federal government are actually not provided for in the Constitution has been hotly contested by many who argue that the document's interstate commerce clause and general welfare clause, enumerated in Article 1, Section 8 of the text, actually leave many of these powers out of the hands of the states.

ThinkProgress also caught a lecture of Lee's last week in which the senator argued that federal child-labor laws were unconstitutional, seemingly based largely on his belief that the states should be allowed to make those determinations.

WATCH (via ThinkProgress):