By Kenneth Casey | United States
Recently, with the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, there’s been a lot of buzz about who President Trump might nominate to replace the Republican-appointed Justice. The White House released a list of potential replacements for the seat that President Trump is deciding from.
On that list is Utah U.S. Senator Mike Lee. Although appointing legislators to judicial seats is often frowned upon, Lee is a rare exception. Before he decided to enter politics and run for office, he served as a Law Clerk to Judge Dee Benson on Utah’s District Court and future Supreme Court Justice Judge Samuel Alito. At the time, Alito was serving on the United States Court of Appeals. After that, Lee served as Assistant United States Attorney in Salt Lake City.
Lee has a very sharp legal mind and has shown it off many times in the United States Senate. Most recently, Lee spoke in favor of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have protected Americans from detention without trial or charge. Lee, speaking in favor of the amendment on the Senate floor, said:
“The amendment simply says that if you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, you may not be indefinitely detained on U.S. soil without trial, without charge, without access to a jury or to counsel.”
Lee’s position on the issue was that enforcing indefinite detention on any U.S. citizen for any reason violates the 5th amendment. Thus, it is not tolerable in the United States.
Lee possesses a trait that is rare for any elected legislator. He has common knowledge of the Constitution, and realizes protecting it is a legislator’s first and most important duty. Hence, Lee would be an amazing addition to the Supreme Court. He would represent liberty on the bench for a long time.
However, is nominating Mike Lee to the Supreme Court really worth losing his voice in the Senate?
Unfortunately, the answer, at least at this time, the answer is no. Lee has consistently been the second-most liberty-leaning member of the Senate, alongside Rand Paul. His loss would leave Paul as the only liberty-leaning senator.
In the past, Lee has championed criminal justice reform. For example, he introduced a bill in the Senate titled Smart Sentencing Act that would reform the criminal justice system. It addressed prison overcrowding by lowering mandatory minimum sentences. Thus, he effectively wanted to limit the number of nonviolent drug offenders sent to prison.
When it comes to surveillance bills, Lee and Paul have been the only two consistent Republican Senators opposing more spying. In 2011, they were the only two Republicans to oppose extending all three provisions of the PATRIOT Act. When the FISA Authorization Act came to the Senate floor earlier this year, Lee was one of just seven Republicans to vote against it. Also, when John McCain put a bill on the Senate floor to expand the FBI’s surveillance powers, Lee was again one of seven Republicans to vote against it.
Moreover, Lee has consistently supported bills that cut spending and shrink our national debt. When Paul introduced a bill that would reduce discretionary spending by $43 billion, Lee was one of a mere five senators to vote for it. Most recently, two days ago, when the Senate voted on the Agricultural and Nutrition Act, a bill the CBO claimed would increase direct spending by $3.2 billion over the 2019-2023 period, Lee and Paul broke alone from their party to vote against it. According to the site SpendingTracker.org, a site that tracks how much money Congressmen vote to spend, Lee voted to spend the 2nd least amount of money in both the 114th and 115th Congresses, behind only Paul.
In addition, Lee has been a proponent of foreign policy realism in Senate. While many Senators praised President Trump’s decision in 2017 to launch missiles into Syria, Lee joined Paul in saying that it was unconstitutional for a president to engage in an act of war without Congressional approval. Lee also teamed up with Bernie Sanders to end U.S. intervention in Yemen earlier this year.
A liberty-leaning Senator like Mike Lee is very rare in today’s political climate. It would be a huge blow to lose him as a Senator.
Many may argue that Lee vacating his Utah seat in the senate is not a big deal. After all, he serves in the Republican stronghold state of Utah. They are right – Lee’s seat is very safe for Republicans. They would have no trouble voting in a new Republican in a special election for his replacement. However, it is quite unlikely we would see another liberty-leaning Republican in his place.
It is important for Donald Trump to nominate somebody like Mike Lee to the Supreme Court. Yet, it would be best if he did not nominate the man himself, as liberty-leaning senators are too critical to lose.
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