A Conversation with Mike Lee
Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) is the new maverick of the Republican Party. He is a straight talker who was elected in the 2010 wave of the Republican comeback. Senator Lee has distinguished himself in speaking out on issues such as ObamaCare, using his experience as a Constitutional lawyer to explain this disastrous law. American Thinker had the pleasure of interviewing this up and coming Republican.
American Thinker: Recently Congressman Peter King (R-NY) has formed an anti-Tea Party PAC targeting Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Is this an example of Republicans shooting themselves in the foot?
Senator Mike Lee: No political party can win elections without a base; yet, at the same time Conservatives must understand that we cannot move the country in the right direction until we win elections. I would advise anyone who wants to attack our base that if most of us cannot get on the same page the country will continue to lurch towards the left. Those who attack our base are impairing the ability of their own party to win elections.
AT: Playing the devil's advocate, those in the Republican Party like Congressman King have accused the Tea Party of being too Conservative and too uncompromising. Do you agree?
ML: I think those Republicans should explain what they mean when they attack people like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and myself. What does that mean? Does that mean we are too Conservative with the principles of the Republican Party? After all, we are a Conservative Party. Do they want this party driven more by the lobbyists and the media's whims of the day? I fundamentally disagree with them. Compromise is not a substantive outcome but is inevitability in a legislative system that involves more than one person. The question is not whether you are going to compromise, but how and where. That is where principles come into play, something very important to voters.
AT: Paul Ryan defends his budget deal by explaining that Republicans in Congress are only one-third of a whole, that elections have consequences. Do you agree?
ML: I have some significant concerns with it. We are putting off those spending cuts for a decade or so while increasing the cost of government. This is based on a promise that we will cut more in a decade or so from now. Experience has taught us that kind of promise is very unlikely to be honored. Some of my other concerns are related to public land in states like my own. Because of all my concerns I will be voting against the deal.
AT: With this divide in the Republican Party how can the Republicans win in 2014?
ML: I agree there is a gap in the Republican Party between its base and the party's political leadership. However, I believe we all can agree with a set of ideas that we can get behind based on conservative principles. I understand we have been in a position where we say no a lot, but that must be balanced with things we support. We cannot just pick a fight, we have to win the debate and we do that with an agenda in which all Republicans can identify with.
AT: President Obama has said Republicans are the party of no, but there are Republican plans out there. Are there any you support?
ML: Last year I introduced Save the American Dream Plan that would balance the budget, reform entitlement plans, reform the tax code, and overhaul the healthcare system. It would decouple health insurance from the employer, allowing people to carry their insurance from job to job, state to state, by setting up a system of tax credits. The House Republican Study Committee that takes into account the high-risk pools has built upon this concept. Under both plans there are special provisions for (pre-existing conditions) those who are severely and chronically ill as well as those who could not get or afford health insurance. There are also other plans being worked on currently. I want to emphasize the plan I introduced last year would separate health insurance from the employer so if you changed jobs you could keep your health insurance.
AT: So buying health insurance would be more like how we buy auto insurance?
ML: Wouldn't it be great if we did it much like auto insurance where we can shop around, compare, and buy it? You can carry it with you when you move, including across state lines. I have lived in three different states with the same auto insurance. Shouldn't that be the case for health insurance, especially if we have to change jobs.
AT: President Obama is ridiculously trying to get the Millennium voters by having celebrities talk and sing about the virtues of ObamaCare. This is from those who are rich enough to afford to pay for their own doctors, and substantial premium and deductible increases, as well as the increase in prescription drugs. Please comment.
ML: The argument you just made is one of the best I have heard. It is ironic that those pitching it are really wealthy Hollywood stars and celebrities outside of the loop of those who are deeply impacted. They will not find themselves in a position where the sharply escalated cost of health insurance will have them get into a plan that will prevent them from seeing a doctor of their choice or getting the treatment they need.
AT: Is there a sub-issue in 2014, the out-of-control role of the Federal Government?
ML: I do think ObamaCare will be by far and away the biggest single issue in 2014. What we don't want is to feel like we are going to the DMV every time we go to our doctors. This has not been a great experience for most Americans. The status quo before ObamaCare was not ideal. But, we now have to make sure government does not make the situation worse but instead makes it better. On a broader level there is a larger problem, economic opportunity. Because of the immobility of the poor and the instability of the middle class it seems that those born into poverty cannot move up the ladder. Another problem is the single most important and neglected issue in Congress, one of my first principles as a Federal lawmaker, Federalism. We should not be telling states in Federal legislation what they can and cannot do or spend.
AT: Besides the Plan we discussed earlier have you presented any pieces of legislation you want Americans to know about?
ML: The Family Fairness Opportunity Act, the Working Family Flexibility Act, and the Transportation Empowerment Act. The first two simplify the individual tax code. There will be two rates, 15% for the first 87,000 and 35% on everything after that for a married couple filing jointly. There will also be a tax credit per child of $2500. The purpose is to get rid of the marriage tax penalty and the parent tax penalty, which is how the senior entitlement programs are funded. It is currently a pay as you go where tomorrow's workers fund today's retirees, which hurts families. These plans will change the tax code in order to help working parents.
The Transportation Act allows the states to decide if they want to collect their own gas tax. This act lowers the rate for the gas tax from 18.4 cents per gallon to 3.7 cents. That 14.7 cent gap will allow the states to collect on their own. Presumably the states could have it for their own purposes so they won't have to run it through Washington filters and regulations.
AT: What would you want to tell all Americans?
ML: Don't be blind. No matter how many celebrities this administration gets out there ObamaCare does not work. It was built on an unstable foundation and it will fall. Our job is to make sure we have something to put in its place. As a practical political matter I can't see us going back to the status quo before ObamaCare. But that doesn't mean we have to accept it and accept having the government so deeply involved in our lives. I think we can move to a new system that is better. It must empower the American people to make their own decision about healthcare that will enhance affordability and quality.
The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.