Interview with Senator Mike Lee
R.O. Last month you met with President-Elect Trump and some of the things you discussed with him were the Supreme Court, repealing and replacing Obamacare, and The REINS Act. For the benefit of our readers, can you give a synopsis of what the REINS act is and what the chances are of it being passed once reintroduced, especially now that there is a Republican House, Senate, and President?
M.L. I’d be happy to talk about that. The REINS act is an acronym, which is R E I N S, which stands for regulations from the executive in need of scrutiny. There is a problem in Washington, in that we’ve got two parts of our constitution that often get overlooked. There are two structural protections that are very, very important…very important at protecting all the other rights in the constitution. They limit power because our founding fathers understood there was a risk in allowing any one group of people or any one person to get too powerful. There’s a veritable protection called “federalism”, which says that most of the power is supposed to remain with the people. There’s a horizontal protection called the “separation of power”. It says within the Federal government we are going to have 3 branches…the legislative branch that makes the laws, the executive branch, headed by the President, who enforces the laws, and the judicial branch that is headed by the Supreme Court, which interprets the laws.
We’ve drifted from both of these protections, in that things that used to be reserved to the people to be exercised at the state and local level, have been moved to Washington…moved to the Federal government. Too many of them, in fact, to the point to where the Federal government has gotten really, really big…far bigger and more powerful than it was supposed to be, and it makes people less powerful at a local level, and that’s a problem. But then within the federal government, we’ve compounded the problem by giving up too much of the law making power, the policy setting power, the power to decide what the laws should be over to the Executive branch, to what we call executive branch agencies, which are bureaucrats. Instead of making a law, for example, that decides how we’re going to clean up the air, congress sometimes passes a law that says we shall have clean air, and we give them the power to decide what that means, and to make law, making our air cleaner, over to the Environmental Protection Agency, so all of a sudden the EPA becomes a law maker and a law enforcer. The REINS ACT, in a nutshell, what helps to reverse some of these trends and helps to restore a balance of power between the 3 branches of government by saying anytime a new law or a new regulation comes out by an executive branch agency, one that would affect people in a significant economic way, it would have to be passed into law by Congress first, and an executive branch agency just can’t make that outcome.
R.O. One of the first things tackled by Congress will be repealing and replacing Obamacare. President-Elect Trump wants to keep the “pre-existing” conditions provision, as well as the provision allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26. Will this even be possible?
M.L. With regard to the provision dealing with 26-year-olds, this has been a fairly popular provision. A few years ago, many, if not all of our nation’s leading insurance carriers, said because of the popularity of it, they’d be happy to keep that intact, regardless of whether the law continued to mandate it, so that’s something that has to be taken into account. The other question dealing with the pre-existing conditions is going to have to be considered, and I think one of the things we are going to look for is to look back at what previous law prior to Obamacare said and to figure out how we can streamline those and make them work, so that people who need insurance can gain access to it. We have provisions in the law that under some circumstances there are guarantees that people continue to get certain types of health insurance if they can show they’ve had health insurance already, and that they didn’t have a lapse in coverage lasting more than 30 days. If we could at that provision, figure out where it worked and where it didn’t work, we might be able to make adjustments to that and make sure that people who need insurance, who want insurance, can continue to get it, even if they are dealing with significant health conditions.
R.O. You’ve just been re-elected to a second term as Senator for the Great State of Utah. Your name has been mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee. If President-Elect Trump wanted to appoint you to a seat on the Supreme Court, is there any possibility you would accept that position and leave your Senate seat, and if so, why?
M.L. Yes. If President-Elect Trump asked me to do that, of course. I don’t know if that will happen. I’m on a list of 21 people. 21 people who the President-Elect is looking at. There is a list of people he might name to the Supreme Court. My brother, interestingly enough, is also on the list. We are both Eagle Scouts by the way. We both would be interested in that and are honored to be considered. We’re not sure whether that’s going to happen, where it’s going to go. The Supreme Court makes a lot of decisions. Before I was a Senator, I was a lawyer. Before I was a lawyer, I was a Boy Scout. Before I was a Boy Scout, I was a fan of the Supreme Court. I started watching Supreme Court arguments when I was about 10 years old and I always found them interesting. I don’t know if there’s any easy explanation for why. It’s just that it makes sense to me. If he asked me, of course, that is something I would do.
R.O. Sen. Cruz and Rep. DeSantis plan on introducing a bill in the coming days instituting three-term limits for the House and two-term limits for the Senate. Since you are beginning your second term, this bill would make this term your last if passed. Knowing this, will you support this bill, and if so, why?
M.L. I do support the bill. I do support constitutional term limits because I think it’s important to protect the American people against the accumulation of power in the hands of a few. You don’t want member of Congress, members of the House and Senate, going to Washington and coming back and say during an election, they’d say yeah…you can vote for whoever you want, but don’t you dare for vote for anyone else other than me, because if you do, you’re going to lose money and power and influence, things you will only gain if you re-elect me.
R.O. Some of our readers may not know that you earned the rank of Eagle Scout in 1989, right before aging out at 18 years old. You also received the National Eagle Scout Association’s Outstanding Eagle Scout Award in 2011. How has the Scout Oath and Scout Law played a role in your everyday life after scouting?
M.L. You know, it’s hard to forget the things that you learn as a scout. The age at which you learn them, the things that you do while you are learning them, helps to remember them, helps to remember that scouting is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. It’s good to review those from time to time. Scouting puts you on a path, a path that reminds you that there’s more to being a good citizen than just voting, more to being a good citizen than just caring about what happens in your community. There are things you can do to help make things better in the world, and I’ll always be grateful for my scouting experience for that reason.
R.O. Senator Lee…thank you very much. Have a good rest of your day.
M.L. Thank you, Rory.