Mike Lee, the junior senator from Utah, is being hailed as the conservative favorite to take a seat on the Supreme Court. Lee, a staunch Tea Party Republican, is rumored to be one of President Trump’s top picks to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy.
But Lee was also an outspoken critic of Donald Trump during the 2016 elections. He posted a video on his Facebook page announcing that he didn’t feel comfortable endorsing Trump, because of Trump’s poor treatment of women. “We’ve been asked to settle on matters of great principle with our candidate for POTUS, ” he said, and addded, “this can’t continue.” Lee asked Trump to “step down” and let another candidate take his place.
Trump is expected to announce his choice by July 9, but so far the president has been cagey about his decision. On Friday, reporters pressed Trump to say whether he was seriously considering Mike Lee for the Court. Trump replied, “he said he’d like the job; usually they don’t say that.”
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Lee Favors Strict Restrictions on Abortion
Lee has made scathing attacks on Planned Parenthood, which he describes as “grisly.” Lee has repeatedly called for abortions to be banned after 20 weeks. He has compared America’s abortion laws, which he says are too permissive,to the abortion laws in North Korea. He said, “Our abortion laws are as extreme as the abortion laws in Vietnam, in China, and in North Korea,” Lee said. “Now it pains me, and it should pain all of us as Americans, that the United States lags so far behind the rest of the world in protecting unborn children.”
Lee’s campaign website says that “every human life is precious from its very beginning. Every individual, regardless of age, health, or condition of dependency, deserves the respect and protection of society.” The page calls for abortions to be illegal after 20 weeks.
Lee has said that he is in favor of requiring minors (young women under the age of 18) to get their parents’ consent before having an abortion.
2. Lee Opposed the Supreme Court Decision Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage
After the Supreme Court ruled that marriages between two people of the same sex were legal, Mike Lee said the decision was “unfortunate.” He stressed that ordinary Americans, not judges, should have been able to make that decision. Lee said, “Today five Justices took a vital question about the future of American society out of the public square, imposing the views of five unelected judges on a country that is still in the midst of making up its mind about marriage,” Lee said. “That is unfortunate, but it is not the end of the discussion, as Americans of good faith who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman will continue to live as witnesses to that truth.”
More recently, Lee supported the conservative Christian baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. That case went all the way to the Supreme Court; Jack Phillips, the baker in question, won by a narrow majority.
In the lead-up to the Supreme Court decision, Lee issued a statement denouncing “the secular, progressive creed clung to so confidently by the nation’s ruling elites.” He called for “tolerance” of different beliefs and said that the “elites” on the left were not allowing Christians to live according to their moral values.
3. Lee Says Americans Have a God-Given Right to Bear Arms
Lee is a staunchly against gun control policies. He has opposed requiring background checks before people can buy guns since, he says, this will eventually lead to a “national gun registry” and excessive government control of ordinary citizens.
Lee writes, on his Senate page, that Americans have a right, and even a duty, to protect themselves from criminals. Part of that means having the right to bear arms. Lee said, “The first defense against criminal threats to our persons and property is ourselves. That’s why we have a right — a right granted by God and protected by the Constitution — to arm and protect ourselves.”
Following the deadly Parkland shooting, journalists asked Lee whether he would support a ban on assault weapons. Lee said no, and asked, “How will the banning of this weapon make us safer? He added, “I don’t believe most Utahns would think that that was necessarily the answer.”
4. Lee Wants to Ease Environmental Regulations
Lee was a strong backer of President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris accord on climate change. “The president did the right things,” Lee said, adding that the United States is already a leader in terms of cleaning up the climate and that we should not allow other countries to lecture us on environmental issues.
Back in 2016, Lee was the lone Republican in the Senate blocking a bill that would have provided 220 million dollars in federal aid for Flint, Michigan and other cities with contaminated drinking water.Lee said that his stance was a matter of principle, since he believes in the importance of a balanced budget.
Lee has also called for a reduction to federal wildlife preserves, arguing that the federal government should not own so much land west of the Rockies. Lee calls government control of land “a recipe for disaster.”
5. Lee Wants a Constitutional Amendment Requiring a Balanced Budget
In 2013, Lee introduced an amendment to the constitution that would require the federal budget to be balanced. Lee argued that government spending is out of control, and that excess spending was also leading to a bloated, over-sized government. Lee said, “We have an obligation to correct course and put the country on a responsible path to fiscal sustainability. Families, businesses, and state and local governments are all expected to live within their means. The federal government should do the same.”
The proposed amendment, S. J. Res 1, would require Congress to spend no more than it takes in during any fiscal year. It would limit spending to 18% of the gross national product, the 40 year historical average of total federal receipts. Congress can only run a deficit, raise taxes or increase the debt limit if agreed to by a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate.