As many conservatives stew over the Obama administration’s executive overreach, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said Congress shares some of the blame for failing to assert itself as a co-equal branch.
“Within the federal government, Congress needs to put on its big-boy pants and do Congress’s big-boy jobs,” Lee said Thursday at the Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention in Washington.
He said that reforming Congress requires standing up as an institution but also standing up to entrenched leaders.
“Within Congress, the power of each individual member needs to be emphasized so that the power isn’t just exercised by a few people who rise to the top ranks of power within the House and within the Senate,” Lee said.
That assertiveness should preferably come through constitutional and political powers, he said, when asked about the House lawsuit against the Obama administration executive actions over implementing the law.
“I think Congress should have institutional standing in cases like that,” he said. “My feelings on the matter can be described as slightly mixed however, not because I don’t think Congress should have such standing, but simply because I worry a little bit about Congress using the ability to challenge the executive branch in court as a crutch. I don’t want Congress to ever get to the point that it views that as a one-size-fits-all response to an overreaching executive.”
“I think we have to get more aggressive about how we are using the power of the purse and withhold funds,” Lee continued. “There is something slightly unseemly about a co-equal branch saying to the executive, hey, 'We’re really mad. You just abused your power and took away ours. You know what we are going to do? We’re going to sue you and got to another branch of government and make them work it out.' Sometimes that’s the only option but I don’t ever want Congress to view that as the only option.”
Lee went on to make clear, “Congress is not the victim,” and noted that Congress has given more power away to regulatory agencies over the last several decades. But he added, “We need to bring Uber-level disruption to Congress,” referring to how Uber disrupted to the established business model for cabs and empowered consumers.
“How do we strengthen Congress, strengthen it in the right way so that Congress can right the ship, so that Congress can steer us back in a more constitutional direction in which we respect both the vertical protection of the Constitution that we call Federalism and the horizontal protection we call separation of powers?” Lee said. “ We need to turn this around and we need reform. I think this reform is coming. That’s why I’m not here simply for a doomsday message. I’m here with a message of hope.”