Protecting the American people from foreign threats is a fundamental function of the federal government. In crafting the U.S. Constitution, our Founders understood the immense power and control vested in the ability to raise and command an Army and Navy as well as to declare war. While the President serves as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, Congress is the only branch with the power to declare war and raise a military through the power of the purse. This authority was given to Congress because it is the branch held most accountable by the people.
Congress and the President also share the responsibility of engaging with foreign nations. Congress is explicitly charged with the power to regulate foreign commerce, and the Senate’s power to ratify treaties and offer advice and consent on ambassador nominations serves as a check on the President’s diplomatic power.
Over the years, the checks and balances and appropriate division of this power has weakened, resulting in a concentration of both defense and foreign relations powers in the executive branch. Therefore, one of Senator Lee’s missions is to reassert and reinvigorate the constitutional role of Congress in shaping U.S. military and foreign policy. He continues to lead major legislation on war powers, military spending, and restraining international institutions. He believes very strongly that actions that would put American blood and treasure on the line must be debated and discussed where the risks and benefits can be carefully weighed and the American people can influence such decisions through their elected leaders. The U.S. Congress is the only body that meets both parameters.
Another major component of protecting our national security and sovereignty is securing our borders. We must know who is entering and exiting our country to protect Americans domestically and ensure that we enforce our immigration laws so as not to incentivize those who want to enter the United States to do so illegally.
While the Framers understood the importance of national security, they also understood that protecting civil liberties by limiting the government’s power to search and spy on its citizens was an essential protection against tyranny. As James Madison said when framing a government where men govern men “the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and the next place, oblige it to control itself.” Senator Lee believes the federal government must follow warrant requirements enshrined in the Fourth Amendment to protect Americans against unauthorized government surveillance and preserve the civil liberties granted by our Constitution.