Lee, Hatch, Senate GOP Back Constitutional Amendment to Restrain Spending
Mar 31, 2011
WASHINGTON – Today, with the full backing of the Senate GOP Caucus, Senator Lee introduced an amendment to the Constitution to balance the federal budget. Sponsored by fellow Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and four others as principle cosponsors, the Hatch-Lee Balanced Budget Amendment is one of the most significant pieces of legislation introduced this year aimed at putting the country on a path to fiscal sustainability.
The central component of the bill states that total spending for the fiscal year must not exceed total receipts and must not exceed more than eighteen percent of the economy, as measured by gross domestic product.
Only a two-thirds vote by the House and Senate would allow Congress to run a deficit for a “specific excess” or raise taxes. Additionally, the amendment stipulates that a three-fifths vote would be necessary to increase the debt limit.
Two other very limited exceptions to the amendment allow spending in excess of receipts during a national security emergency or during a time of war. Three-fifths of Congress would be required to vote for a specific excess during a military conflict declared to be an imminent and serious military threat to our national security; and a just a simple majority vote would be needed during a declared war. The law becomes effective five years after ratification.
“When it comes to spending, Congress has proven it cannot be trusted to live within its means or spend only what the federal government takes in,” said Senator Lee. “Our annual deficit approaching $1.7 trillion and national debt of almost $15 trillion are a significant threat to our economy, job growth, and future prosperity. Only a structural restraint on spending, like a constitutional amendment, will force Congress to make the tough decisions about our national priorities and prevent digging the country deeper in debt.”
Once the bill is voted on and approved by two-thirds of Congress, it must then be ratified by three-fourths of all state legislatures to become an amendment to the Constitution. A bill earlier this year sponsored by Senator Lee expressing support for a balanced budget amendment received 58 votes in the Senate. All 47 Senate Republicans are supporting the amendment.Communications Director Brian Phillips Brian_phillips@lee.senate.gov (202) 224-5444
Press Secretary Emily Bennion Emily_bennion@lee.senate.gov (202) 224-3904
Sen. Lee and Rep. Bishop Introduce Land Conveyance Legislation for Mantua, Utah
Mar 30, 2011
WASHINGTON– Today, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) introduced legislation to transfer three parcels of federally owned land in Box Elder County to the town of Mantua, Utah. Specifically, The Box Elder Utah Land Conveyance Act would convey nearly 32 acres of land that could be used by the community for multiple purposes, including the potential development of a new city cemetery, a new town hall, fire station, park or elementary school.
The parcels of land included in this legislation are located on the south end of town below 100 South and west of Main Street and Willard Peak Road. They are part of a larger tract originally owned by Hans Rasmussen, an early settler of Mantua, whose family deeded the land to the U.S. Forest Service in 1941 for $1.00. Under this legislation, the city of Mantua would not be required to pay for the land, but would assume all costs associated with surveying and development.
“It is a testament to the growth of our state and cities like Mantua that this bill is necessary,” said Senator Lee, who sits on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “The city can use the land productively and the federal government has no pressing need for it. With the help of Rep. Bishop, I hope we can move this bill quickly through Congress.”
“There is absolutely no valid reason why the federal government should maintain ownership of this land, which has sat vacant and virtually unused for decades, when it could otherwise be utilized by the town of Mantua to meet the current challenges associated with its growth and expansion,” said Congressman Bishop, whose district encompasses all of Box Elder County. “The parcels of land we’re asking to have conveyed are relatively small in size but would have a significant impact on the future of this community.”
In addition, Senator Lee is also introducing legislation to return forest service land to the town of Alta for a community center and fire station.
Lee Condemns Cowardly Act in Jerusalem
Mar 24, 2011
WASHINGTON—Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) issued the following statement today on the bombing in Jerusalem:
“The senseless murder of an innocent woman and the harm done to more than twenty bystanders is reprehensible andshould be condemned as a cowardly act. It is a reminder that our allies remain targets and, as much as our attention has been directed at domestic affairs, we should stay vigilant in the war against terrorism. The thoughts and prayers of millions of Americans are with the families of those struggling to survive this attack, and our support is firmly behind Israel as they root out those responsible and bring them to justice.”
Lee, McCain Submit Bill to Reduce Ownership of Federal Lands
Mar 17, 2011
WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Senator John McCain of Arizona introduced legislation to reduce federal ownership of certain public lands and allow the land to be sold for more productive purposes. The bill directs the Secretary of Interior to dispose of federal lands identified in a 1997 Clinton Administration report deemed suitable for sale. Under this legislation, the amount of land sold would be equal to roughly 1% of all land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and less than one half of one percent of all federal land. Representative Jason Chaffetz, also of Utah, recently introduced a similar bill in the House.
“It’s been more than a decade since the land was deemed suitable for disposal and there is no critical need for the federal government to hold on to it,” said Senator Lee. “The sale of the land alone could generate more than a $1 billion, and there is further economic benefit of putting the land to good use. That will mean jobs, future growth, and better prosperity for the surrounding areas.”
“It’s good for the state of Utah and I am happy to work with Senator McCain and my fellow Utahn Representative Chaffetz in the House in supporting the move.”
“The federal budget, much like the household budgets of millions of American families, is stretched alarmingly thin in today’s fiscal climate,” said Senator McCain. “Congress must explore all possible avenues for reducing our $1.4 trillion deficit and ballooning $14 trillion national debt. Our legislation aims to reduce the federal estate in a way that’s mindful of how we currently manage our public lands and seeks to dispose land that the federal government simply does not want.”
The bill is titled “The Reducing Federal Ownership of Public Lands Act”.
Bipartisan Coalition of Senators: Stop and Study Proposed Debit Card Rule
Mar 15, 2011
(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Bob Corker (R-TN), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Tom Carper (D-DE), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) today introduced legislation to protect consumers, small businesses and rural and small community banks and credit unions from a proposed rule regarding transaction fees on debit cards.
“Price controls are almost always problematic,” said Lee, who is Ranking Member on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. “If the rule remains in place, retailers, banks and consumers will lose out in the long run through higher costs and limited choices. I believe we can form a better solution that does not unnecessarily burden small businesses and local financial institutions or pass fees on to the customer. The delay in implementing the rule will allow us to find options that benefit everyone.”
The bipartisan coalition of Senators today introduced the Debit Interchange Fee Study Act in response to concerns of the impact of a proposed rule from the Federal Reserve on consumers and small businesses.
The Federal Reserve is proposing a rule that will cap the interchange fee per debit card transaction at 12 cents, regardless of the size of the transaction. Consumer advocacy organizations have raised concerns that this proposed rule will significantly impact consumers because small banks may limit the size of a debit card transaction or end free checking services.
The Debit Interchange Fee Study Act suspends implementation of the proposed rule and calls for a two year study of debit interchange fees.
“The stakes are simply too high to move forward with this rule without a closer look at the impact on consumers, credit unions, community banks, and the small businesses and jobs they sustain” said Tester, a member of the Senate Banking Committee. “That is why we need to make sure we stop and study these proposed rules before implementing anything.”
“The federal government shouldn’t be telling private companies what they can charge for goods and services; that’s price fixing, and that’s exactly what the Durbin amendment does,” said Corker, a member of the Senate Banking Committee. “The hastily passed Durbin amendment will have numerous unintended consequences for debit card users, including reduced access and increased fees. I’m sympathetic to retailers’ concerns and am open to a better solution, but the Durbin amendment isn’t the answer.”
“I’m concerned that the proposed rule dictating debit card interchange fees willhave a harmful effect on consumers, small banks and credit unions,” Carper said. “This legislation will allow Congress and federal regulators to take a thoughtful pause and avoid unintended consequences.”
“The government should not be in the business of setting price controls on any product and implementing this rule would set a precedent for that,” said Roberts. “We need more time to sufficiently review this regulation, because failing to get it right ultimately means it will fall on the backs of consumers, merchants and financial institutions, including our small community banks. And at a time when Americans are watching every penny, we cannot afford to let that happen.”
"The concerns raised by Fed Chairman Bernanke and FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair about the potential harm to credit unions and community banks require further study of the unintended consequences of this rule," Coons said. "Any government regulation of interchange fees should yield some tangible consumer benefit, but the Fed's current cap offers no such guarantee. Further study will help yield a more thoughtful, long-term solution."
A copy of the S. 575 can be found online HERE.
Lee: Support for CR is a ‘Losing Strategy’
Mar 15, 2011
WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Mike Lee of Utah announced he would continue to oppose any continuation of current spending that did not seriously address our deficit and debt, and lacked structural spending reforms. Lee said he plans to vote against the ‘continuing resolution’ that is expected to come to the Senate floor this week because the so-called spending ‘cuts’ in the bill are inadequate and it does not take steps to prevent future overspending.
“It is unfortunate that Members of Congress in both parties are supporting a losing strategy, rather than doing what is right for the country,” said Lee. “The continuing resolution maintains unsustainable spending levels despite widespread agreement that we need meaningful reductions. The question before the Senate is whether we are going to take bold action now to reduce our deficit and control spending, or keep putting it off and drive the country further into debt.
“I am pleased to see a growing number of Members beginning to see the budget debate in these terms and have pledged to oppose additional continuing resolutions. My hope is that we attract enough support to finally put an end to this short-sighted tactic and forge a long-term agreement that is right for the American people.”
Lee Calls for Antitrust Oversight Hearings on Google
Mar 11, 2011
Washington, DC - Senator Michael S. Lee (R-UT) today called for the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee to conduct an oversight hearing on Google Inc. Lee joins Chairman Herb Kohl in encouraging hearings on the business practices of the dominant search firm. Lee is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee.
In a letter to Kohl, Lee noted that those who follow the tech industry, as well as those responsible for enforcing antitrust laws, have concerns that Google could be acting to harm competition.
“The powerful position Google occupies in the general search arena creates myriad opportunities for anticompetitive behavior,” Lee writes. “The Deputy Director for Antitrust within the Bureau of Economics at the Federal Trade Commission, Howard Shelanski, recently observed that a ‘hypothetical search engine’ with various ‘scale and network economies’ might become a ‘must have’ for consumers and thereby more effectively engage in ‘anticompetitive discrimination.’”
Given its prominent position in the search and search-advertising markets, Google in some ways acts as a gatekeeper over a variety of Internet businesses.
In particular, Lee’s letter points to Google’s proposed acquisition of ITA software, which could potentially provide Google with the ability to control the travel search vertical market, currently populated by sites like Kayak, Travelocity, and Orbitz.
“Google’s position as the preeminent search engine may be abused so as to disadvantage competing vertical search sites to the detriment of advertisers and internet users,” Lee writes.
Lee adds that Google’s acquisition of personal data through searches and its many products, such as Gmail, Google Checkout, Google Books, and Google Web History, couldpresent serious privacy issues.
“Google’s powerful position as an Internet gatekeeper reduces the company’s incentive to compete with other search engines by providing enhanced privacy protection for consumers.”
“The combination of behavioral and personal information enables Google to generate consumer data that is unprecedented in scale and scope. These activities raise serious privacy concerns and may be indicative of an important market that is largely unconstrained by competition. Antitrust enforcement may unlock beneficial competition for the protection of user privacy and avert the need for additional privacy regulation.”
Utah has a growing tech sector with several large companies set to expand their businesses in the state, and was awarded Forbes “Best State for Businesses” in 2010.
“As an increasing number of companies with an online presence expand and create jobs, we want to make to maintain and competitive and business-friendly environment,” Lee said.
The full text of Senator Lee’s letter to Subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl is included below:
March 10, 2011
The Honorable Herb Kohl
Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Chairman Kohl:
I write to express my strong concerns relating to Google Inc.’s possible abuse of its predominant position in the general internet search arena and the need for vigorous antitrust oversight and enforcement in this area. As the new ranking member of the Antitrust Subcommittee, I look forward to working with you to hold a hearing on this important issue. I recognize and applaud your efforts in this area of vital importance.
The proper functioning of our nation’s free-enterprise system is critical during the current economic downturn. Enforcement of the antitrust laws is especially important for sectors in which the United States has been a leader, such as the e-commerce and online advertising industries. Antitrust enforcement is far preferable to the creation of inefficient government regulation and bureaucracy that could hamper innovation in these crucial industries. Internet search is of particular concern to me because Utah – recently labeled by Newsweek as the “new economic Zion” due to its growing number of high tech businesses – has a significant interest in preserving open competition in this importantarea of our economy.
Many commentators, as well as those responsible for enforcing antitrust laws, have voiced serious questions concerning whether Google has acted to harm competition. Given its prominent position in the search and search advertising markets, Google in some ways acts as a gatekeeper over a variety of internet businesses. Among other things, commentators have expressed concern that Google may be using its position to harm specialized (or so-called “vertical”) search sites. If allowed to compete free of restraints, vertical search sites – such as travel, mapping, and shopping sites – could attract users and advertisers from Google’s search platforms. Some vertical search sites have accused Google of using its power to deprive those websites of internet traffic by biasing the display of its search-advertising and search results.
Likewise, some claim that Google may disadvantage rivals in subtle, potentially undetectable, ways. Indeed, Google’s founders recognized as early as 1998 that “a search engine could add a small factor to search results from ‘friendly’ companies, and subtract a factor from results from competitors” and that “[t]his type of bias is very difficult to detect but could still have a significant effect on the market.” Whether this type of behavior is occurring is a question of great practical significance. The powerful position Google occupies in the general search arena creates myriad opportunities for anticompetitive behavior. The Deputy Director for Antitrust within the Bureau of Economics at the Federal Trade Commission, Howard Shelanski, recently observed that a “hypothetical search engine” with various “scale and network economies” might become a “must have” for consumers and thereby more effectively engage in “anticompetitive discrimination.” According to Shelanski, “once one realizes there could be an application . . . that is more essential to consumers than any particular downstream network, then the locus of possible bottleneck discrimination . . . shifts upstream.”
The DOJ has extensively analyzed bias in the display of airfares to travel agents on airline-owned computerized reservation systems (“CRSs”) and concluded that “[p]erhaps the most effective and insidious method by which an airline can use a CRS with market power to punish other carriers for competing with it is secretly to bias the system in favor of the host carrier.” The DOJ went on to point out that “[b]ias influences, and may mislead, the travel agent who uses CRS in such a way as to cause airline ticket revenues to shift from competing carriers to the host.” In a similar way, Google’s position as the preeminent search engine may be abused so as to disadvantage competing horizontal and vertical search sites to the detriment of advertisers and internet users. As you know, the DOJ is in the process of determining whether to approve Google’s proposed acquisition of ITA Software – a deal that could potentially provide Google with the ability to control the travel search vertical market.
In addition to its consideration of the contemplated ITA acquisition, I believe the DOJ should also investigate whether Google’s powerful position as an internet gatekeeper reduces the company’s incentive to compete with other search engines by providing enhanced privacy protection for consumers. Google collects an unequaled amount of information about consumers through its search platform, including data about web searches, reactions to online advertising, and precise geographic location for both mobile devices and personal computers. Google also gathers an enormous amount of consumer information through its related products and services, including Gmail, Google Checkout, Google Books, and Google Web History. Google has admitted that for nearly three years it used its Street View mapping service – without notice or consent – to access unprotected Wi-Fi networks and amass extensive information about theinternet activities of American consumers in all 50 states. The combination of behavioral and personal information enables Google to generate consumer data that is unprecedented in scale and scope. These activities raise serious privacy concerns and may be indicative of an important market that is largely unconstrained by competition. Antitrust enforcement may unlock beneficial competition for the protection of user privacy and avert the need for additional privacy regulation.
Oversight by our Subcommittee is essential in helping free markets flourish in this important area of our economy. Ensuring robust competition will benefit consumers, spur innovation, and lead to job creation in our nation’s high-tech internet economy. Utah, ranked by Forbes magazine as the “Best State for Business” in 2010, will likewise benefit from the preservation of competition in this area. Vigorous antitrust enforcement is almost always preferable to a system of government regulations, which will inevitably be more costly and less efficient than a free market unencumbered by anticompetitive restrictions.
I very much appreciate your efforts in this regard and look forward to our work together.
Michael S. Lee
Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee
Lee Opposes Status Quo on Deficit and Debt
Mar 9, 2011
WASHINGTON – After voting against both the Democrat and GOP spending bills, Senator Mike Lee of Utah released the following statement:
“The fight over cutting $10 billion or $60 billion is not a serious discussion about how to fix what’s broken,” said Lee. “It does not begin to address our massive $1.65 trillion deficit, and completely ignores any long-term structural restraints necessary to impede Congress’s insatiable appetite to spend. If you think of our annual deficit as a football field, the Democrat proposal moves the ball just over half a yard toward the goal line. The Republican proposal moves it just three and a half yards. That is not a winning strategy for the country.
“As long as these spending proposals maintain the status quo on our deficit and debt without instituting some measure of external structural control, I will oppose them.”
Senator Lee has proposed a Balanced Budget Amendment that would act as a strict structural restraint on spending and force Congress to prioritize its constitutional obligations. During an interview this week, Senator Lee reiterated his willingness to filibuster any effort to increase the national debt, without first voting on a Balanced Budget Amendment.
“I will resist any effort to raise the national debt ceiling, and that will include utilizing the filibuster rules,” Lee said. See the full interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZxFSwgNp-0
Lee to Oppose Spending Proposal
Mar 2, 2011
WASHINGTON - Today, Senator Mike Lee of Utah announced that he would vote against a proposed spending bill intended to fund government activity for two weeks. The Senator said the continuing resolution did not reflect the message the American people sent last year to make significant cuts to government spending and reduce the national debt.
"The proposal is a disappointing failure on the part of both parties to seriously address the economic meltdown we face from our massive deficit and growing national debt," said Lee. "While some have been patting themselves on the back for proposing $4 billion in so-called ‘cuts’, in reality, this bill fully funds billions upon billions of dollars in wasteful, duplicative programs that should be eliminated, reduced, or reformed.
"Support for the ‘continuing resolution’ means continuing Congress's unfortunate record of driving this country into debt. If a $1.6 trillion deficit and $15 trillion national debt do not force this Congress into bold action, then I have little patience for procedural games that kick the can an inch or two down the street.
"This is not the kind of legislation the people of Utah sent me to Washington to support and I cannot in good faith do so."
Lee Delivers Maiden Speech, Urges Balanced Budget Reform
Mar 1, 2011
WASHINGTON—Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) today delivered his first official speech on the Senate floor, focusing on the need to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Lee has been a staunch advocate for structural budgetary restraints that will hold Congress accountable for how it spends taxpayer resources. The speech included a call to move past the traditional partisan divides over spending and make the tough choices to reduce the country’s massive national debt.
“In the past there has been a great debate between, on the one hand, some Republicans who have been unwilling to cut some programs - to consider in any context cuts in the area of, say, national defense. You've had others who perhaps from the other party have been unwilling to consider any cuts to any entitlement program.
“But we're now faced with a scenario in which both sides of the aisle can understand that our perpetual deficit spending habit places in jeopardy every single aspect of the operations of the federal government.
“We now face a moment when both liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, regardless of what they most want to protect most in their federal government, have to realize that what they most want to protect is placed in grave jeopardy by our current spending practices.
“I'm troubled by the fact that as we approach debate surrounding a continuing resolution, this week a continuing resolution is likely to operate for just a few weeks to keep the government funded, we're still talking about adding on an annualized basis to our national debt at $1.5 trillion a year.
“I think the American people deserve better. I know that they demand better. And some of the things that we saw in the 2010 election cycle portends something greater than what we're going to see in the 2012 election cycle. Americans want Congress to balance the budget and they want us to do something about it, more than just talking about it.
“Benjamin Franklin used to say, ‘He'll cheat without scruple, who can without fear.’ I think the congressional corollary to that might be that Congress, which can continue to engage in perpetual deficit spending, will continue to do unless or until the people require that Congress to put itself in a straitjacket. That's the straitjacket we need. That's why I'm proposing this [Balanced Budget] Amendment.”
Senator Lee has recently introduced a “sense of the Senate” amendment to a bill being debated in the Senate today that would put Members on record as supporting or opposing a nonspecific Balanced Budget proposal.
Lee’s specific constitutional amendment, SJ Res 5, cosponsored by Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, includes the following three pillars: (1) requiring a balanced budget for each fiscal year, (2) limiting federal spending to no more than 18 percent of GDP, and (3) requiring a two-thirds vote in both Houses of Congress in order to increase taxes, raise the debt ceiling, or run a specific deficit in a particular year.