Press Releases

Lee Introduces Bill to Reduce Costs of Federal Infrastructure Projects

Jul 17, 2014

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Mike Lee introduced a bill that would drive down the inflated costs of federally funded construction projects on our nation’s infrastructure and makes it easier for federal contractors to train and employ workers of all skill levels. The “Davis-Bacon Repeal Act” would also save the American people billions of dollars in wasted taxpayer money and diminishe the power of the cronyist alliance between big government and big labor unions.
 
“The Davis-Bacon Act exemplifies how big government hurts the people it purports to help, gives unfair advantages to favored special interests, and squeezes the middle class,” said Sen. Lee. “It crowds out low-skilled workers in the construction industry, preventing them from getting a fair shot at a job, and funnels taxpayer money to prop up big labor unions, which accrue windfall profits as Davis-Bacon removes the incentive for federal contractors to hire unskilled, non-unionized workers.”
 
Forcing the American citizens to subsidize labor unions in this way artifically inflates the costs of construction projects to repair and improve our national infrastructure. This is unfair, and unsustainable, and costing taxpayers billions of dollars every year. Senator Lee’s “Davis-Bacon Repeal Act” removes these government-imposed obstacles to economic opportunity facing low-skilled workers and returns wasted taxpayer dollars back into the hands of the American people.  Senator Lee will offer the bill as an amendment to legislation that addresses the funding of our nation's highway and transportation systems.
 
Joining Senator Lee in support of the “Davis-Bacon Repeal Act” are nine original cosponsors: Sens. Alexander (TN), Cruz (TX), Scott (SC), Sessions (AL), Coburn (OK), Johnson (WI), Cornyn (TX), Rubio (FL), and Vitter (LA).

Lee Reacts to Hobby Lobby Decision

Jun 30, 2014

WASHINGTON - In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled today that the federal government cannot force closely-held businesses to violate sincerely held religious beliefs in order to comply with the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act.  Senator Lee released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court's ruling to protect religious liberty:

"Today's decision in Burwell v Hobby Lobby marks an important victory for religious liberty. Americans do not shed their religious freedoms merely by going into business.  The Court's ruling upholds and strengthens the rights of individuals and the rule of law, while protecting the Constitution."

Lee Reacts to Supreme Court's Recess Appointments Decision

Jun 26, 2014

On January 3, 2012 the President ignored the Constitution and attempted to circumvent the Senate by unilaterally making important appointments to controversial executive agencies. Although past presidents have made recess appointments, the appointments President Obama attempted to make were different. The President attempted to change the Senate’s rules and define for himself when the Senate is in session and when it is in recess.  The Supreme Court’s decision today—in which all nine justices, including President Obama’s own nominees, held that President Obama violated the Constitution—makes plain that the President’s actions were truly unprecedented and unauthorized.

Regardless of whether the President is a Democrat or a Republican, Members of Congress have a duty to support the Constitution and defend the Senate’s prerogatives. That is why I took measures to oppose President Obama’s unconstitutional recess appointments, including speaking out against these appointments at every opportunity and opposing the President’s nominees until the Senate imposed the Leahy-Thurmond rule in the summer of 2012.

Lee to Offer Amendment to Keep Housing Decisions in Local Hands

Jun 17, 2014

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Mike Lee announced his plans to offer an amendment that would block funding for a regulation that allows the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to dictate local zoning requirements in any community across the country. 

“Even for our highly centralized federal government, this rule represents an extreme step in consolidating government decisions over distinctly local matters within the hands of distant, unaccountable bureaucrats,” said Lee. “Local authorities are far more attuned to the unique conditions and needs of their communities, and they have a personal stake in their success. In every state across the country, there is no doubt that a mayor and city council officials will be more personally invested and more effective in improving the lives of the people in their community than a federal official located in Washington, D.C.”

Senator Lee plans to offer his amendment to the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act should it be brought to the floor this week.

If funded, the “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” rule would empower federal officials to assert the authority to force any community that receives a Community Development Block Grant to comply with zoning plans written in Washington.  This rule effectively allows HUD to carve up the country, block by block, according to its own priorities and preferences.

Community Development Block Grants are allocations of federal tax dollars, issued to local governments by HUD, to address a variety of community development needs. One of the primary uses of these resources is to provide affordable public housing for individuals and families in need. Sadly, the inevitable consequence of federal management over how local officials spend this money will only make it harder for communities to provide adequate low-cost housing for their neighbors in need.

To protect the ability of local officials to serve low-income communities, Senator Lee’s amendment would prevent this egregious power grab by the federal government and would keep housing decisions closest to the people who are affected by them.

Rep. Paul Gosar is the original sponsor of a similar amendment in the House, which was successfully added to H.R. 4745, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2015.

Lee Urges Senate to Address the Threat of Western Wild Fires

Jun 11, 2014

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Mike Lee sent a letter to Senator Mary Landrieu, Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, urging the Committee to promptly schedule oversight hearings to review federal wildland fire management activities and address the threat of catastrophic wildland fire in the West. Senator Lee expressed grave concerns about the ability of the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to protect public safety during what is projected to be a severe and destructive wildfire season.
 
Along with five other Senators who signed the letter, Senator Lee explained, “One of the greatest challenges facing our western forests is the growing severity of the fire season.  Extreme fire behavior has become the new normal, due in no small part, to the mismanagement or lack of management of our public lands.  This mismanagement has resulted in the loss of property, natural resources, wildlife habitat, as well as jobs and economic opportunities in rural communities.”
 
The Senators urged the Committee to follow the lead of the House of Representatives, which has “already approved legislation to restore active forest management,” and act quickly on this urgent matter. “Given that this fire season is off to an early and destructive start, it is critical that the Committee hear from the land-management agencies and examine and evaluate the agencies’ capacity to respond appropriately to wildfires, reduce fire risk to communities, and improve forest, watershed, and rangeland health.”
 
These oversight hearings represent the crucial first step in advancing “national forestry, rangeland, and watershed management reforms that will reduce wildland fire risks through more active management.”

Lee Attends SASC Briefing on Bergdahl

Jun 10, 2014

Senator Mike Lee, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), attended a meeting of SASC members this morning to receive a classified briefing from senior Pentagon officials on the prisoner exchange of five high-level Taliban leaders for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  
 
The transfer of these detainees from Guantanamo Bay violated federal law requiring the Department of Defense to notify Congress 30 days prior to the transfer of any detainees from that facility.  Following the briefing, Senator Lee remained concerned that the administration did not fully recognize the security implications of transferring these detainees and allowing them to eventually return to Afghanistan.
 
Said Senator Lee, "These five detainees were important leaders of the former Taliban government and had previously been deemed too dangerous to transfer, as recently as 2010.  We still have serious questions about why suddenly they were no longer dangerous, and whether their return to Afghanistan could result in undermining over a decade of American work in that country that cost the lives of thousands of our service members."
 
Senator Lee will continue to push for answers to these questions and ensure that these decisions are being made more responsibly and with greater oversight.

Lee: President's Syria Proposal Raises Security Questions

May 28, 2014

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Mike Lee said Obama’s announcement to expand support to Syrian rebels raises serious security questions regarding the composition of Syrian opposition forces and the ability of the United States to ensure that terrorist groups do not have access to U.S. assistance.

Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) passed its annual authorization bill for the Department of Defense, which included a provision that would authorize the Secretary of Defense to provide a broad range of assistance, including lethal aid, to opposition forces in Syria. 

“The situation in Syria is desperate and we should be constantly assessing it for threats to U.S. security, but I am concerned that sending American weapons and training into this crisis could be like pouring gas on a fire,” Lee stated. “When senior members of the president’s national security team cannot guarantee that assistance won’t fall into the hands of our enemies, or that the people we train today won’t be fighting alongside al-Qaeda tomorrow, we should be very careful in considering approaches that could assist extremists in that conflict.”

Following the March 6 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), CENTCOM Commander General Lloyd Austin stated in an answer for the record:

“No, we cannot guarantee the assistance we provide doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.  Undoubtedly, some weapons and funds flowing into Syria wind up in the hands of extremists such as Al Nusrah Front or the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).”

On February 11, during a SASC hearing regarding the relationship of moderate opposition and extremist groups in Syria, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Senator Lee:

“Well, they are an agreement of convenience, I would say.  Oftentimes, these groups will apparently – which are quite fluid, by the way – may disagree ideologically, but will, if it’s convenient for them in a tactical context, agree to work together.”

The bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, was reported out of committee by a vote of 25-1, with Senator Lee as the only “NO” vote due to the Syrian provision, as well as other concerns.

 


Klobuchar, Lee Call for Review of AT&T’s Proposed Acquisition of DirectTV

May 23, 2014

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Lee (R-UT) today sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding AT&T’s proposed acquisition of DirectTV. In the letter, the Senators urged the DOJ and FCC to assess the impact that the proposed merger could have on consumers, including price, choice, and quality of service. Klobuchar, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, and Lee, the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee, will hold a hearing to examine the potential acquisition this summer.
 
“This proposed transaction would result in additional consolidation in the market for pay television and may impact consumer welfare in that market and other markets in which the companies operate,” the Senators said in the letter. “As always, the key to analyzing any merger should be the effect it will have on consumers, including price, choice, quality of service, and innovation.”

The full text of the letter is below:
 
Dear Assistant Attorney General Baer and Chairman Wheeler:
 
As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, we write regarding AT&T’s proposed acquisition of DirecTV.  This proposed transaction would result in additional consolidation in the market for pay television and may impact consumer welfare in that market and other markets in which the companies operate.  For example, the companies currently compete with each other in 25 percent of the country, including in 10 of the top 20 markets.  In addition, this merger, taken together with the recently announced merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, could potentially affect future innovation and technological advances, including the availability of online video distribution.   
 
AT&T and DirecTV state that their merger will create a “competitive alternative to cable for consumers wanting a better bundle of top-quality broadband, video and mobile services, as well as a better customer experience and enhanced innovation.”  The companies further state that increased scale will allow the merged entity to realize cost synergies.
 
As you review this transaction, we believe it is important to validate and weigh these efficiencies against the potential competitive harms that could result from the transaction.  As always, the key to analyzing any merger should be the effect it will have on consumers, including price, choice, quality of service, and innovation.
 
We plan to hold a Subcommittee hearing this summer to examine the important issues raised by this proposed merger and will follow up with you based on the evidence and testimony reviewed during that process.  Thank you for your attention to this matter.
 
Sincerely,

Klobuchar, Lee Statements on AT&T-DirecTV Merger

May 19, 2014

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Lee (R-UT) today released the following statements regarding the AT&T-DirecTV merger. Klobuchar is chair and Lee is ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights.
 
“AT&T's proposed acquisition of DirecTV is yet another merger that has the potential to dramatically change the television market,” Klobuchar said. “As chair of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, I will hold a hearing to examine the effect this merger would have on competition, innovation, and the prices, choices, and service offered to consumers across the country.”
 
“The announcement of an additional merger in the telecommunications and media industry raises concerns about the level of consolidation in these markets,” Lee said. “At the same time, consolidation can benefit consumers in some circumstances.  I look forward to carefully reviewing the evidence and examining the effect this transaction may have on consumer welfare.”

Western Caucuses Urge EPA to Halt “Waters of the US" Rule

May 8, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, Senator Mike Lee joined Senate Western Caucus Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) and Congressional Western Caucus co-chairs Stevan Pearce (R-NM) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and 42 other Caucus Members in sending a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy.  
 
In their letter, the Caucus members call on the EPA to refrain from moving forward with their controversial “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule that will drastically expand federal regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. The members also highlight how this rule will negatively impact farms, small businesses, energy production, commercial development and substantially interfere with the ability of individual landowners to use their property.
 
“We urge you to change course by committing to operating under the limits established by Congress, recognizing the states’ primary role in regulating and protecting their streams, ponds, wetlands and other bodies of water.  We also again ask that you consider the economic impacts of your policies knowing that your actions will have serious impacts on struggling families, seniors, low-income households and small business owners,”Caucus Members wrote.
 
In addition to Barrasso, Pearce and Lummis, the letter was signed by Senators David Vitter (R-LA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mike Lee (R-UT), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Orrin Hatch (R-UT),  John Thune (R-SD), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Roy Blunt (R-AR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Deb Fischer (R-NE),  John Cornyn (R-TX), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mike Johanns (R-NE),  James Risch (R-ID) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representatives Rob Bishop (UT-01), Markwayne Mullin (OK-01), Jeff Denham (CA-10), Mike Simpson (ID-02), Don Young (AK-AL), Walter Jones (NC-03), Matt Salmon (AZ-05), Scott Tipton (CO-03), Mike Conaway (TX-11), Mark Amadei (NV-02), Cory Gardner (CO-04), Jeff Duncan (SC-03), Chris Stewart (UT-02), Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Tom McClintock (CA-04), Kevin Cramer (ND-AL), Devin Nunes (CA-22), David Schweikert (AZ-06), Randy Neugebaurer (TX-19), Raul Labrador (ID-01), Kristi Noem (SD-AL), Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Trent Franks (AZ-08), Paul Broun (GA-10), Mike Coffman (CO-06), Jason Chaffetz (UT-03).
 
The full text of the letter:
May 8, 2014
 
The Honorable Gina McCarthy
Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
 
Dear Administrator McCarthy,
 
As members of the Senate and Congressional Western Caucuses, we are contacting you regarding our opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to significantly expand federal regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
 
We have reviewed the proposed rule that you signed on March 25th and have concluded that the rule provides essentially no limit to CWA jurisdiction.  This is despite the Supreme Court consistently recognizing that Congress limited the authority of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers under the CWA.  
 
There has been strong opposition to EPA’s approach due to the devastating economic impacts that a federal takeover of state waters would have.  Additional and substantial regulatory costs associated with changes in jurisdiction and increased permitting requirements will result in  bureaucratic barriers to economic growth, negatively impacting farms, small businesses, commercial development, road construction and energy production, to name a few.
 
The threat of ruinous penalties for alleged noncompliance with the CWA is also likely to become more common given the proposed rule’s expansive approach.  For example, the EPA’s disputed classification of a small, local creek as a “water of the United States” could cost as much as $187,500 per day in civil penalties for Wyoming resident Andrew Johnson.  Similar uncertainty established under the proposed rule will ensure that expanding federal control over intrastate waters will substantially interfere with the ability of individual landowners to use their property.
 
We share the concerns expressed by the Western Governors Association regarding the lack of meaningful state consultation in crafting this rule.  The Western Governors stated in a letter to you on March 25th that they –
 
“are concerned that this rulemaking was developed without sufficient consultation with the states and that the rulemaking could impinge upon state authority in water management.”

 
We fail to understand why the EPA has not adequately consulted our Governors about a rule that has such a significant impact on the economy of our states.  For example, rural states in the West have sizeable ranching and farming operations that will be seriously impacted by this rule.  Despite the claim that the Army Corps will exempt 53 farming practices as established by the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the list of 53 does not cover all existing agricultural practices.  There are a number of farming and ranching practices, such as the application of pesticides, that are not covered on this list that occur every day in the West without penalty.  Under this new proposed rule, it appears those farmers and ranchers will need to get a permit or be penalized if they continue to use those non-covered practices in new federal waters.
 
Congress has demonstrated strong opposition to past efforts to have the federal government control all wet areas of the states.  During the recent consideration of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), a bipartisan group of Senators voted 52 to 44 to reject the EPA’s CWA Jurisdiction Guidance, which would have also resulted in effectively unlimited jurisdiction over intrastate water bodies.  Efforts to pass legislation to have the federal government control all non-navigable waters have also failed in past Congresses.
 
We urge you to change course by committing to operating under the limits established by Congress, recognizing the states’ primary role in regulating and protecting their streams, ponds, wetlands and other bodies of water.  We also again ask that you consider the economic impacts of your policies knowing that your actions will have serious impacts on struggling families, seniors, low-income households and small business owners.