Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Friday sounded a call to arms at The Federalist Society's annual National Lawyers Convention in Washington, urging Americans to question members of the executive, legislative and judicial branches about the extent of their authority.
Lee said each branch has a role in deciding whether the actions they take are constitutional. But he singled out Congress, saying that lawmakers – and not just the president and judges – must make decisions on constitutionality.
He said asking members of the branches where they get their power will help restore limitations on authority.
“If we just start asking that question, I think we’ll all be surprised at how much good that does,” Lee said.
During his address, Lee honed in on President Barack Obama’s sweeping healthcare legislation, which became law last year.
The senator said he doesn’t believe that Congress has the power to tell U.S. citizens they must buy health insurance. He took at aim at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for its reliance on a Supreme Court case that recognized the U.S. government’s authority to regulate economic activity in its decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“If that is the case, if the Supreme Court is willing to go as far as to say Wickard v. Filburn necessarily means that Obamacare is constitutional, then Wickard v. Filburn and its progeny is wrong and must be overturned,” Lee said.
Before joining the Senate this year, Lee was a lawyer at Howrey and Sidley & Austin. He also was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr.
National Law Journal photo by Diego M. Radzinschi.