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Mike Lee (American politician)

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Michael Shumway Lee (born June 4, 1971) is an American politician, author and lawyer who is the junior United States Senator from Utah. A libertarian-leaning member of the Republican Party, Lee has served in the U.S. Senate since January 3, 2011.

Mike Lee
Mike Lee official portrait 112th Congress.jpg
United States Senator
from Utah
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
Serving with Orrin Hatch
Preceded by Bob Bennett
Personal details
Born Michael Shumway Lee
(1971-06-04) June 4, 1971 (age 46)
Mesa, Arizona, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Sharon Burr (m. 1993)
Relations Thomas Rex Lee (Brother)
Children 3
Education Brigham Young University (BA, JD)
Website Senate website

Born in Mesa, Arizona, Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University. Lee began his career as a clerk for the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah before serving as a clerk for future Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who was then a judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He then entered private practice with the Sidley Austin law firm in Washington D.C. In 2002, Lee returned to his home state to work as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah, a position he held until 2005. Subsequently, he joined the administration of Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, serving as the general counsel in the office of the governor from 2005 to 2006. Lee then reentered private practice in Washington D.C., with Howrey LLP.

In 2010, at the beginning of the Tea Party movement, Lee entered the party caucus process to challenge incumbent three term Republican Senator Bob Bennett. Lee went on to defeat Bennett and business owner Tim Bridgewater during the nominating process at the Utah Republican Party Convention, receiving 1,854 votes in the final round. The two highest caucus performers were then put before primary voters, with Lee winning by 51%. He then defeated Democratic candidate Sam Granato in the general election with 61% of the vote to Granato's 32%. Lee is the son of Rex E. Lee, Solicitor General under President Reagan, founding dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School and president of Brigham Young University.


Early life and educationEdit

Lee was born in Mesa, Arizona on June 4, 1971, the son of Janet (née Griffin) and Rex E. Lee. His family moved to Provo, Utah one year later, when his father became the founding dean of Brigham Young University's J. Reuben Clark Law School. While Lee spent about half of his childhood years in Utah, he spent the other half in McLean, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. His father served first as an Assistant U.S. Attorney General (overseeing the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice during the Ford Administration) from 1975 until 1976, and then as the U.S. Solicitor General (charged with representing the United States government before the Supreme Court during the first term of the Reagan Administration) from 1981 until 1985. Lee is of English, Swiss, and Danish descent on his father's side.[1][2]

Growing up, Lee went to school with Senator Strom Thurmond's daughter, Nancy Moore Thurmond, and lived three doors down from Senator Robert Byrd. He was friends with Harry Reid's son Josh. Senator Reid was the Lees' home teacher. Lee recalls as a child how Senator Reid once locked him and Josh in their garage as a practical joke.[1] According to Lee, the Reid family were the first Democrats he knew well and it was dealing with them that showed him the importance of being able to defend his political views in discussion with those who held other views.[2]

After graduating from Timpview High School (Provo, Utah) in 1989, Lee attended Brigham Young University as an undergraduate student, receiving a BA in political science in 1994. He served as the president of BYUSA, a prominent student service organization,[citation needed] and as student body president, during the 1993–1994 school year,[3] serving together with his father, Rex E. Lee, who was president of BYU at the time. Lee received his J.D. from BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School in 1997.[3]

Legal careerEdit

After graduation from law school in 1997, Lee served as a law clerk to Judge Dee Benson of the United States District Court for the District of Utah. The following year, he clerked for then-Judge Samuel Alito, who was serving at that time on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. After finishing his clerkships, Lee joined the Washington, D.C. office of Sidley Austin, where he specialized in appellate and Supreme Court litigation. Several years later, Lee returned to Utah to serve as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Salt Lake City, preparing briefs and arguing cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. He served as general counsel to Utah Governor Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. from January 2005 until June 2006, when he returned to Washington to serve a one-year clerkship at the U.S. Supreme Court with Justice Alito.[citation needed] Lee returned to Utah (and to private practice) in the summer of 2007, joining the Salt Lake office of the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Howrey LLP. Lee focused on courtroom advocacy and constitutional law.[citation needed]

As an attorney, Lee also represented Class A low-level radioactive waste facility provider EnergySolutions Inc. in a highly publicized dispute between the company and the Utah public and public officials that caused controversy during his Senate election. Utah's government had allowed the company to store radioactive waste in the state so long as it was low-grade "Class A" material. When the company arranged to store waste from Italy, many objected to the waste being foreign and that it could potentially be more radioactive than permitted. Lee argued that the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution allowed the company to accept foreign waste and that the waste could be reduced in grade by mixing it with lower grade materials, while the government of Utah sought to ban the importation of foreign waste using an interstate radioactive waste compact. EnergySolutions eventually abandoned its plans to store Italian radioactive waste in Utah, ending the dispute, with the 10th U.S. Circuit court later ruling that the compact had the power to block foreign radioactive waste from being stored in Utah.[4][5]

Political positionsEdit


In 2017, Mike Lee voted S.J.Res.34, a joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission relating to "Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services" from taking effect.[6]

Climate changeEdit

In 2011, Mike Lee voted to limit the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.[7] In 2013, he voted to make it harder for Congress to put a price on carbon through a point of order opposing a carbon tax or a fee on carbon emissions. The measure did not pass.[8] At a May 2016 event, he stated that it "has long been obvious that the Democratic Party’s assertion that the science of climate change is “settled” is little more than a cheap public-relations ploy masquerading as a monopoly on scientific knowledge”.[9]

In 2017, Lee was one of 22 senators to sign a letter[10] to President Donald Trump urging the President to have the United States withdraw from the Paris Agreement. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Lee has received from oil & gas interests $231,520 and from coal interests $21,895 for a total of $253,415 since 2012.[11]


Senator Mike Lee was part of the group of 13 Senators drafting the Senate version of the AHCA behind closed doors.[12] Senator Lee eventually came out against the bill, along with fellow Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, bringing the "no" vote total among Republicans to four.[13] This ruined any chance of the bill's passage.[14]


Since his election to the Senate in 2010, Lee has published four books:

  • The Freedom Agenda: Why a Balanced Budget Amendment is Necessary to Restore Constitutional Government (July 2011, Regnery Publishing)
  • Why John Roberts Was Wrong About Healthcare: A Conservative Critique of The Supreme Court's Obamacare Ruling (June 2013, Threshold Editions e-book)
  • Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America's Founding Document (April 2015, Sentinel)
  • Written Out of History: The Forgotten Founders Who Fought Big Government (May 2017, Sentinel)

U.S. SenateEdit



Mike Lee ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010. At the Republican State Convention, he received 982 votes (28.75%) on the first ballot, defeating[clarification needed] Tim Bridgewater and incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Bennett. Bridgewater, however, won the second and third ballots to win the party endorsement. Both Bridgewater and Lee received enough support to have their names placed on the primary ballot.[citation needed]

In the primary election, held on June 22, 2010, Lee became the Republican nominee by winning 51 percent of the vote against Bridgewater's 49 percent.[15]

Lee won the general election on November 2, 2010 with 62 percent of the vote to Democrat Sam Granato's 33 percent and Constitution Party candidate Scott Bradley's 6 percent.[16]


Mike Lee speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 26, 2015.

Lee ran for re-election in 2016. He was endorsed by the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.[17]



In 2011, Club for Growth gave him a 100% score. Only four other U.S. Senators received a perfect score: Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, Jim DeMint, and Tom Coburn.[18] He also received a 100% Conservative voting record for 2011 from the American Conservative Union.[19] The Heritage Foundation gave him a 99% score, ranking first only with DeMint.[20] The only wrong vote he made, in the opinion of the Heritage Foundation, was voting for the GSE Bailout Elimination and Taxpayer Protection Act, which would privatize Fannie and Freddy.[21] He received a Liberal Action score of 38%.[22]

Patriot ActEdit

In February 2011, Lee was one of two Republicans, along with Rand Paul of Kentucky, to vote against extending the three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that deal with roving wiretaps, "lone wolf" terrorism suspects, and the government's ability to seize "any tangible items" in the course of surveillance.[23] He voted in the same manner in May 2011.[24]

NDAA for Fiscal Year 2012Edit

On December 1, 2011, Lee was one of only seven U.S. Senators, and one of only three Republicans, to vote against the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.[25] He opposed the bill because of concerns over Section 1021, the section of the bill that gives the Armed Forces the power to indefinitely detain any person "who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners", and anyone who commits a "belligerent act" against the U.S. or its coalition allies in aid of such enemy forces, under the law of war, "without trial, until the end of the hostilities authorized by the AUMF".[citation needed]

Social Security reformEdit

In April 2011, Lee joined with Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and fellow Senate Tea Party Caucus member Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) to propose a plan they claimed would extend the financial viability of the U.S. Social Security retirement payment system.[26] The three Senators' reform proposal (called the Social Security Solvency and Sustainability Act) was notable because it did not propose any tax increases to ensure solvency.[27] Instead, it suggested that the $5.4 trillion difference between what was then funded and what had been promised could be eliminated by increasing the retirement age to 70 by the year 2032, and slightly reducing the benefits paid to upper-income recipients.[28]

Criminal justice reformEdit

In 2013, Lee proposed a bill with the aim "to focus limited Federal resources on the most serious offenders" together with Dick Durbin (D) and Patrick Leahy (D). The bill would reduce some minimum sentences for drug-related offenses by half.[29]

Debt CeilingEdit

Lee was criticized by Republican Sen. John McCain and others for being overly vocal in his criticism of other Republicans and for obstructing a deal to end the United States federal government shutdown of 2013.[30][31]

Flint water crisisEdit

in 2016, Lee used a procedural hold to block a vote on federal assistance for the Flint, Michigan water crisis.[32] He was initially part of a group of senators blocking $220 million in aid to repair lead contaminated pipes but, due to public pressure on others, Lee eventually became the last opposing senator.[33] While initially anonymous, multiple sources leaked Lee's opposition to the media.[34]

Roy Moore endorsementEdit

On October 16, 2017, Lee endorsed Roy Moore in the 2017 Alabama special election runoff, to fill the seat of Senator Jeff Sessions.[35] Moore had been removed as the Alabama Supreme Court's chief justice in 2003, for defying a federal order to remove an illegal Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building. He was reelected as chief justice in 2012. In May 2016, Moore was once again removed from the bench by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC), permanently via suspension for the rest of his term, making him ineligible for reelection,[36] for ordering state probate judges to ignore a U.S. Supreme Court decision.[37] In a 50-page opinion by the Court of the Judiciary, it denied Moore's appeal of the JIC's decision, and said Moore's removal was necessary " preserve the integrity, independence, impartiality of Alabama's judiciary."[38] Nevertheless, Lee praised Moore for his "reputation of integrity" and said that he was essential to getting conservative legislation through the Senate. "That is why I am proudly endorsing Judge Roy Moore. Alabamians have the chance to send a proven, conservative fighter to the United States Senate," [35] On November 9, 2017, Moore was accused of molesting a 14-year old and other girls under the age of 18.[39] On November 10th, Lee asked the Moore campaign to stop employing Lee's endorsement of Moore in its fundraising ads.[40] Lee's spokesperson said of the sexual misconduct allegations, "If these allegations are true, Judge Moore should resign."[41] Later that day, Lee rescinded his endorsement of Moore.[42]

Committee assignmentsEdit


Personal lifeEdit

Lee married Sharon Burr in 1993. They live in Alpine, Utah and have three children,[43] John David, James Rex, and Eliza Rose Lee.[44] Lee is a second cousin to former U.S. Senator Mark Udall of Colorado and current U.S. Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, as well as former Senator Gordon H. Smith of Oregon.[45]

Lee has served on the BYU alumni board, the BYU Law School alumni board, and as a long-time member of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society and the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies. Lee earned the Eagle Scout award from Boy Scouts of America in 1989 and was selected to receive the National Eagle Scout Association Outstanding Eagle Scout Award (NOESA) in 2011.[46]

Lee speaks Spanish, a language he picked up when he was a missionary in the southern Rio Grande Valley near McAllen, Texas. In 2014, he had the opportunity to speak Spanish with Pope Francis.[47]

Mike Lee's brother, Thomas R. Lee, is a Justice of the Utah Supreme Court.

Electoral historyEdit

U.S. Senate Republican Primary Election in Utah, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Mike Lee 98,512 51.20
Republican Tim Bridgewater 93,905 48.80
U.S. Senate Election in Utah, 2010
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Mike Lee 390,179 61.56
Democratic Sam Granato 207,685 32.77
Constitution Scott Bradley 35,937 5.67
Write-in Brian Kamerath 20 0.00
Write-in Loy Brunson 6 0.00
Write-in Cody Judy 2 0.00
U.S. Senate Election in Utah, 2016[48]
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Mike Lee 760,220 68.15
Democratic Misty Snow 301,858 27.06
Independent American Stoney Fonua 27,339 2.45
Independent Bill Barron 26,166 2.35

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Rucker, Philip (February 5, 2011). "Sen. Mike Lee: A political insider refashions himself as tea party revolutionary". The Washington Post. 
  2. ^ a b Litvan, Laura (February 28, 2012). "Obama's Nominee Battle a One-Man Fight By Freshman Senator Lee". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "About Mike". Mike Lee, U.S. Senator for Utah. Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  4. ^ Fahys, Judy (January 14, 2010). "Utah argues case to ban foreign nuke waste". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved December 17, 2014. 
  5. ^ Vergakis, Brock (November 9, 2010). "Court: Compact can keep foreign nuke waste out". KSL. Retrieved December 17, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Vote to prevent privacy protections from taking effect (SJ Res. 34)". Retrieved 2017-03-28. 
  7. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 112th Congress - 1st Session, Vote Number 54, 2011-04-06." Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  8. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress - 1st Session, Vote Number 59, 2013-03-22." Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  9. ^ "Updates From Senator Lee's Office | Weber Sentinel News | Serving the Great Constitution of the United States". Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  10. ^ Inhofe, James. "Senator". Retrieved 7 June 2017. 
  11. ^ "The Republicans who urged Trump to pull out of Paris deal are big oil darlings". The Guardian. June 1, 2017. Retrieved June 1, 2017. 
  12. ^ Bash, Dana; Fox, Lauren; Barrett, Ted (May 9, 2017). "GOP defends having no women in health care group". CNN. Retrieved 2017-06-14. 
  13. ^ Lee, United States Senator Mike. "Sen. Mike Lee to Vote No on Senate Health Bill". Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  14. ^ CNN, MJ Lee, Phil Mattingly and Ted Barrett. "Latest health care bill collapses". CNN. Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  15. ^ Gehrke, Robert (June 3, 2010). "Lee clinches GOP Senate nomination – Salt Lake Tribune". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved June 23, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Utah Election results". Archived from the original on March 2, 2012. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  17. ^ Raju, Manu (December 22, 2014). "Tea partier braces for primary challenge from the establishment". Politico. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  18. ^ "Club for Growth Scorecard". Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  19. ^ "2011 U.S. Senate Votes". Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  20. ^ [1] Archived May 31, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ [2] Archived August 30, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ "Senator Mike Lee of Utah: Profile, Legislative Scorecard, Contact Information, News and Campaign Contribution Data for the 112th Congress". That's My Congress!. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  23. ^ Sonmez, Felicia (February 5, 2011). "Senate passes short-term extension of Patriot Act provisions". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 17, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Senate Vote 84 – To Extend Provisions of the Patriot Act". May 26, 2011. Retrieved December 17, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Senate Roll Call #218 Details: An original bill to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2012 for military... OpenCongress". Open Congress. December 1, 2011. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  26. ^ Matt Canham (April 13, 2011). "Lee unveils Social Security reform plan". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  27. ^ Viviane Vo-Duc (April 14, 2011). "Sens. Lee, Paul and Graham: We can fix Social Security without raising taxes". Deseret News. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  28. ^ "Lee, others: raise social security age to 70". St. George Daily Spectrum. April 13, 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  29. ^ Dagan, David (November 14, 2013). "Why Mike Lee is more serious about prison reform than Rand Paul". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  30. ^ Abrams, Nick (23 May 2013). "John McCain Schools Mike Lee On Washington D.C. Politics". Huffington Post. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  31. ^ Drucker, David (11 October 2011). "Sen. Mike Lee Garnering Reputation as `New Jim DeMint'". Roll Call. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  32. ^ Daily, Matthew (4 March 2016). "Sen. Mike Lee of Utah: Federal aid not needed in Flint water crisis". PBS NewsHour. Associated Press. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  33. ^ Canham, Matt (4 March 2016). "Why Mike Lee is stopping federal aid to fix Flint's poisoned water". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  34. ^ Mak, Tim. "The Senator Holding Flint Aid Hostage". The Daily Beast. IBT Media. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  35. ^ a b Shelbourne, Mallory (2017-10-16). "Mike Lee endorses Roy Moore for Senate". TheHill. Retrieved 2017-10-16. 
  36. ^ "Roy Moore Is Suspended For Rest Of Term As Alabama's Chief Justice Over Same-Sex Marriage Stance". NPR. 2016-09-30. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  37. ^ Roy Moore will seek U.S. Senate seat, Montgomery Advertiser, Brian Lyman, April 26, 2017. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  38. ^ Roy Moore's Alabama court ouster rooted in credibility questions, CNN, Joan Biskupic, November 28, 2017. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  39. ^ McCrummen, Stephanie; Crites, Alice; Reinhard, Beth (November 9, 2017). "Woman says Roy Moore initiated sexual encounter when she was 14, he was 32". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 3, 2018. 
  40. ^ Sommer, Will (2017-11-10). "GOP senator asks to be taken off Moore fundraising appeals". TheHill. Retrieved 2017-11-10. 
  41. ^ "Hatch, Lee call on Alabama's Roy Moore to drop his Senate bid if underage sexual allegations are true". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2017-11-10. 
  42. ^ "Senators begin rescinding support of Alabama candidate Roy Moore". Retrieved 2017-11-10. 
  43. ^ "About Mike – Home – Mike Lee, United States Senator for Utah". Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  44. ^ Drake, Bruce. "Is Mike Lee Married?". Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  45. ^ Lee Davidson (October 24, 2010). "Senate race: Mike Lee ready to ride Senate roller coaster". The Salt Lake Tribune. Archived from the original on September 15, 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2011. 
  46. ^ "Eagles Nest NOESA". NESA Outstanding Eagle Scout Award. Boy Scouts of America, Utah National Parks Council. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  47. ^ Lee, Mike (June 13, 2014). "Hugh Hewitt Show" (Interview). Interview with Hugh Hewitt. 
  48. ^ "Utah Election Preliminary Results; Federal". Archived from the original on 25 February 2017. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 

External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by
Bob Bennett
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Utah
(Class 3)

2010, 2016
Most recent
Preceded by
Pat Toomey
Chair of the Senate Republican Steering Committee
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Bob Bennett
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Utah
Served alongside: Orrin Hatch
Honorary titles
Preceded by
George LeMieux
Baby of the Senate
Succeeded by
Brian Schatz
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Richard Blumenthal
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Dean Heller