Lee says he'll buck party leaders to push mandate
Washington • Appearing on his first Sunday national political talk show, Sen.-elect Mike Lee said his major goal will be to push an amendment to the Constitution that requires Congress to balance its budget and that he's willing to slash government services even if it means Americans might have to do without key programs.
The Utah Republican, who on Monday takes the seat of outgoing Sen. Bob Bennett, also told Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace that he is willing to stand up to his own Republican leaders in the Senate.
"Well, certainly, that's what elections are about," Lee said. "That's why we have senators and members of Congress from every state, that's why we have elections because the people speak and there are different viewpoints out there. It doesn't mean just because we're members of one party or another that we behave monolithically. It means that we express our viewpoints and I intend to do that."
Lee, a darling of the tea party movement, helped topple Bennett from his fourth-term bid and won a contentious primary to earn his spot in Congress. He said Sunday that Americans gave him and other new members a mandate to limit federal spending, even if that means cutting programs that some rely on.
"Look, Americans are already doing that," Lee told Fox News. "They're doing that already in their homes and with their families and their businesses; state and local governments are doing that. The federal government shouldn't be exempt from everything that other Americans have to do at every level of our society, and it's time that once and for all we stop perpetually spending money we don't have and sending the bill to unborn generations of Americans."
Part of that effort, Lee said, is to pass a balanced-budget amendment, one of his top priorities this year. "I think we can get that done in 2011, and I'm willing to push it," he said.
Lee also defended his hiring of Utah lobbyist Spencer Stokes as his chief of staff. The incoming senator said Stokes is a "brilliant man" and he wasn't scared off by Stokes having worked as a lobbyist.