Utah Sen. Mike Lee isn’t giving President Joe Biden any honeymoon in his new job.
He has voted against all four Cabinet-level nominees confirmed by the full Senate so far — and signaled that he will also vote against the next nominee scheduled for a vote.
The Utah Republican is one of only two senators to vote against all four nominee confirmed to this point, along with Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who made headlines by pushing to overturn the electoral vote even after the U.S. Senate was stormed by pro-Donald Trump rioters.
In contrast, Utah’s other Republican senator, Mitt Romney, has supported all four who were confirmed so far. Also, all the nominees so far each received support from a majority of Senate Republicans.
When asked why Lee opposed those nominees, his office provided specific reasons for opposing each of the four — rather than indicating he has an overarching philosophical reason for opposing Biden’s nominees as a group.
Following are the reasons offered by Conn Carroll, Lee’s communications director:
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin
The retired four-star Army general was confirmed on a 93-2 vote, with only Lee and Hawley voting no.
Austin, the first Black defense secretary, also had to win waivers from the House and Senate (also opposed by Lee) to allow him to serve without first waiting through a normally required 7-year period after active military service.
As Carroll previously said, “Sen. Lee believes civilian control of the military is best served by the existing rule requiring a seven-year gap between active duty and the position of Secretary of Defense. Other senators may have voted to waive that rule for Gen. Austin, but Sen. Lee believes it should be uniformly applied.”
However, four years ago, Lee voted for a waiver — and later to confirm — President Donald Trump’s first secretary of defense, former Marine four-star General James Mattis. In 2017, Mattis was confirmed on a 98-1 vote, after winning the needed waiver on an 81-17 Senate vote.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen
Yellen was confirmed on an 84-15 vote to become the first-ever woman serving as treasury secretary.
Lee voted no because he opposes her philosophy about public debt and the deficit, Carroll said.
“Sen. Lee met personally with Secretary Yellen and asked her directly about her commitment to reducing the debt and deficit,” he said. “Secretary Yellen’s answers made it clear she did not view debt or deficit reduction as a priority of hers. Sen. Lee strongly disagrees and voted accordingly.”
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken
The diplomat, longtime advisor to Biden and son of Jewish holocaust survivors was confirmed on a 78-22 vote.
Carroll said Lee voted no because he dislikes several facets of Blinken’s approach to foreign policy.
“Sen. Lee maintains significant reservations about Mr. Blinken’s approach to U.S. involvement in the Middle East, his blanket deference to multilateral organizations, and his posture that limits [the Constitution’s] Article I input [from Congress] in foreign policy decisions where constitutionally required.”
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines
The former deputy national security adviser and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency was confirmed on an 84-10 vote.
Carroll said Lee, who voted no, worries she may not share enough information with Congress.
“Sen. Lee has always had concerns with how the intelligence community shares information with Congress, concerns he raised multiple times with the Trump administration,” Carroll said.
“After speaking with Ms. Haines, Sen. Lee remained concerned that the intelligence community was not sharing enough information with enough members of Congress to provide proper oversight of these powerful government agencies.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas
A vote on Mayorkas is scheduled for Monday afternoon. But Lee signaled on Thursday — after a vote passed to cut off debate on the nomination — that he will also vote against him.
“Not only is Mr. Mayorkas the chief architect of the illegal and unconstitutional DACA and DAPA programs [for undocumented immigrants], but he also was found by the DHS Inspector General to have given special access to wealthy Democratic donors for the corrupt EB-5 visa program,” Lee said.
(The U.S. Supreme Court threw out the Trump administration’s attempt to dismantle DACA and the Inspector General’s report concluded not that the EB-5 visa program was corrupt but that Mayorkas’ actions “created the appearance of favoritism and special access.”)
“The combination of Mr. Mayorkas’ expansive view of unlimited executive power coupled with his established track record of favoritism for partisan allies makes him a very dangerous choice to head the Department of Homeland Security for the American people,” he added.
Carroll offered no comment on how Lee may vote on other nominees soon to come before the Senate.