SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Sen. Mike Lee visited the state Capitol on Friday to give a report on his federal-level efforts — telling lawmakers why he supports President Donald Trump's border wall, why Utah should be exempt from the Antiquities Act, and why a constitutional amendment could address the nation's $22 trillion debt.
Lee told the House GOP caucus that while his office is "pushing for more border security funding" he has misgivings about Trump's declaration of a national emergency to get the funds.
"I support President Trump and his desire to build a fence along the southern border," Lee said, but at the same time, he explained he's concerned about whether a president should resort to executive authority to get government money despite congressional opposition.
The senator noted he served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Texas, where he said people were trafficked through that section of the border more than "almost anywhere in the country."
It's the poor and middle class, Lee said, that tends to be "hurt the most" by "uncontrolled waves of immigration."
Lee also told the House GOP caucus that Utah "has a problem" — it has become a "victim" of the Antiquities Act's public land designations "over and over and over."
Because Utah is vastly made up of federal land, it's become an "easy victim" for land designations, so Lee said the state should be exempted like Wyoming and Alaska.
When House Republicans asked Lee for insights on the nation's $22 trillion debt, he noted the U.S. spent $300 billion on debt interest alone last year.
"That's an enormous amount of money," Lee said, but he added, "That's not what's scary."
"What's scary," Lee said, "is it's that low."
Lee said the nation was paying about $300 billion on interest 20 years ago even though "our national debt has exploded" in more recent years. He said the current interest rate can't "carry on forever."
"We will soon go from paying $300 billion a year to a trillion a year just in interest," Lee said.
A constitutional amendment, Lee noted, "would force Congress to have some check on its deficit spending." But whether that happens is either up to Congress or the states, he said.
"I try to avoid telling you what to do," Lee said to House Republicans, but he noted he has "concerns about what happens if we continue on our current trajectory."37 comments on this story
Earlier this week, the Utah Senate narrowly passed a resolution calling for a convention to consider amendments to the U.S. Constitution, even though it has opposition from both the right and the left.
The resolution, which now goes to the House, would add Utah to the list of states seeking to convene a convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution to address those issues.
Lee hinted that if a constitutional amendment could ever have a chance, it would have to be from state action.
"I've got a lot more confidence in you all than I have in my colleagues in Congress," Lee said.