Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee sat down with reporters Friday to discuss his new book “Our Lost Constitution,” but the Utah lawmaker also answered questions on what he thinks about three of his Senate colleagues running for president.
Republican presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are all close friends with Lee. So far, only Cruz and Paul have officially announced they are seeking the Republican nomination in 2016, while Rubio is still on the sidelines. But don’t let that fool you, Rubio could be a formidable candidate in 2016 based on what Lee told reporters.
“He’s one of these guys that can bring grown men to tears with his emotion, speaking about his love for this country,” Lee said, speaking about the Florida Senator’s potential strengths as a candidate. “I saw him speak at CPAC … and immediately was impressed by his speaking ability.”
“I don’t know that we any other candidate who’s as good as Rubio is at communicating and inviting the audience into an emotional journey as he speaks,” Lee said. “He’s got great vision.”
“There are those who are still critical of him for his involvement in the ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bill a few years ago,” Lee added. “But that was a few years ago and that’s just one issue.”
So what about Cruz and Paul? Lee said he was impressed with Paul’s approach to the constitution and his 13-hour filibuster in 2013 on drone strikes. But Paul’s association with his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, and his past comments on foreign policy may pose a problem, Lee said.
“Some would say the Achilles’ heel for him would be on matters of foreign policy,” he said, adding that “others would view that as a strength.”
As for Cruz, Lee praised the Texas lawmaker’s “passion” for conservative principles.
“I like his passion and I like his dedication to conservative principles,” Lee said of Cruz, “his willingness to fight even when it’s hard.”
Lee has made a name for himself opposing funding for Obamacare and immigration policies which he says go beyond the scope of executive authority. When asked if he believes a Republican-controlled Congress would be more willing to withhold funding to executive overreach, Lee said “probably not.”
“It’s unlikely we’ll be able to withhold funding,” he said, adding that Republicans have been hesitant to back efforts to defund federal agencies.
Lee said Congress must be more willing to use its power of the purse to constrain executive power, saying “there are a lot of opportunities for abuse if you allow the president” to rewrite the laws unilaterally. He added that this will be a problem Congress will have to routinely deal with in the future no matter which party controls the presidency.
“Congress has been all too willing to relinquish [power],” Lee said.