Senator Mike Lee – The Bill of Rights is a Feature – Not a Bug – of our Government

Senator Mike Lee – The Bill of Rights is a Feature – Not a Bug – of our Government

June 24, 2016

United States of America Senate - Old Guard Audio

United States of America Senate – Old Guard Audio

“to elevate the condition of men–to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life.” –Abraham Lincoln

Chairman’s Note: Bill of Rights is a Feature – Not a Bug – of our Government

Since the horrific terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida nearly two weeks ago – the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 – Congress has been engrossed in a debate about what can be done to prevent something like this from happening again.

In their grief for the victims, and in their concern about the safety of our communities, many Americans have come to the same conclusion: “something must be done.” Unfortunately, many of members of Congress believe that those four words – “something must be done” – give the federal government permission to do whatever it wants.

But the government can’t do whatever it wants, not even at a time of great anxiety and insecurity. In fact, there are several things that the government is expressly prohibited from doing under any circumstances.

The government may not infringe on “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.” It may not violate the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Nor may it deprive any person “of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

These are just a few of the explicit limitations on government action – a few of Americans’ core civil liberties – listed in the Bill of Rights. They are not negotiable. Yet many of the legislative proposals that have emerged in recent days run roughshod over these basic constitutional rights.

One such measure would give law-enforcement agencies power to access Americans’ Internet browsing history and email metadata – which can be analyzed to reveal intimate details about a person’s life – without a warrant, probable cause, or judicial review by a federal court. Another measure, the Terrorist Firearms and Prevention Act, would prohibit individuals on the government’s secret No Fly List or Selectee List from purchasing firearms.

“But the government can’t do whatever it wants, not even at a time of great anxiety and insecurity. In fact, there are several things that the government is expressly prohibited from doing under any circumstances.

Everyone agrees that terrorists should be prevented from purchasing guns, but this proposal would deny Americans their Second Amendment rights based on a mere suspicion from the FBI that they are engaged in terrorist activity. The denial of a constitutional right should require more proof than a reasonable suspicion – a standard so low that it doesn’t even justify an arrest.

In defending these measures, some proponents have lamented the difficulty of working around the core civil liberties listed in the Bill of Rights. But this is a feature, not a bug, of our constitutional system.

Americans’ constitutional rights are not nuisances that the government must accommodate. Protecting these rights is the reason that government exists. As we continue consideration of these measures next week, we must work to ensure that Congress fulfills this purpose.

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Issue in Focus: The Brexit Opportunity

Yesterday the people of Britain won a major victory for democracy and sovereignty by voting to leave the European Union (EU).

Many on the left, along with their allies in the media, are predicting that this “Brexit” will lead to economic disaster for Britain, if not all of Europe and the rest of the world. These doomsayers should take a deep breath and a fresh look at the reality of the situation beyond the initial disruptions caused by this momentous decision.

To hear many American elites talk about the Brexit decision, you would think the EU is the equivalent of Europe’s version of the North American Free Trade Agreement – a liberalized commercial area for a small group of foreign nations in close geographic proximity designed to facilitate economic cooperation. But it is much more than that. By submitting to the EU, Britons have been subjected to the laws, decisions, and regulations of a centralized legislature, court, and bureaucracy located in a distant capital and out of touch with the local needs and priorities of the people – an arrangement that many Americans would recognize as similar to our own over-centralized, unaccountable federal government.

Moreover, yesterday’s vote only begins the process of Britain leaving the EU. When announcing his resignation today, Prime Minister David Cameron said his successor should decide when and how to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. And even after the next prime minister is elected, Article 50 provides a two-year process for Britain to negotiate both its own terms for leaving the EU and new trade deals with the rest of the world, including the United States.

That is what the United States should be doing now to support the people of Britain as they continue the work of disentangling themselves from the clutches of the EU’s centralized power structure in Brussels. We should be doing everything we can to negotiate new treaties with Britain to ensure a smooth, prosperous, and secure transition for both countries.

Prior to yesterday’s vote, President Obama indicated he wants to go a different path. Earlier this year, he threatened Britain that they would have to go to “the back of the queue” in any trade negotiations with the United States if they were to vote to leave the EU. This threat was ill-advised at the time and would be harmful to both countries if adhered to going forward.

Instead, Congress should pass new legislation both requiring the United States to honor our current agreements with the United Kingdom until new bilateral agreements can be negotiated, and directing the U.S. Trade Representative to begin negotiations on new bilateral agreements as soon as possible. There is no better way to honor America’s special relationship with Great Britain.

Washington, D.C. Office

361A Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C., 20510

Phone: 202.224.5444

Fax: 202.228.1168

Salt Lake City

Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building

125 South State, Suite 4225

Salt Lake City, UT 84138

Phone: 801.524.5933

Fax: 801.524.5730

St. George

Office of Senator Michael S. Lee

285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200

St. George, UT 84770

Phone: 435.628.5514

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