Mike Lee Suggests FEMA, Federal Poverty And Food Safety Programs Are All Unconstitutional

Last week, ThinkProgress highlighted a lecture by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) where he claimed that federal child labor laws violate the Constitution. Under Lee’s vision of the Constitution, basic labor protections such as child labor laws, the minimum wage, and bans on race and gender discrimination all must be “done by state legislators, not by Members of Congress.” Yesterday, in an interview with Utah public radio host Doug Fabrizio, Lee doubled down on this call for a return to failed constitutional vision that spawned the Great Depression, suggesting that even victims of Katrina-like disasters cannot constitutionally receive aid from the federal government:

LEE: The listener identifies an issue with flood and disaster relief — should that be a federal prerogative or is that a state power? I think a compelling point can be made that’s one thing that states historically have focused on…and I think that’s one area where we ought to focus — one of many areas where we ought to focus — on getting that power back to the states, keeping that money in the states to begin with.

FABRIZIO: But could Louisiana, for example, have dealt with Katrina? That would have absolutely broken the bank. Should the federal government, in an ideal way, should the federal government have been involved in that at all?

LEE: Well, look, they were, and I generally make a practice of not unnecessarily and futility going back a few years and saying we shouldn’t have done that because the fact is that we did. But looking forward…states will prepare differently if they understand that it’s their responsibility rather than that of the federal government.

Nor are disaster victims the only people Lee would leave out in the cold. Earlier in the same interview, Lee also claims that all federal anti-poverty and food safety programs also violate the Constitution:

QUESTION: Are you saying that if the government would have stayed out of it, the country could have worked out the issues that are being dealt with by these programs, like poverty, like food safety…?

LEE: I’ve never said that isn’t the role of government. What I’ve said is it’s not necessarily the role of the federal government. I think it’s important to ask the question, not just “should government do this? What is the proper role of government?” But “which government are you talking about?”

QUESTION: You said the framers intended state lawmakers deal with that, not the federal law?

LEE: Absolutely.


Of course, Lee’s bizarre ideas call into question whether he has actually even read the Constitution. As ThinkProgress has explained, the Constitution gives Congress broad authority to regulate interstate commerce and to raise and spend money to benefit the “general welfare.” These two powers easily enable Congress to regulate the national food market and to provide a basic safety net to the poor and the unfortunate, regardless of what Lee may claim.


For the folks at home who are keeping track, this means that Lee has now suggested that child labor laws, FEMA, food stamps, the FDA, Medicaid, income assistance for the poor, and even Medicare and Social Security violate the Constitution. Like Joe Miller before him, it turns out that there’s only three things Mike Lee likes in a sentence: a noun, a verb, and “unconstitutional.”