Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) visited constituents in Spanish Fork to host an open forum Aug. 21 and give his take on issues ranging from healthcare to gas prices and immigration.
About 400 residents gathered to the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds to hear the freshman senator, who promised he would do everything in his power to help congress de-fund the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.
“The opinion of the American people of this law has not improved with time,” Lee said. “We’ve always known Obamacare would be expensive, but now know Obama will implement it for individuals while he makes a big carve-out for big businesses.”
Several attendees raised concerns about immigration. One man from Spanish Fork asked, “What are you going to do about the illegal aliens in our state?”
Lee responded by saying he supported legal immigration, but that immigrating illegally to the United States has become more difficult and expensive. Coming to the country legally has become the easier, cheaper option.
“In order to keep this a nation of immigrants, we need to help people come through the front door rather than the back door,” Lee said.
Another attendee expressed frustration over recent scandals involving the National Security Agency and the Internal Revenue System and asked Lee why government officials get away with misrepresenting the truth in congressional hearings.
“If I told a lie before Congress, I’d be put in jail,” the questioner said. “Why do they get away with it?”
“Bad things happen when people lie in the context of government and those people get away with it,” Lee answered. “I believe such people should be held in contempt of congress for lying.”
A self-described moderate democrat asked the senator how he would work across the aisle to reduce the United States‘ national debt, to which Lee responded that extreme cuts to services and extreme tax cuts would prove equally ineffective.
“There is not a single tax hike that would make up that gap without completely decimating the economy,” Lee said. “In order to preserve our ability to fund medicare, medicaid and social security, we need to make a series of (cost) adjustments over time. We can get there.”
Lee also took questions over preventing government shutdowns, fiscal cliff ultimatums and sequesters in the future. Lee took issue with what he said is the Republican Party’s media portrayal as a stubborn, uncompromising body, and said President Obama and other democrats are usually the first to bring up the threat of a government shutdown.
“I’ve never called for a shutdown, I don’t want a shutdown and we don’t need a shutdown,” he said to applause.
Lee also responded to questions about how to lower gas prices across the country, and said domestic production needed more free reign in order to reduce the United States’ dependance on foreign oil.
“There are more oil resources in Utah than there are in the entire Middle East,” Lee said.
Lee also addressed progressive economic policies that he said make it difficult for people to emerge out of poverty. He said people take a pay cut when moving from federal welfare policies to an entry level job, making it less likely they will make that change.
“Many of these people are faced with circumstances that make it difficult for them to (move up),” Lee said. “Too many of today’s poor are likely to remain poor.”
Corporations and business leaders on the other end of the spectrum are also hurt by big government, Lee said.
“We have the government catering to crony capitalism, picking winners and losers,” he said. “What gains are made are swallowed up in a combination of inflation and heavy-handed regulation.”
Lee said he will be working on two legislative goals in the coming months: a tax reform bill that “combats the bias against hardworking middle-class American parents” and a reform of the interstate gas tax, a measure he said is outdated from the time interstate highways were first being constructed.
Lee also conducted a meeting Thursday with constituents in Plain City. He will be holding additional open forums in Tooele, Farmington and Kanab through the first week of September.