Mike Lee (U.S. politician)

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Mike Lee
Mike Lee official portrait 112th Congress.jpg
United States Senator
from Utah
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
Serving with Orrin Hatch
Preceded by Bob Bennett
Personal details
Born Michael Shumway Lee
(1971-06-04) June 4, 1971 (age 43)
Mesa, Arizona, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Sharon Burr (1993–present)
Children 3
Alma mater Brigham Young University (B.S., J.D.)
Religion The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Website Senate website

Michael Shumway "Mike" Lee (born June 4, 1971) is an American politician and lawyer who is the junior United States Senator from Utah. A member of the Republican Party, Lee has served in the Senate since January 3, 2011.

Born in Mesa, Arizona, Lee is the graduate of Brigham Young University (BYU). Lee began his career as a clerk for the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah before serving as a clerk for future Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who was then a judge on the Third Circuit Court. He then entered private practice, with the Sidley Austin law firm in Washington D.C., before coming back to his home state and working as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah, from 2002 to 2005. Lee then joined the administration of Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, serving as the general counsel in the office of the governor from 2005 to 2006. Lee then reentered private practice in Washington D.C., with Howrey LLP.

In 2010, with the outset of the Tea Party movement, Lee posed a primary challenge to incumbent three term Republican Senator Bob Bennett. Lee went on to defeat Bennett and business owner, Tim Bridgewater, during the nominating process at Utah Republican Party Convention. He then defeated Democratic candidate Sam Granato in the general election with 61% of the vote, to Granato's 32%. Lee is the son of former Reagan administration Solicitor General and founding BYU Law School Dean, Rex E. Lee.

Early life and education[edit]

Lee was born in Mesa, Arizona on June 4, 1971, the son of Janet (née Griffin) and Rex E. Lee. His family moved to Provo, Utah one year later when his father became the founding dean of Brigham Young University's J. Reuben Clark Law School. While Lee spent about half of his childhood years in Utah, he spent the other half in McLean, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. His father served first as an Assistant U.S. Attorney General (overseeing the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice during the Ford Administration) from 1975 until 1976, and then as the U.S. Solicitor General (charged with representing the United States government before the Supreme Court during the first term of the Reagan Administration) from 1981 until 1985. Lee is of English descent.[1][2]

Growing up Lee went to school with Senator Strom Thurmond's daughter and lived three doors down from Senator Robert Byrd. He was friends with Harry Reid's son Josh. Senator Reid was the Lees' home teacher. Lee recalls as a child how Senator Reid once locked him and Josh in their garage as a practical joke.[1] According to Lee the Reid family were the first Democrats he knew well and it was dealing with them that showed him the importance of being able to defend his political views in discussion with those who held other views.[2]

After graduating from Timpview High School (Provo, Utah) in 1989, Lee attended Brigham Young University as an undergraduate student, receiving a BS in political science in 1994. He served as the president of BYUSA, a prominent student service organization,[citation needed] and as student body president, during the 1993–1994 school year,[3] serving together with his father, Rex E. Lee, who was president of BYU at the time. Mike Lee graduated from BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School in 1997.[3]

Legal career[edit]

After graduation from law school, Lee served as a law clerk to Judge Dee Benson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. The following year he clerked for Judge Samuel Alito, who was serving at that time on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Court in Newark, New Jersey. After finishing his clerkships, Lee joined the Washington, D.C. office of Sidley Austin, where he specialized in appellate and Supreme Court litigation. Several years later, Lee returned to Utah to serve as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Salt Lake City, preparing briefs and arguing cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. He served as general counsel to Utah Governor Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. from January 2005 until June 2006, when he returned to Washington to serve a one-year clerkship at the U.S. Supreme Court with Justice Alito.[citation needed]

Lee returned to Utah (and to private practice) in the summer of 2007, joining the Salt Lake office of the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Howrey LLP. Lee focused on courtroom advocacy and constitutional law.[citation needed]

As an attorney, Lee also represented Class A low-level radioactive waste facility provider EnergySolutions Inc.[citation needed]

U.S. Senate[edit]

2010 election[edit]

Lee ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010. At the Republican State Convention, he received 982 votes (28.75%) on the first ballot, defeating[clarification needed] Tim Bridgewater and incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Bennett. Bridgewater, however, won the second and third ballots to win the party endorsement. Both Bridgewater and Lee received enough support to have their names placed on the primary ballot.[citation needed]

In the primary election, held on June 22, 2010, Lee became the Republican nominee by winning 51 percent of the vote against Bridgewater's 49 percent.[4]

Lee won the general election on November 2, 2010 with 62 percent of the vote to Democrat Sam Granato's 33 percent and Constitution Party candidate Scott Bradley's 6 percent.[1]



In 2011, Club for Growth gave him a 100% score. Only four other U.S. Senators received a perfect score: Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, Jim DeMint, and Tom Coburn.[5] He also received a 100% Conservative voting record for 2011 from the American Conservative Union.[6] The Heritage Foundation gave him a 99% score, ranking first only with DeMint.[7] The only wrong vote he made, in the opinion of the Heritage Foundation, was voting for the GSE Bailout Elimination and Taxpayer Protection Act, that would privatize Fannie and Freddy.[8]

However, he received a Liberal Action score of 38%.[9]

Patriot Act

In February 2011, Lee was one of two Republicans, along with Rand Paul of Kentucky, to vote against extending three key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.[10] He would again do the same in May 2011.[citation needed]

NDAA for Fiscal Year 2012

On December 1, 2011, Lee was one of only seven U.S. Senators, and one of only three Republicans, to vote against the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.[11] He opposed the bill because of concerns over Section 1021, the section of the bill that gives the Armed Forces the power to indefinitely detain any person "who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners", and anyone who commits a "belligerent act" against the U.S. or its coalition allies in aid of such enemy forces, under the law of war, "without trial, until the end of the hostilities authorized by the AUMF".[citation needed]

Social Security reform

In April 2011, Lee joined with Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and fellow Senate Tea Party Caucus member Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) to propose a plan they claimed would extend the financial viability of the U.S. Social Security retirement payment system.[12] The three senators' reform proposal (called the Social Security Solvency and Sustainability Act) was notable because it did not propose any tax increases to ensure solvency.[13] Instead, it suggested that the $5.4 trillion difference between what was then funded and what had been promised could be eliminated by increasing the retirement age to 70 by the year 2032, and slightly reducing the benefits paid to upper-income recipients.[14]

Criminal justice reform

In 2013, Lee proposed a bill with the aim "to focus limited Federal resources on the most serious offenders" together with Dick Durbin (D) and Patrick Leahy (D). The bill would reduce some minimum sentences for drug-related offenses by half.[15]

Debt Ceiling

Lee was criticized by Republican Sen. John McCain and others for being overly vocal in his criticism of other Republicans and obstructing a deal to end the government shutdown.[16][17]

Committee assignments[edit]


Personal life[edit]

Lee married Sharon Burr in 1993. They live in Alpine, Utah and have three children,[18] John David, James Rex, and Eliza Rose Lee.[19] Lee is a second cousin to current U.S. Senators Mark Udall of Colorado and Tom Udall of New Mexico, as well as former Senator Gordon H. Smith of Oregon.[20]

Lee has served on the BYU alumni board, the BYU Law School alumni board, and as a long-time member of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society and the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies. Lee earned the Eagle Scout award from Boy Scouts of America in 1989 and was selected to receive the National Eagle Scout Association Outstanding Eagle Scout Award (NOESA) in 2011.[21]

Lee speaks Spanish, a language he picked up when he was a missionary in the southern Rio Grande Valley near McAllen, Texas. In 2014, he was able to speak Spanish with Pope Francis.[22]

Mike Lee's brother, Thomas R. Lee, is a Justice on the Utah Supreme Court.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Rucker, Philip (February 5, 2011). "Sen. Mike Lee: A political insider refashions himself as tea party revolutionary". The Washington Post. 
  2. ^ a b Laura Litvan "Obama's Nominee Battle a One-Man Fight by Freshman Senator" Bloomberg, Feb. 28, 2012
  3. ^ a b "About Mike". Mike Lee, U.S. Senator for Utah. www.lee.senate.gov. Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  4. ^ Gehrke, Robert (2010-06-23). "Lee clinches GOP Senate nomination - Salt Lake Tribune". Sltrib.com. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  5. ^ "Club for Growth Scorecard". Clubforgrowth.org. Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  6. ^ "2011 U.S. Senate Votes". Conservative.org. Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ [2][dead link]
  9. ^ "Senator Mike Lee of Utah: Profile, Legislative Scorecard, Contact Information, News and Campaign Contribution Data for the 112th Congress". Thatsmycongress.com. Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  10. ^ Sonmez, Felicia (2011-02-15). "Senate passes short-term extension of Patriot Act provisions". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  11. ^ "Senate Roll Call #218 Details: An original bill to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2012 for military... OpenCongress". Opencongress.org. 2011-12-01. Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  12. ^ Matt Canham (April 13, 2011). "Lee unveils Social Security reform plan". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  13. ^ Viviane Vo-Duc (April 14, 2011). "Sens. Lee, Paul and Graham: We can fix Social Security without raising taxes". Deseret News. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  14. ^ "Lee, others: raise social security age to 70". St. George Daily Spectrum. April 13, 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  15. ^ David Dagan (November 14, 2013) Why Mike Lee is more serious about prison reform than Rand Paul Washington Post. Retrieved January 19, 2014
  16. ^ Abrams, Nick (23 May 2013). "John McCain Schools Mike Lee On Washington D.C. Politics". Huffington Post. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  17. ^ Drucker, David (11 October 2011). "Sen. Mike Lee Garnering Reputation as `New Jim DeMint'". Roll Call. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  18. ^ "About Mike - Home - Mike Lee, United States Senator for Utah". Lee.senate.gov. Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  19. ^ Drake, Bruce. "Is Mike Lee Married?". Politicsdaily.com. Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  20. ^ Lee Davidson (October 24, 2010). "Senate race: Mike Lee ready to ride Senate roller coaster". The Salt Lake Tribune. 
  21. ^ "Eagles Nest NOESA". NESA Outstanding Eagle Scout Award. Boy Scouts of America, Utah National Parks Council. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  22. ^ Lee, Mike (June 13, 2014). Hugh Hewitt Show. Interview with Hugh Hewitt. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Bob Bennett
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Utah
(Class 3)

Most recent
United States Senate
Preceded by
Bob Bennett
United States Senator (Class 3) from Utah
Served alongside: Orrin Hatch
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Richard Blumenthal
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Kelly Ayotte
Honorary titles
Preceded by
George LeMieux
Youngest member of the United States Senate
January 3, 2011 – December 26, 2012
Succeeded by
Brian Schatz