Interviews

Sen. Lee: Leaving Paris climate deal showed real leadership

Lawmaker discusses the climate agreement, the Trump presidency and the Republican agenda

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," June 1, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, Joe Biden not a big fan of the president's move today, kind of echoing what his old boss Barack Obama had said, that this would be bad for America, that is Donald Trump nixing that climate accord signed by close to 200 nations.

He says: "Even in the absence of American leadership, even as this administration joins a small handful nations that reject the future," he's confident, and that is coming from President Obama -- that this is good -- but Joe Biden, I should say, not -- quite convinced that this imperils our security.

I'm just cutting to the chase here, because their statements are quite long. Tweets are supposed to be very short.

All right, in the meantime, we got Utah Republican Senator, author of "Written out of History: The Forgotten Founders Who Fought Big Government," Mike Lee.

Senator, good to have you.

SEN. MIKE LEE, R-UTAH: Good to be here.

CAVUTO: What do you think of this reaction? It imperils our future, it's bad for our security, we have lost the faith of the world, et cetera, et cetera?

LEE: I don't see it.

Look, the apocalyptic, doomsday predictions that have come about as a result of this are just going to turn out to be bluster. The fact is that it has got to be Pittsburgh before Paris. That was one of the best lines of the whole speech. I absolutely loved it. It was a brilliant move. It was good messaging.

CAVUTO: The mayor of Pittsburgh, by the way, I guess who is a Democrat, says they are going to honor that accord. And so he wasn't a fan of that comparison.

But you know about the history of these things. And it's very unusual to walk away from an agreement, signed or not. And I'm wondering, looking back at these, way back to our earliest times, were we so focused on these kind of things? That seems to be more a recent phenomenon.

LEE: Well, we were certainly focused enough on it in Philadelphia in 1787.

CAVUTO: But I'm taking -- you know what I'm talking about, internationally.

LEE: Sure. Sure.

But a couple of things have to be kept into account here. First of all, the founding fathers made a wise decision not to give this power to the president exclusively. This had to be a shared power, one that required two-thirds from the Senate in order to be ratified.

Secondly, in the past...

CAVUTO: That didn't happen here.

LEE: No, it didn't happen here. President Obama didn't present it to the Senate for ratification, because he knew the votes weren't there.

CAVUTO: Just like the Iranian deal.

LEE: Exactly. The votes weren't there, so he didn't do it.

But that's important to bear in mind. He doesn't have the authority to act, to bind the United States, to make it the law of the land, without the assent of the Senate.

The other thing to keep in mind is that, in the past, treaties generally were about the law of nations, about interactions between nations. Today, we have some treaties that have become a lot about domestic policy. This one intruded sufficiently into the realm of domestic policy, that it would affect the lives of a lot of people.

That's why it made sense to say Pittsburgh before Paris, thinking there, of course, not about government elites, not about the mayor of Pittsburgh, who might not be supportive, but of the hardworking men and women who make up the Pittsburgh middle class.

Those are the people he's looking out for.

CAVUTO: Democrats, Senator, and President Obama, more to the point, have taken a bow for the cut-down in emissions that were going way ahead of the agreement already.

Now, I follow this stuff fairly closely, being one of the nerds here at Fox. That has much more to do with our veering into cleaner, cheaper natural gas, what have you. And that could continue, deal or no deal with our foreign counterparts. What are your thoughts?

LEE: It has everything to do with that, everything to do with innovation, with changes IN technology, which have occurred quite notably outside of the context of any international agreement mandating it.

Moreover, we're a nation that abides by the rule of law, much more so than many of the counterpart countries involved in this agreement.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Well, China is one of them.

LEE: China is one of them.

CAVUTO: And then the fear is that China is going to try to take advantage of this and kind of take a leadership role with Europeans, who might be disenchanted with us.

LEE: As opposed to what? As opposed to entering into an agreement that suspends any obligation on the part of China for a pretty long number of years before any of their obligations kick in?

CAVUTO: So you think they're just making hay of this?

LEE: Well, yes.

And this is not a good deal for the American people. This is a bad deal. And that's why the president did the right thing by pulling us out of it.

CAVUTO: The health care thing, the tax thing. I was talking to Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary. He's getting a little fidgety about Congress and moving on any of this stuff. Are you?

LEE: No.

I'm convinced that we're going to pass health care reform and tax reform this year. We have got to repeal Obamacare. We have run on it for seven years.

CAVUTO: What if we don't?

LEE: If we don't, it is going to be very bad, because we have run on this. The president ran on this.

People in the House and the Senate campaigned on this for seven years. We have to repeal it. And we have got to move forward and deliver relief to the American people who are suffering under the yolk of this incredible burden thrust upon them by the Affordable Care Act.

CAVUTO: How do you think President Trump is doing?

LEE: I think he's doing well.

And I think what he did today showed real leadership. I think it showed courage. And I commend him for doing this. I commend him also for moving in the direction of transferring people back to the American people.

It's one of the things he said in his inaugural address that gave me great comfort and something that's been borne out by his actions since then. He said this is about a transfer of power, not from one president to another or one party to power. It's about a transfer of power from Washington, D.C., back to the American people.

I'm excited about that. And I appreciate his leadership.

CAVUTO: All right, you're always mentioned in a small pool of potential candidates for the Supreme Court, the next one that comes up. You interested?

LEE: Look, I'm a lifelong law geek. I started watching Supreme Court arguments for fun when I was 10 years old.

CAVUTO: You can't out-nerd me or geek me. But you're a law...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: Of course. If the president of the United States asked me to consider that, of course I would.

CAVUTO: But so is your brother. Right?

LEE: Sure. And we both look good in black.

(LAUGHTER)

LEE: But, in the meantime, I have a job in the Senate that I'm focused on. But if the president asked me to consider that, absolutely I would.

CAVUTO: You know how the world works and perceptions become reality.

Now, I have reading a great deal of the foreign press in breaks here, Senator. And the feeling seems to be, whether it's coming from Germany, who indicated Angela Merkel on the wires right now, I will still do what I can, Germany will still do what it can, the mayor of Paris, the French president, so many more saying this was regrettable, but they're shaking their heads. We will move on without America.

Now, I know your view is this is in the interest of America. But do you worry that we're now an island and that we could, for maybe perfectly fine reasons, be alienating our friends?

LEE: No.

Look, we're the leader of the free world. We're the leader of the world's economy. And we're the leader of the world when it comes to protecting the environment. We have got some of the strongest environmental rules and laws in the entire world. And we follow them.

CAVUTO: But the president has been nixing a lot of those through executive order, which might explain -- I misquoted here -- Angela Merkel's comments that she regrets the U.S. climate move, but will keep working to save our Earth, insinuating clearly that the president is not.

LEE: So, what, we're going to start taking moral lectures from the Germans now? We're going to start letting foreign leaders in Europe and other parts of the world dictate our domestic policy?

I don't think that is a good idea, especially when we have been a world leader in cleaning up the environment.

CAVUTO: All right, finally, your sense of the makeup right now -- and the battle of 2018 doesn't seem that far away. I know you don't sort of get knee-deep in all this politics stuff.

But that decisions such as these, that haven't been polled obviously, but that you need the economy really picking up steam, you need these tax cuts to go through, the health care rework to go through, and yet Republicans can't seem to get that to go through.

Are you guys just not able to lead?

LEE: We're able. We're going to pass those things, because we have to pass those things.

CAVUTO: I know that. But it hasn't happened.

LEE: The consequences would be too dire to not just us as a party, not just the elected leadership and membership of the Congress as currently constituted, but to the entire country. We cannot fail. We have to do this. We have to repeal Obamacare. We have to pass ObamaCare.

CAVUTO: Everyone doesn't seem to be on the same page on that.

There's little wiggle room in the Senate, I understand, Senator. But they're having trouble doing that. I'm wondering if it's -- do you ever like bang heads in private meetings and just say, guys, we're losing it here?

LEE: Constantly. Every day. Happens all the time.

But I believe in something Winston Churchill said. The American people can always be counted on to do the right thing, after they have exhausted every other alternative.

We have given the Affordable Care Act a nice long seven-year try. It hasn't worked. We have exhausted every other alternative. We have to repeal it.

CAVUTO: But you can't have one more failure trying to get this rework done, right?

LEE: We can't. We got to do it.

CAVUTO: What happens if you don't?

LEE: We're not going to fail. We have to do it.

CAVUTO: OK. We will see what happens.

Utah Senator Mike Lee, "Written Out of History: The Forgotten Founders Who Fought Big Government," very interesting read. We have been here before. We always forget that. We just forgot our roots.

END

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