Sen. Mike Lee: Budget process is bad for the American people

Published March 25, 2018

This is a rush transcript from "Life, Liberty & Levin," March 25, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARK LEVIN, HOST: Hello, America, I'm Mark Levin, this is "Life, Liberty & Levin." We have a wonderful guest tonight. Senator Mike Lee. How are you, sir?

SEN. MICHAEL LEE, R-UTAH: Doing great, thank you.

LEVIN: It's good to see you.

LEE: Thank you.

LEVIN: Now, Senator Lee, you have quite a background. First of all, your father served in the Reagan Administration. What did your father do in the Reagan administration?

LEE: My dad was the Solicitor General under Ronald Reagan during his first term in office. He was the Federal government's Chief Appellate Advocate before the Supreme Court, representing the Reagan administration in front of the justices.

I used to go with him. That's sort of where I started to become interested in government. I would go with my dad when he argued in court. Initially, it was a good way to miss school, but over time I started understanding what was happening, and I enjoyed it, I Found it fascinating.

LEVIN: Rex Lee, that was your father's name.

LEE: Yes.

LEVIN: But you yourself are quite accomplished. You went to a great law school and you became a clerk to Associate Justice Sam Alito. How did that happen?

LEE: I clerked for Justice Alito. I first clerked for a Federal district judge named Dee Benson in Salt Lake City.

LEVIN: who also worked at the Justice department where I had worked.

LEE: An outstanding human being and great judge and mentor, and after I finished that clerkship, I had a friend who was clerking for then Judge Alito on the Third Circuit.

He told me that there was an opening and that I should apply. I submitted an application, I ended up getting the job.

So, I clerked for him first on the Third Circuit and then several years later after he got himself on the Supreme Court, he had me back to clerk for him again.

LEVIN: I didn't know that. So, you clerked for him twice?

LEE: Twice.

LEVIN: And that's quite a big deal, because there's a lot of smart lawyers out there who want to clerk for Supreme Court justices, right?

LEE: Yes, and I really was fortunate to get to work not just at the Supreme Court but for that justice in particular. He is an extraordinary human being. He has got an amazing legal talent, a command of the English language and understanding of the fact that finding the right answer in the law is imperative.

And there is such a thing as a right answer and that you have to go through the effort to find what the answer is. I loved clerking for him, every minute of it, both years.

LEVIN: Do the justices get along in private?

LEE: Yes. In fact, some of the justices who appear to have the most differing opinions and, in fact, do reach very opposite conclusions are often really good friends.

For example, Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg were very close friends. They traveled together. They socialized together, and yet they were at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum within the court. I think that says something, and I think it's also indicative of the fact that one's ideological temperament on the court doesn't necessary preclude a personal relationship.

LEVIN: You know, a lot has been written about the court. A lot has been written about justices, and sometimes when certain justices got older over the years, their clerks wrote a lot of their opinions.

I take that Sam Alito wasn't that way?

LEE: No, he was actively involved in the process at every step and was really concerned about making sure that each opinion was his, and that it said what it needed to say.

He was definitely not phoning it in and definitely actively involved in every decision and in every opinion that had his name on it, and every opinion that came through the court.

Whether he was the author or not, meaning even if it was an opinion assigned to another justice, he wanted to make sure that it was right.

LEVIN: I want to turn to something that's just occurred and that's this budget process and appropriation process in the United States congress.

Jim Jordan has said that the Congressman from Ohio, and Freedom Caucus member, that they had 17 hours between the time a 2,200-page bill, which you had been written in secret by the leadership, was presented to the House of Representatives, and to vote.

And so really nobody, even Evelyn Woods herself, wouldn't have been able to get through that in time.

Same thing is happening on the Senate side. As a matter of fact, you weren't allowed to offer amendments and, you know, just as an American citizen, I look at this, we vote for our representatives to participate in this process, plus we would like to participate in this process, there's supposed to be various appropriation bills that we can look at and so forth. What do you make of all this?

LEE: Two thousand two hundred and thirty-two pages. That's how long the spending bill was. It takes a long time even to get the fastest printers to print that out physically.

It takes much longer to read 2,232 pages of legislative text than it does a fast-paced novel. And so, you are right. Members voting on this don't have a chance adequately to read it to understand what's in it, perhaps even more importantly, these words are negotiated in private by a small handful of legislative leaders, to the exclusion of everyone else.

Meaning most of the American people are effectively disenfranchised from this process because their elected senators and representatives are outside of that room where the small handful of leaders is negotiating this bill in private.

By the time it comes out in the public, there isn't time to debate, to discuss it, to amend it, to improve it. There isn't time to receive adequate feedback from the American people, and the members themselves who are being asked to vote on this are themselves not fully aware of what's in it.

It's wrong. And it will continue until this process doesn't work.

In the meantime, it's kind of nice to be one of those few people in that room negotiating it. You get more powerful every time it happens. But it's really bad for the American people, and it is one of the most deeply disturbing things that I experienced as a member of the United States Senate.

LEVIN: And it's confounding, because in the republic, you have to wonder how do you undo this? How do you unravel this?

I get this calls on the radio all the time. What do we do? What do we do? I'm not sure what we do. We can talk about electing the right people. You know, we think we do elect the right people. We had the Tea Party Revolution. We had you know, majorities now in the House and the Senate, a Republican President.

And it's my understanding this spending bill, even in percentage increases is the largest in modern history, is that right?

LEE: Yes. And look, it's the nature of governments. It's the nature of human beings, as they accumulate power to want to accumulate more power. When they have access to the ability to do something, it's their tendency to do it, if they can.

The only way we're going to change this is to make this process, this formula, this barbaric mechanism for funding of $4 trillion government, no longer work.

It will no longer work when the American people call their senators and representatives and make clear to them, they do not want them to vote for a measure that's the result of this kind of product.

They certainly don't want to vote for increased spending, especially when they themselves don't know and by design cannot know where the spending is going.

LEVIN: But isn't it part of the problem, we have some candidates that run for office one way and then they govern another way, and it's very difficult for people who are working all day to get through the clutter, to get through the media, even if there are media reports.

So, one thing goes on back home and another thing goes on in Washington, DC. So, it's very, very hard to know what to do when you're a voter. Isn't this a bigger problem? The difference between Constitutionalism and Progressivism? The further we get away from the Constitution, the more we run from the Constitution, the more government centralized as you've written about extensively and so forth, the more this is going to occur?

LEE: Yes, without question. The only reason that our Republic has survived, the only reason our country has thrived as it has, the reason that we have fostered the development of the greatest civilization the world has ever known under the Constitution has been that - to the degree we have followed the Constitution, it has kept our government focused on what government can do, what government is uniquely empowered to do, what this particular government is supposed to be doing and which part of our government is supposed to be acting in which way?

The minute we come untethered from that, especially from any of the structural protections in the Constitution, the vertical protection that we call Federalism, which says most of the power is supposed to remain with the people at the state and local level, or the horizontal protection we call separation of powers.

Saying that we are going to have one branch that makes the laws, one branch that enforces them and another that interprets them. When we drift from those principles, it becomes very, very difficult to contain that power, to contain the compulsory power of government, that takes money from people, it takes months out of people's work year just to sustain it. That becomes a problem.

That's why we have got to reorient our national political discourse, our dialogue on constitutional principles. This does not have to be a partisan issue.

In fact, it's not. The constitution is politically neutral.

LEVIN: And yet in this context, the modern-day Republican Party, is it a constitutional party? What does the modern day Republican Party stand for?

LEE: The Republican Party purports to be the party of constitutionally limited government and doesn't always govern itself as such. That does have to change. If it doesn't change, the Republican Party is going to lose its mojo. It's going to lose its ability to influence the voters and to garner votes, and so I think that is the only answer not only for our country, but also for the Republican Party.

I think there is a big opportunity here to make a change, to make a difference. You talk about the fact that sometimes people will run on one platform and then govern differently, not perhaps casting votes in the same style that they had portrayed themselves as candidates.

I think it can help to have a name for certain procedures that people recognize as being contrary to the political governing philosophy of a constitutionalist.

And I think this 2,232-page Omnibus Spending Bill will help us give a word to that. And I'm hopeful that.

LEVIN: What's the word?

LEE: The word here could be "Omnibus." We could call it the March 2018 Omnibus Package. Once people remember that, remember how high the stack of papers was. Remember the fact that it was negotiated in secret by a small handful of legislative leaders, to the exclusion of everyone else, maybe that will make a difference, and maybe they'll communicate that whether through their votes, or their phone calls or a combination of the two.

LEVIN: Let me ask you this, I've asked almost every guest I've had. I would argue we're not really so much a representative republic anymore with this massive bureaucracy.

Most of the laws are made by you folks. I would argue we're not really a Federal republic anymore, given the centralization of government and the states that live at the behest now of the Federal government, even though they created the Federal government.

And I would argue we're less and less a constitutional republic for reasons like this budget bill and so forth. What are we?

LEE: We are a nation of people that purports to operate under the rule of law. And our governing law, the Constitution, says that we are a Federal Republic, and that we have power that's dispersed among the people, that it's kept close to the people.

We don't always live up to that. So yes, you're right, we've deviated dangerously from the vertical protection of Federalism and the horizontal protection of separation of powers.

That doesn't mean that that has changed the nature of what our government is supposed to be, and it certainly doesn't change the fact that each officer of this government has sworn an oath to uphold, protect and defend that very system with these series of structural protections designed to protect the American people from the dangers associated with the excessive accumulation of power in the hands of a few.

We can still do this. It is still the law of the land in America, that we have these protections. We can restore them. We just have to do it and that's where voters come into play.

LEVIN: How are we doing in this regard?

LEE: Not very well. We're doing better, I think, today in many respects than we were a couple of years ago. I think this administration has done a great job of taking out more regulations than it has put in.

The commitment to the two to one rule. You know, for every regulation that's added, two need to be taken out is going well. I think it's laudable, and I think it really helps to restore this horizontal protection of separation of powers.

You see what has happened is since the new deal era, since basically the '30s, Congress has been passing laws as platitudes, "We hereby delegate to Agency X the power to make good law in Area Y."

And they can make that law and enforce that law entirely within this executive branch bureaucracy. That's wrong. The Trump administration sought in promising to drain the swamp, to reduce the power of the administrative bureaucracy, and I think it's made good progress.

I think we need to make a lot more progress on that front and on the Federalism front.

You don't hear as often as you should the fact that certain things are not Federal issues. In fact, most things are not.

The 10th Amendment makes that clear just as the text of the original Constitution also made that clear. Most power is reserved to the states, and we should therefore never start any political discussion with the assumption that if there's a law that needs to be made, it needs to be made by Congress.

Most of the time, that's not the case.

LEVIN: When we come back, we're going to pursue further discussion on the Constitution with our great senator, Senator Mike Lee.

I want to remind you, you can watch LevinTV every week night on CRTV.com. Just give us a call at 844-LEVIN-TV and you can sign up and join our community there. That's 844-LEVIN-TV. We'll be right back

Welcome back. We're here with Senator Lee. Senator Lee, a lot of talk about the Second Amendment lately. The horrible shooting in Florida and we have these horrible shootings from time to time, and it seems like the immediate reaction is to limit the Second Amendment.

The Bill of Rights, what are they for? What are the Bill of Rights for? All of them?

LEE: They are to protect us against the danger associated with the excessive accumulation of power in the hands of the few. The Constitution does that in structural ways for Federalism and separation of powers, but it also protects certain substantive rights.

Certain things are identified that are beyond the reach of any government. Based on human historical experience, the drafters of the Bill of Rights identified certain areas where government shouldn't be able to act. It's one of the reasons why they took off the table messing with people's religious freedom, or their freedom of expression in the First Amendment.

In the Second Amendment they wanted to make sure that the right to bear arms was protected. And so, that's what they did. The Bill or Rights matters. The Bill of Rights is important and we shouldn't likely take away or erode any right that is protected in the Bill of Rights.

LEVIN: When you stand on the Senate floor and you hear your colleagues debating gun control, debating certain types of guns, many of them debate guns; they don't know much about guns, but they talk about it like it's some kind of pork bill.

We're talking about the Bill of Rights, we're talking about the Second Amendment. Do you stand there and look at them and say to them in your own mind, "Do you even understand that this is a Constitutional right? It's not something which can you treat like a piece of baloney, you know, where you are just cutting it up."

What goes through your mind?

LEE: The first thing that goes through my mind is the fact that what triggers some of these conversations is the commission of a crime. A heinous act. One that usually involves the violation of - the simultaneous violation of dozens of laws.

And in that circumstance, the impulse that says, "Somebody has violated dozens of laws, we must therefore pass another law," doesn't itself instinctively make me want to join that effort.

You add to that the fact that it's a constitutionally protected right that we might be - being asked to infringe, and also the fact that you've got the rights of the law-abiding and what given law might do to interfere with the day-to-day lives of law-abiding American citizens as compared to what it might do to deter or prevent or protect us against violent criminal activity.

And it makes for a much more nuanced conversation than many people want to have, but I think it's important for us to have that conversation, rather than just instinctively giving in to the impulse to create yet another law.

LEVIN: When you hear about sanctuary cities and you know about sanctuary cities, back to the Constitution again, and Federalism, how do you weigh this? Federalism, nullification, Federal authority, state authority - when it comes to sanctuary cities?

LEE: Sanctuary cities present a particularly interesting set of questions, because of the fact that you have got cities that are trying to undo Federal policy.

Now, the Constitution does give power to Congress. It makes Federal the power to decide what our laws say concerning immigration and naturalization. That is a Federal power, it needs to be a Federal power, it is made a Federal power by the Constitution itself.

So, for a city to say, "No, we want to exercise that power," and to in effect erode Federal authority in this area is wrong.

We've added to this mess by setting up all kinds of Federal programs that provide all kinds of Federal funding for state and local law enforcement for the operations of state and local governments generally, making them in many ways dependent what I once heard you refer to as crony Federalism, where states and localities come to the Federal government on bended knee even though they themselves are sovereigns within our system of government.

And so, what many people have said is that if a state or local government wants to try to undermine the enforcement of Federal laws concerning immigration, then perhaps they shouldn't receive Federal funds.

It seems like a pretty reasonable solution to this, and yet some people freak out about it. But we have to remember that this really is about immigration, and immigration is itself is a Federal issue not one that is to be decided based on the patchwork quilt of states and localities.

LEVIN: And this issue of withholding Federal grants, this isn't new. This has been going on really since the new deal. The courts have upheld it. And yet, it seems in the Trump era, the courts have gone a little wobbly on their own precedent when it comes to refugees and the power of the President in terms of prosecutorial discretion.

We had a recent Supreme Court decision involving Arizona where they essentially said, "Well, the President gets to call the shots," and yet the President apparently doesn't get to call the shots.

Does it trouble you that there appears to be, at least in the Trump era, more and more politicization of the courts by a number of these Federal district courts and forum shopping in certain parts of the country when it comes to challenging Trump initiatives?

LEE: Oh, of course, forum shopping is disturbing. When we talk about forum shopping, we are referring to the process by which somebody will go to one court and then to another court based on a strategy of which judge they think might be more likely to rule in their favor.

That undermines respect for the rule of law. It undermines the rule of law itself, and it's troubling.

One of the things that has enabled that is bad legislative drafting. Sometimes that's accidental, sometimes it's very deliberate. In the case where members of Congress don't necessarily want to have to make a difficult choice, they punt and they draft something that's really vague and say "We'll let the executive branch Agency work it out," and then there ends up being something of a tug-of-war between an executive branch agency, perhaps with input from the White House in power at the time and the courts.

And that ends up being a problem, but it's a problem that could be for the most part avoided if Congress did its job in drafting language.

LEVIN: When I look at some of these Federal judges on the West coast, Maryland and so forth, early on in the Trump administration, making outrageous decisions that clearly violated the precedent set forth by the Supreme Court.

We're always told the Supreme Court precedent. Of course, the Constitution trumps that, but in this case, they were both one and the same in my view. And they made it clear, Justice Kennedy's opinion and so forth that the President has enormous power when it comes to enforcing Federal immigration laws.

And yet, mayors and city councils usurping the President's authority, certain Federal district judges upholding that, is there a level - my words not yours - of Judicial tyranny, that has Taken place in this country Particularly in the last many Decades with the rise of a big central government?

LEE: There's certainly been abuse of judicial power, and that's a problem. Any time that abuse occurs, it needs to be weeded out, it needs to be addressed.

Fortunately, we have a good court system. While it's by no means perfect, we have the opportunity to appeal. The bad news, though, is that in many cases it takes a long time to appeal something and to get a bad ruling overturned.

In other cases, the nature of the dispute has changed entirely by the time that process has the ability to work itself through. So, it's a little bit like saying that possession is nine-tenths of the law.

In many circumstances, if a Federal district judge issues a bad ruling, it can cost a lot in terms of what's given up, what's surrendered, between the time that decision is issued and the time that the erroneous decision can be corrected on appeal.

LEVIN: We'll be right back.

KELLY WRIGHT, CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: Live from America's News Headquarters. I'm Kelly Wright. In Washington, here's what's happening. Stormy Daniels breaking her silence tonight on "60 Minutes" about an alleged affair with President Trump.

The former porn star says she was threatened by a man in Las Vegas to keep quiet about the alleged one-time encounter in 2006. Daniels says she was with her then infant daughter when she was approached in a parking lot in 2011.

She wants to invalidate a non-disclosure agreement for which she received $130,000.00. The President denies having an affair with Daniels.

And the men's final four is set, Villanova takes on Kansas on Saturday. Kansas secured the final spot Sunday night with a dramatic overtime victory against Duke, and Loyola Chicago continue to Cinderella run against Michigan.

The Ramblers are just the fourth 11th seed to make college basketball's final four.

I'm Kelly Wright. Now back to "Life, Liberty & Levin."

LEVIN: The sanctuary city idea, nullification, these are words that were used during the confederacy -- nullification, secession. Do you find it odd that the left is talking about these sort of things, particularly in California, a very blue state where we have multiple sanctuary cities?

In fact, the governor has announced the whole state is a sanctuary state and there are these various secession movements going on in that state?

Do you find it odd that now the left is using the language of the confederacy?

LEE: Yes, I find it odd. I find it deeply troubling. I find it contrary to the Constitution if everything that the left has professed in the past to hold near and dear.

As much as anything though, I find it to be a remarkable moment. A teachable moment to paraphrase Barack Obama. A moment when we can say, "Okay, let's talk about what is appropriate for the Federal government. Let's talk about whether everything needs to be at the Federal level."

Now, in this case, it does. In the case of laws governing immigration and naturalization, those are Federal issues. The Constitution says so. But we can use this as a pivot point to say, "Let's talk about whether there are, in fact, dangers associated with allowing excessive power to accumulate in the hands of the few.

Or too much power to be pushed to Washington, DC. That's really what they're saying.

And so, in a sense maybe they're making an argument for Federalism. They don't realize it, they're misguided, they're reaching the wrong conclusion here, but ultimately, they're trying in their own way to make an argument for Federalism.

LEVIN: Are they doing that or are they just saying we'll take whatever road we need to take to get what we want? I think it's more that.

LEE: I think there are some people on the left who genuinely, sincerely are concerned about the accumulation of power within the Federal government.

Now maybe they're misguided in doing that, maybe just trying to stand up for the administrative state, I don't know. But I assume at least, some of them are open to the idea, perhaps now more than they have at any time in recent memory.

To the idea that maybe we shouldn't put this much power in Washington. Maybe we shouldn't have all of our eggs or this many of our eggs in Washington's basket. They ought to be open to that more now than they ever have been in the past.

LEVIN: As the United States Senator, what do you do, if a state succeeds in passing some kind of a proposition to secede? What happens then? Didn't we fight a Civil War over this? I mean, I thought we did. But what happens under those circumstances?

LEE: Bad things. We don't want to go there. When a state within our union secedes, we know how that ends. It isn't pretty. It can only end in tears and worse.

LEVIN: Do you see a rise in the level of lawlessness? I mean, I do, but I'm curious of your opinion, particularly in the more liberal cities and states and so forth? We talked about sanctuary cities, of course, but also in terms of the mayor of Oakland giving a heads-up to illegal aliens, including criminals, that ICE is going to be doing searches and so forth, and also the Democrat Party.

The Democrat Party is very slow to react to securing the border to changes in our voting systems, to ensure the integrity of the vote of American citizens. There seems to be almost an ideological commitment to lawlessness or allowing lawlessness to occur to accumulate power. Am I wrong about that?

LEE: Willful blindness to the law is always distressing, and I think it takes on an even more concerning note when you're talking about the levers of control of our system of government, and that's exactly what we're describing when we refer to the process by which someone gains access to the ballot box.

If people are willing to say, "We don't care who you are," or "Whether you're entitled to vote under the law, we're going to allow you to vote." That's very disturbing. That upped it to send chills up our spine every time we hear something like that.

It troubles me greatly that there are those in our country right now who suggests that the risk of voter fraud is somehow made up, that it doesn't exist.

We know that there is fraud that's committed in every part of this country in one way or another. Why would it be any different with respect to voter fraud? Especially, given how many of our society's resources are now devoted to government. Why wouldn't it occur there? And, of course, it does. We ought to be concerned about it.

LEVIN: Well, you're concerned about it, and I'm concerned about it, but there seems to be a number of people who aren't concerned about it and, in fact, they seek to exploit it. So, I know there are no easy answers when people - what do you do about it?

Well, it does become complicated, doesn't it?

LEE: Yes, it certainly does, and we have to be careful here too, not to overreact by assuming that because there is a problem that it always necessarily involves a Federal solution.

One of the worst things I think we could would be to Federalize election law, to Federalize the casting of ballots. This is one of the last bastions of state sovereign authority, where states, for the most part conduct their own elections, without excessive interference from the Federal government.

I don't want to see a uniform system of laws thrust on the American people, thrust on every state improperly by the Federal government.

LEVIN: As a matter of fact, that issue was raised by several of the ratification debates and those states said, "We're not voting for this Constitution if you control the voting process in our state."

Don't forget CRTV where you can watch LevinTV every night. I hope you'll join us. Give us a call, 844-LEVIN-TV or check us out at CRTV.com.

Welcome back. Let me ask you about some of your colleagues and what you think about them. Ted Cruz.

LEE: Great guy, I met him shortly after I was elected to the Senate before I had taken office. I felt like I had known him before that because we had a lot of common friends. We were both Appellate litigators and I had seen him argue at the Supreme Court, and He and I share a lot in common ideologically.

We both approach this job from the standpoint of looking at the Constitution and evaluating what it means. He's a good friend and a close ally.

LEVIN: And you both actually had to run against the establishment in order to get your nominations.

Now, Utah has a very interesting system, the convention system. Virginia has it from time to time. That's a very difficult system to overcome, how did you do that?

LEE: Well, I started giving a series of speeches about the Constitution around the state of Utah, and it sort of caught hold. It came at a time when people were realizing the Federal government was getting too big and too powerful, it was commanding too many resources from our society. It was overreaching in its power.

The message caught hold and it resonated with a lot of voters and it resonated with the convention in the state of Utah.

Now, in the convention, I didn't actually clinch the nomination, I had to face a primary, but the incumbent, Senator Bennett, at the time, was defeated at the convention, and so I faced a primary election opponent and won in the primary and then in the general.

LEVIN: And that was which year?

LEE: That was 2010.

LEVIN: And let me ask you about a couple of other senators. Rand Paul.

LEE: Rand Paul is also a dear friend and a close ally. I got to know him when he and I were both running for office at the same time in 2010.

I was in Kentucky on a fund-raising trip, and I met him at a fund-raiser, and I had read somewhere, some columnist somewhere had connected the two dots, and identified Mike Lee in Utah and Rand Paul in Kentucky and said, "If Mike Lee and Rand Paul are both elected to the Senate, they'll become fast friends," and we did. He's a very committed libertarian and loves the Constitution.

LEVIN: Bernie Sanders?

LEE: Bernie Sanders is a great guy. He believes passionately on what he believes in. He and I don't agree on every issue to put it mildly. He describes himself as a progressive independent who caucuses with the Democratic Party. I am a constitutional conservative. We don't agree very often, occasionally it happens.

LEVIN: I would assume like any group, club, organization, there's 100 of you, so some get along better than others. There's these caucuses, I guess that you have, these lunches that you have and so forth.

Give us a little bit of a mind's eye into how this works. I guess, there is wheeling and dealing. Some senators get angry at other senators and some ally with other senators. How does that work?

LEE: It's a little like the Supreme Court as we were talking about earlier. There are people who are not at all aligned politically, ideologically but who get along great. The mainstream media would have you believe that Democrats and Republicans are constantly at odds with each other. There's constant bickering.

There's this mind-set that the problems in Washington are all associated with partisan gridlock, and I don't really think that's the problem. I don't see hatred. I don't see enmity between Democrats and Republicans based on their party affiliation, their ideological orientation.

In fact, you know, you don't get to be $21 trillion in debt, you don't get to the point where your government spends $4 trillion a year without a whole lot of Republicans and a whole lot of Democrats.

LEVIN: Agreeing.

LEE: . agreeing on a whole lot of things. So, that the idea that these parties are so ideologically at odds, that they can't get anything done simply isn't true. It's what they do get done that we have to watch.

LEVIN: So, they're very similar in some ways?

LEE: In many respects, yes. In many respects they have been too similar, they have been too aligned, too willing to expand the size, the scope, the reach, the cost of the Federal government.

That has inured to the great detriment of the American People.

LEVIN: I don't think I'd get along in our lunches very well. I'd be so furious I'd be throwing plates across the table.

LEE: Well, when you run for the United States Senate and get elected, I look forward to that. I am sure they'll love you though. They will welcome you with open arms, and your contribution to the debate would be greatly appreciated and is much need.

LEVIN: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. We'll be right back.

Welcome back. Now, Senator, we talked about some of your senators. Let's talk about the institution of the Senate.

Used to be that the state legislatures chose the senators or the state legislatures chose the method by which the senators were chosen and we get the 17th Amendment.

There's a progressive era of Republicans. We've got the 16th Amendment, the Federal income tax and the 17th amendment. That all changed. The direct election of senators was considered, a very populist thing to do, and so the states don't have any representation. State legislatures don't have any direct representation in the Senate or in Congress period. What do you make of that?

LEE: There's no doubt that something changed within our system when the 17th Amendment took effect. As you properly observe, the States were no longer represented as states. The state legislatures no longer had their own representation in the Senate.

And in many respects, you can trace the expansion of the Federal government to that time. It didn't occur immediately, but it did occur eventually.

At the end of the day, I don't think that genie is ever going to go back into the bottle. I think enough water has passed under that bridge that there is probably no going back. That does not mean we can't restore Federalism without that.

I still think that people can see, are starting to see and ultimately will see that Federalism has to be the answer, that we have to return to constitutionally limited government.

LEVIN: You think that's what people want? With the election of Obama and so forth, do you think people are craving for moving back towards Federalism and against centralization or do you think we just haven't done a very good job of explaining it?

LEE: Both. I think there are a lot of people who are craving Federalism, who understand that that's what they are creating and there are other people who haven't realized that yet but are going to.

Including many on the left; many on the left who are now complaining all of a sudden about too much power being in Washington. When they say that, I say, "Bring on that argument. Let's have that discussion. Let's talk about the facts that there are dangers inherent in giving too much power to any one part of our government, including and especially the Federal government."

LEVIN: Well, they created it after all. Do you really think that Congress and the Federal government will undo the design that they have created in lieu of aspects of the Constitution?

LEE: Only when the people demand it. But that's the beauty of our system, it's that the people are the sovereigns, the people ultimately have the say in what happens with their government, and when the people realize that there is no other solution, there's no other way to get out from under the oppressive yolk of a bloated Federal government that makes many Americans work for months out of every year just to pay their Federal taxes, that is what will happen.

My hope is that that can happen before it gets too much more painful than it already is. But this is an inevitability.

LEVIN: Or if it becomes too late because we can vote and vote and vote, but we can't seem to change the bureaucracy. Vote and vote and vote, we can't seem to change the courts. And I think that frustrates a lot of people out there. We'll be right back.

Senator, while we have a minute or two, where do you see the country in 20 years?

LEE: I see the country as being a place where there is a greater embrace for liberty. I think the American people are basically good. We, as a people strive to live free. We like freedom not just because we like the way it sounds when we say it, but we like the things that free people do when they're allowed to be free.

That's the beauty of the Constitution.

LEVIN: You don't think we're headed towards a greater and greater centralization even if we want to be free, it becomes more difficult to be free?

LEE: I think it does become more difficult to be free if we seek to yearn for liberty, but because we have this, in our history, because we have it in our constitution, it is already the law. It is natural for us to return to that which has succeeded, that which has allowed us to prosper in the past.

The reason we have become the strongest economy the world has ever known has a whole lot to do with the fact that we've been good at recognizing the limits on government power, and the value of limiting the power of government to dictate how you live your life.

I think that's where we will default. I think that where we will end up even after we've explored every other alternative. That's what Winston Churchill said about the American people, they will always do the right thing after they have exhausted every other alternative. It's what makes us different.

LEVIN: Thank you, Senator. Much appreciated.

LEE: Thank you very much.

LEVIN: All right. And we will see you next week on "Life, Liberty & Levin."

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