February 02, 2018
"to elevate the condition of
men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the
paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered
start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln
Chairman's Note: The State of Our
Union is Strong
This Tuesday President Trump
delivered the first State of the Union of the 45th presidency of
the United States and he was privileged to accurately report that
the state of our union is strong.
The United States economy grew at
an annual rate of 2.3 percent in 2017, and growth exceeded 2016
levels in every quarter. Unemployment fell from 4.7 percent in
January 2017 to 4.1 percent this month. And wages grew 2.9
percent in 2017, a level not seen since 2009.
Not only are more Americans
working for higher wages, but starting next month millions of
Americans will also start benefiting from the tax cut Congress
passed and President Trump signed this past December.
According to the centrist
Brookings Institute, the bill will reduce taxes for all income
groups by an average of $1,600 in 2018, and according to The New
York Times tax calculator, the typical Utah family with three
kids making the state median income of $66,000 will see an
average $1,680 tax cut.
American families would not have
been able to save this much money in taxes without the hard work
of Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV), Tim Scott (R-SC), Marco Rubio
(R-FL), and First Daughter Ivanka Trump, who all worked
tirelessly to increase the Child Tax Credit from $1000 to $2000
and make $1400 of that amount refundable.
The Senate has also been working
diligently to fill the many vacancies open throughout the federal
court system. The biggest, of course, being Justice Neil Gorsuch
who was confirmed to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on April 10,
2017. I had the good fortune of appearing before then-Judge
Gorsuch when he was on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and can
honestly report that he is one of the best judges in the country.
He came to oral argument prepared with probing and fair questions
that helped everyone better understand the issues before the
court. The nation is lucky to have him on the highest court.
In addition to Gorsuch, the
Senate confirmed 18 other federal judges, the most ever in the
first year of a presidency. By the end of 2017, the Senate
Judiciary Committee also approved another 25 judicial nominations
that are now awaiting final Senate confirmation, and another 25
judicial nominations are currently waiting for Judiciary
Committee approval. With the help of the Senate, President Trump
is on track to fill a record number of judicial appointments,
thus reshaping the federal judiciary for a generation.
Our nation's rural communities
also received some much needed help in 2017 as President Trump
rolled back multiple restrictive regulations pushed on them by
wealthy urban environmental special interests. Burdensome methane
restrictions and reporting requirements were either stalled or
rolled back entirely. Restrictive new planning requirements for
public land use were undone as were burdensome new truck
For Utahns, however, no decision
was bigger than President Trump's December order to shrink the
Bears Ears National Monument from President Obama's oppressive
1.35 million acres to a much more sensible 200,000 acres. The
rural communities around Bears Ears that rely on grazing and
other uses of public lands were able to breathe a huge sigh of
relief knowing that, at least for the next four years, the
federal government would not be invading their lands and upending
their way of life.
There still is much for Congress
and the White House to do over the next three years, but 2017 was
a very solid start.
Sen. Lee's thoughts on the State
of the Union
Click here to watch video
Issue in Focus: Against
5G, or 5th Generation, is the
next step in wireless spectrum. It will likely be faster, more
efficient, and could lead to advancements that allow for
self-driving cars, drones, and virtual reality.
And the government is thinking of
This week, Axios gained access to
a government memo and PowerPoint probing the idea that the
federal government should look into financing, building, and
running a national 5G network in the next 3 years, all in the
name of national security. It argues that outside agents will
want to hack the network, giving them access to self-driving
cars, economic information, and other technologies. Without this
network being run and protected by the government, we are told we
at the risk of falling prey to China and other countries who have
outstripped us technologically and who could take advantage of
our subpar cybersecurity.
While this threat is real, a
government-run network is not the right answer.
Only markets can provide the
competition necessary to build a resilient 5G network with
effective security. A company cannot survive without customers,
and customers will not use a network where their information is
being hacked. For private companies, the imperative for security
goes beyond national security, it goes to their bottom line.
On the other hand, the federal
government has shown itself to be vulnerable to these kinds of
"The main lesson to draw from the
wireless sector's development over the past three
decades-including American leadership in 4G-is that the market,
not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and
investment," Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai
said this week. "What government can and should do is to push
spectrum into the commercial marketplace and set rules that
encourage the private sector to develop and deploy
While the administration has
walked the memo back by saying it was written by low-level
national security employees, its existence still highlights how
national security has become a widely-used justification for
growing federal power. It isn't new, and it's often
well-intentioned. But in this instance as well as many before it,
national security is best served by leaving the private sector to
361A Russell Senate
Salt Lake City
Wallace F. Bennett
125 South State,
Salt Lake City, UT
Office of Senator
Michael S. Lee
285 West Tabernacle,
St. George, UT 84770
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