President Donald Trump is expected on Monday to unveil his Supreme Court nominee. Given Democratic intransigence and the Republicans’ scalpel-thin Senate majority, the president’s wisest and safest bet may be a young constitutionalist conservative who would be tough for Senate Democrats to Bork: their colleague, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
The 47-year-old has spent 6 1/2 years legislating the size and scope of government, the separation of powers, and the constitutionality — or lack thereof — of everything Washington does. Equipped with these valuable lawmaking insights, Lee would be the 16th U.S. senator to become a Supreme and the most recent since FDR’s nominee Hugo Black, D-Ala. The former Klansman served the Court from 1937 to 1971.
Lee clerked for federal judge Dee Benson and then for Samuel Alito — when Alito was a circuit-court magistrate, and again at the Supreme Court. Lee privately practiced appellate and Supreme Court litigation. He was an assistant U.S. attorney and then general counsel to former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.
Senate Democrats would be hard-pressed to turn up their noses at Lee’s resumé.
More important, senators rarely devour each other when a fellow club member is tapped for another position. Senate Democrats would find it difficult to attack their distinguished colleague as a space-based extremist whose flying saucer just zoomed in from Planet Goldwater. Democrats have served amicably with Lee. Indeed, according to Congress.gov and ProPublica, 36 senators in the 49-person Democratic caucus (including independents Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont) have co-sponsored bills that Lee has written.
In fact, the very first Democrat to co-sponsor a bill by Lee was none other than Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York. In October 2011, Schumer put his name on S.1697, Lee’s bill to permit three-year immigration periods for foreign sheep herders, goat herders, and dairy farmers. Schumer was Lee’s only co-sponsor from either party.
Schumer was one of 12 Democrats to co-sponsor S.1123, Lee’s April 2015 bill to reform federal procedures related to surveillance in criminal, counterterrorism, and foreign-intelligence probes.
In addition, Senate Democratic whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich, Massachusetts’s Ed Markey, and Montana’s Jon Tester each has co-sponsored four of Lee’s bills. Delaware’s Chris Coons has stood up for Lee on seven pieces of legislation. Vermont’s Patrick Leahy has joined forces with Lee on eight. New Jersey’s Cory Booker has co-sponsored nine of Lee’s bills.
Three more of Lee’s measures garnered impressive Democratic support: 20 Democrats co-sponsored S.356, Lee’s September 2015 bill to improve the privacy of electronic communications; 17 co-sponsored S.502, Lee’s February 2015 proposal “to focus limited Federal resources on the most serious offenders;” 22 co-sponsored S.1933, Lee’s 2017 version of S.502.
These facts can be lobbed back at Democrats if they deploy their dog-eared demonization playbook. Knowing that such questions would arise, Democrats would be less likely to go DEFCON 1 against Lee.
Conservatives should not become unglued because some of Lee’s bills have attracted significant bipartisan concurrence. Lee’s latest conservative scorecards indicate that his head is screwed on right:
▪ National Taxpayers Union: 92-percent rating. (No. 1 in the Senate.)
▪ Club for Growth: 99-percent lifetime score
▪ Heritage Action for America: 99-percent lifetime record
▪ American Conservative Union: 99.4-percent lifetime average.
▪ Freedom Works: 100-percent lifetime grade.
Lee is a reliably conservative constitutionalist Generation Xer with whose ideas Senate Democrats repeatedly have associated themselves. It’s tough to imagine a more qualified and confirmable choice for Trump.
Deroy Murdock is a Fox News contributor and contributing editor with National Review Online.