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Washington • "Far too many" members of Congress don't understand the Constitution, some Supreme Court justices refuse to acknowledge its limits on power, and presidents pay lip service to America's founding document, Sen. Mike Lee charges in a new book to be released in April.
In "Our Lost Constitution," the Utah Republican lays bare his belief that the "very people who have solemnly promised" to protect the Constitution are "subverting" it.
"Many Americans probably assume that our lawmakers understand our founding document and are devoted to defending it," Lee writes in the forthcoming book. "Unfortunately, that assumption is in many ways incorrect."
Lee, a former Supreme Court clerk who prides himself as a constitutional expert, splits his book into two parts. The first describes why certain constitutional provisions were included in the document and why each has been ignored. The second explains "how the Constitution's lost clauses can be brought back to life."
Penguin Publishing's Sentinel imprint provided a copy of the book ahead of its April 7 release but declined to make the freshman senator available to answer questions about it.
The publisher says Lee wrote the book by himself and on his own time but wouldn't reveal how much of an advance the senator received. Under federal law, Lee will have to disclose that fee eventually.
Lee previously published two books, "The Freedom Agenda" in 2011 and "Why John Roberts Was Wrong About Healthcare" in 2013. The senator earned a $25,000 advance on the first book and $7,500 on the second, according to federal records.
In "Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America's Founding Document," Lee takes aim at his own party, including chiding then-President George W. Bush over the McCain-Feingold Act that limited campaign contributions because it went against free-speech protections.
"In a shocking abrogation of his constitutional duty to defend the Constitution, Bush signed the bill," Lee notes, adding that provisions were later struck from the law in the Supreme Court's Citizens United case.
"When I arrived in Washington, I found it awash with people who viewed the Constitution as a nuisance," says Lee, who was elected in 2010. "Although the GOP purports to stand for principles of constitutionally limited government, not every Republican lawmaker is willing to engage in a thoughtful constitutional dialogue."
Lee takes several pages to explain concerns with the National Security Agency's spying and how the Patriot Act, which he opposed on reauthorization, goes against the Founding Founders' intent.
The senator, a tea-party darling, keeps his book focused on Democrats, especially Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and President Barack Obama.
Lee mentions how Reid took an uncontroversial House bill during the health-care fight and pasted in language of the Affordable Care Act to get around the Constitution's rule that only bills that originate in the House can raise taxes.
Such moves are actually quite common in Congress.
Lee blames the federal bureaucracy and Congress' continued efforts to set broad policy and let government officials define the details as a major problem that lets elected leaders off the hook when certain regulations are unpopular.
Not surprisingly, Obamacare is mentioned on 18 pages. Lee uses it to illustrate how Obama and Democrats went around the Constitution to deliver on campaign promises.
Ten months into office, Lee writes, "There was, in fact, no indication by the new president of any legal limits on any federal power to issue mandates on individuals or enlist state governments in this cause. Nor was there any reason why any observer should have been surprised by that glaring omission. After all, these world changers were 'fired up.' They were 'ready to go.' "
In the end, Lee says, there are ways to get America back on course, with the Constitution as a guide.
First, efforts must be made to reclaim constitutional powers through the courts. Second, Congress needs to do its job.
"We have to count on our elected officials to enact serious, structural reforms, not because members of Congress are our best hope," Lee writes, "but because, in some areas, they are our only hope."