The National Journal published a profile piece on Senator Mike Lee’s work in Washington. The article provides good analysis of where he has been and where he is going with his conservative reform agenda. Here are some highlights from the article, which should be available online next week:

“Today, the Utah senator is one of the Beltway’s most aggressive purveyors of reform-minded conservative ideas. While his three closest allies in the Senate—Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul, all fellow first-termers who, like Lee, rode the tea-party wave into office—have spent the past few years raising their profiles in preparation for presidential runs, Lee has chosen a different path: hunkering down with policy experts in an effort to shape an agenda that will help Republicans appeal to the poor and middle class.”

“Blending populist communitarianism with a libertarian suspicion of government puts Lee in the sweet spot for reform conservatives—that is, Republicans who want to put forward affirmative policy ideas instead of just fighting big government. “He’s been one of the real policy entrepreneurs since he came in,” says Yuval Levin, founding editor of National Affairs and a leader of the reform-conservative movement. “He’s one of a handful of members really interested in policy details and in turning conservative ideas into policy proposals.” More than anyone else, says conservative columnist Ramesh Ponnuru, Lee has filled “the policy vacuum” in the Senate. “Conservatism for a lot of the Obama years moved away from being a policy-oriented movement,” Ponnuru says. “Senator Lee is playing an important role beefing up the policy content.””

“Ultimately, say observers, Lee’s influence isn’t about any specific bill he puts forth—or even about getting his friends to talk up reform on the presidential trail. Rather, his aggressive policy talk has helped re-energize debate among his Senate colleagues in general. By putting ideas out there without getting beaten up, says Salam, Lee is encouraging his fellow lawmakers to take more risks and think more creatively about policy. Ironically, Lee’s credibility with the right, cemented by less-constructive antics like the shutdown, is arguably what has made it possible for him to champion some of these ideas. “You cannot accuse him of being a RINO squish,” says Ponnuru (i.e., “Republican in name only”).”

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