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Mike Lee Seeks Senate Leadership Position

Brian Grimmett
File: Utah Sen. Mike Lee

Utah Sen. Mike Lee says he’s decided to run for a Republican leadership position in the Senate, but the news hasn’t gone over well with those currently in charge.

Mike Lee says he’d like to run to become chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. That position would make him part of Senate Majority leadership and is currently held by Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso.

Lee says the position will be open by the end of the year because of internal rules that put a limit on how long a member can hold it, but in an email sent to KUER, a staffer in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office says the position is not open and won’t be until 2018. However, Lee is free to run against Barrasso if he chooses.

Because of this disagreement, Lee once again finds himself in conflict with many of his Senate colleagues.

Tim Chambless is a professor of political science at the University of Utah. While he wouldn’t speculate on the motivation behind Lee’s interest in leadership, he did say it’s important to look at the timing of the effort.

“The positive is, it gives Sen. Lee greater visibility," he says. "The negative is that it can be an irritation, counter-productive, a negative to those already in leadership who see a new first-term Senator being overly ambitious.”

Lee is up for re-election this year in Utah. He also has close ties to Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign and has been mentioned as a potential Supreme Court Justice nominee if Cruz wins. Lee is among a majority of Republican senators who refuse to consider President Obama’s nominee for the high court, Merrick Garland.

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