Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., objected Wednesday evening to a Senate resolution honoring The Heritage Foundation on the leading think tank’s 50th anniversary.

The commemorative resolution brought to the Senate floor by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, violates a committee policy, Durbin argued in blocking immediate adoption of the measure as part of a procedural courtesy called unanimous consent.

“The fact that I’m applying the committee rules is no reflection on that organization,” Durbin said, referring to The Heritage Foundation and adding: “But I do want to make it clear that under those rules, I have to object at this point.”

Lee rose to speak about the resolution on the eve of Heritage’s events to celebrate the Washington-based think tank’s 50th year of developing and promoting solutions to the nation’s challenges that are rooted in the conservative movement. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)

The Heritage Foundation “has worked to build a United States where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish,” Lee said. “Their unwavering commitment to our nation’s core principles has been a guiding light for generations, and we owe them our deepest gratitude.”

Lee went on to describe Heritage’s role, since its inception, in furthering conservative principles and preserving American freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.

“The Heritage Foundation understands that the people of the United States are best served by a government that understands, honors, and respects self-governance,” Lee said. “They have been a voice of reason and an advocate for our shared American values, reminding us of the power of individual liberty and the importance of limited government. Their dedication to promoting a society based on these ideals has helped shape the course of our nation, and we are all the better for it.”

Following his prepared remarks, Lee responded to Durbin’s objection to the resolution, explaining that in his 12 years in the Senate, he had “never seen” someone invoke the policy Durbin used to object.  

“It’s a policy that’s seldom employed,” Lee said, adding, “I’ve never seen it invoked.”  

Senate Judiciary Committee policy requires commemorative resolutions to be bipartisan. Lee said he had invited Senate Democrats to honor The Heritage Foundation.

“I genuinely think that they should be willing to join it,” Lee said, “in the same sense that I would be willing to join them in something honoring Brookings [Institution], or some other think tank.” 

“This group has done good work,” Lee said of Heritage, adding that “there’s nothing in the resolution that commits [members of the Senate] to substantially embracing every policy recommendation in The Heritage Foundation’s past.” 

Lee also pointed out that Heritage is a 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit under IRS rules, and “not political.”  

“I think there’s no strong reason [the policy cited by Durbin] should stop us” from adopting the resolution, Lee said, adding that he hopes the Senate will do so soon.  

Edwin J. Feulner, a former Capitol Hill aide, led the think tank as its president for well over 30 years. Under his leadership, Heritage issued its first “Mandate for Leadership,” a set of conservative policy recommendations in book form, many of which were adopted by President Ronald Reagan after his 1980 election.  

Heritage repeatedly has been ranked the think tank with the “Most Significant Impact on Public Policy” in the world by the Global Go-To Think Tank Index Report. 

Over the past 50 years, The Heritage Foundation has played key roles in expanding school choice programs in a dozen states, preventing amnesty for illegal immigrants in multiple bills, producing plans to balance the federal government’s budget, furthering policies that support women and protect the unborn, and seeking to protect the vision of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” laid out by the Founding Fathers.  

Kevin Roberts, an academic who went on to lead the Texas Public Policy Foundation, became Heritage’s seventh president in late 2021.

Heritage policy experts and scholars regularly appear on major cable networks and radio shows, write op-ed columns for news outlets across America, and testify before Congress.  

In December 2021, for example, Amy Swearer, a legal fellow in Heritage’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on gun trafficking and rising violence in Chicago.  

Durbin, who is chairman of the committee, interrupted Swearer in the middle of her testimony.  

“Ms. Swearer, I read your testimony,” Durbin said. “And I believe in all fairness, since we did not invite [the] Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office … that you shouldn’t really zero in on any particular individual.” 

Swearer responded:  

Senator, I do in fact respect that this is something that we’re looking at from a federal level. However, when we’re talking about what is actually happening in Chicago … we need to look at how do things like not charging five individuals who shot up a residential neighborhood on a Friday—none of which were charged and were released on Monday—how does that impact the feeling of confidence? How does that build trust with the community? I think that is a valid thing to consider. … A lot of criminal justice and how we enforce the law is done at a local level. These things matter.

Swearer later appeared on “Fox & Friends First” to discuss the exchange with Durbin.  

Heritage is celebrating its 50th anniversary with formal, invitation-only events at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Maryland, just outside Washington.

A two-day Leadership Summit will feature speakers such as Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., commentator and podcaster Allie Beth Stuckey, and Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will deliver a keynote address to close the summit Friday afternoon.  

“Conservatives are craving a bold and visionary leader who gets things done—and that’s exactly what Gov. Ron DeSantis has accomplished in Florida,” Roberts said last month in announcing the Republican governor’s appearance.

“Heritage recognized Florida as the top state in America for parental rights and school choice, largely because of Gov. DeSantis’ leadership,” Roberts said. “He’s unafraid to take on woke and powerful corporate interests while putting the values of everyday Floridians first and foremost.”  

The Leadership Summit will be capped by a 50th anniversary gala Friday evening, where popular Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson will be the headliner. In 1991, Carlson began his career at Heritage working for Policy Journal, a quarterly published at the time by the think tank.

“Tucker Carlson is a fearless American who is unafraid to challenge the Washington regime, ask tough questions, and hold the ruling elite accountable. His nightly show is must-see TV for anyone who realizes we have a limited window of time to save this country,” Roberts said in announcing the commentator’s participation. “We are excited to welcome Tucker Carlson back to Heritage as we mark this important milestone and celebrate our 50th anniversary.”

Visit The Heritage Foundation website to learn more about the think tank and its mission to continue furthering conservative policy solutions.  

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