By Eric Buss
To understand the voting patterns of Representative Justin Amash (R-MI), first we have to understand his philosophical anchor point exists above the fray of contemporary hyper-partisanship. He believes in the Constitution, the rule of law and individual liberty. His unwavering commitment to ideals so central to the foundation of our republic make his actions an anomaly in national politics. His confounding positions on a variety of subjects have rendered him a pariah among both the Democrat and Republican Parties.
Being an advocate of Federalism (balance of power between Federal and State Governments), many of Justin’s votes reflect his desire for the states to restore a position of prominence in their own matters. Much of what the people in this country ask of the Federal Government is not within the scope of national affairs. As with any beast eager to escape its confines, the Federal Government is more than willing to indulge them for the opportunity to loosen its restraints. Over time, the mantra of both parties in DC has become, ‘We can help you with that.’ Meanwhile, we are $23 Trillion dollars in debt, we support 430 federal departments, agencies and sub-agencies and there is no area of our lives that remains free of Federal Government’s influence. It is in this context that Justin Amash has emerged a hero to some and a hack to others.
Rep. Amash, in the weeks since his case for impeachment was released in a series of Tweets, has drawn a social media searchlight on himself. While maybe not quite a household name, he is definitely on the radar of those who monitor political discourse. With that rise to prominence has come the inevitable attacks against his character, his voting record and his motivations. Being one who has tracked his career arc from 2010, when the Tea Party Movement propelled him into Congressional office, I would like to mount a solid and factual defense to counter the baseless accusations meant to discredit him.
Setting His Record Straight
In Conservative circles, his vote against H.R.3004 (referred to as Kate’s Law) has been the most baffling. This bill derived its name from Kate Steinle, shot to death by an illegal immigrant who had been deported on five previous occasions. Though the bill did pass the House and the Senate, it did so without the help of Rep. Amash’s “Yes” vote. This legislation, while marketed to the public as a measure for justice, in fact was sweeping appropriation of Federal power. It undermined states’ rights, subordinated state and local law enforcement, and violated some individuals’ rights to due process under the 4th Amendment. This excerpt illustrates one of many examples of gross violation.
“The bill states that it shall be an affirmative defense to a reentry violation (thus placing the burden of proof on the defendant) that: (1) prior to the alleged violation, the alien had received Department of Homeland Security (DHS) consent to reapply for U.S. admission;”
The underlined text is a violation of the individual’s 14th Amendment right to a presumption of innocence. The murder of an innocent woman, while tragic, does not justify the drafting of an emotional piece of legislation that nullifies the Constitutional rights of any state or person (legally or illegally) in this country.
Defund Planned Parenthood:
On two separate proposals to defund Planned Parenthood, Amash voted “Present” rather than casting his vote for or against the measures. His detractors might be expected to latch on to this, as many have, and call him a Pro-Choice candidate. Nothing could be further from the truth. His reluctance to vote “Yea” or “Nay” was based on his conviction that life begins at conception. In each instance where defunding Planned Parenthood Federation of America was proposed, it included an addendum to allow for pregnancies in cases of incest, rape or serious threat to the mother’s health or survival. On both occasions, he refused to be on record as voting against defunding Planned Parenthood because he did not believe the measure went far enough. It still allowed for government funding of abortion under certain criteria. He also acknowledged naming the organization specifically in a resolution might be unconstitutional. To some, it may be construed as a loophole for name changes and continued funding of other abortion providers. In other words, it was not Pro-Life enough. These “Present” votes were misinterpreted by the Pro-Life lobby and cost him support among them.
Defense of Marriage Act:
In 1996, Democrat President Bill Clinton, signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law. The act defined and gave recognition to marriages as only between one man and one woman in the eyes of the Federal Government. Though this did not constitute a vote, Amash’s position on the law leaned toward individual liberty. As such, he aligned with the Supreme Court’s decision to rule the law unconstitutional (2013). While it drew the ire of Conservatives, it was consistent with Justin’s beliefs that the Federal Government has no Constitutional basis for deciding or defining marital status between individuals.
Iron Dome Funding:
Another vote lodged by Rep. Amash in opposition to H.R.1130 titled Iron Dome Support Act, had Conservatives leveling accusations that he was anti-Israel. As supporting Israel is a point that stands out among Conservative positions of foreign policy, his vote gave opponents an opportunity to drive a wedge between Amash and the voters. However, this was proven to be a baseless assumption. The explanation for his “No” vote is quoted in part from his Facebook Page (where he declares the basis for every vote he takes as an additional, personally imposed, level of accountability to his constituents and the voting public at large).
“I support Iron Dome. We’re supposed to offset all new spending with cuts elsewhere. Congress did so with the border bill (which is for our own country), but not with the additional Iron Dome funding. Our debt is approaching $18 trillion. Even our own defense spending is offset, so this was a clear violation of our rules.“
~ Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI)
Settling the Score:
While anyone who breaks ranks with the GOP Machine in DC is bound to feel pressure, his voting record among several Conservative and Liberty ranking sites bears out the wisdom and consistency of his decisions. Conservative Review, the standard by which members of the Legislative branch are measured against Conservative values, gives him a Liberty Score of an A at 90%. Per FreedomWorks (another bulwark of Constitutional representative review), Justin Amash has reached a 100% Lifetime Score. For Gun advocacy, one has only to look at his G.O.A. (Gun Owners of America) score to see that he holds an A+ Rating on issues of the 2nd Amendment. This leads me to my next point of defense.
Content of Character
Democrat in Disguise:
With the exception of the above-mentioned votes (which I hope to have demonstrated are misconstrued) and a few others of note, Justin Amash has enjoyed semi-celebrity status among certain spheres of Constitutional Conservatives as well as a significant contingent of Libertarians. Now, in light of his recent statements, he has become the antithesis of the GOP and a nemesis of Republican leadership. He is called a RINO, a Liberal and a Democrat. It is almost laughable that a founding member of the HFC (House Freedom Caucus) with a consistent record to maintain his libertarian leanings, would have to defend his Constitutional credentials. In fact, the only time Amash’s credentials could ever truly be called into question was when GOP Leadership as well as the President, himself, applied pressure on the HFC for stepping out of line on Obama Care 2.0. He and the rest of the HFC were shamed into settling for the best they could get. In my opinion, this is the only instance when he fell short of his own standard. I have forgiven him for that.
“Never a fan of @justinamash, a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy” ~ President Donald Trump (via Twitter)
Never a fan of @justinamash, a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy. If he actually read the biased Mueller Report, “composed” by 18 Angry Dems who hated Trump,….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2019
When the president takes time out of his busy schedule to drop a tweet about someone, it should be obvious they have rattled some cages. How about this quote from House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy who boasts a Liberty Score of 32% – F (only 20% over Nancy Pelosi):
“You’ve got to understand Justin Amash. He’s been in Congress quite some time. I think he’s asked one question in all the committees that he’s been in. He votes more with Nancy Pelosi than he ever votes with me. It’s a question whether he’s even in our Republican conference as a whole.”
Comparing Liberty Scores alone demonstrates the level of distortion in his statement. It is worth mentioning that Justin openly admits to voting with the President 70-75% of the time over the last three years. Then there is this assessment by House Minority Whip, Steve Scalise (R-LA. Liberty Score: 33% – F):
“I think anybody who knows Justin’s background knows that he sometimes goes a different route than the rest of the Republicans in our conference and this is clearly one of those cases. You don’t see anybody else agreeing with him and in fact I strongly disagree with that take.“
Mitch McConnell (R-KY. Liberty Score: 36% – F) refrained from making any official statement on the matter, preferring to dispatch a cadre of Senators like Lindsey Graham (R-S.C. Liberty Score: 33% – F), John Cornyn (R-TX. Liberty Score: 35% – F), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C. Liberty Score: 38% – F) to speak on his behalf. Though I refuse to adopt the view that “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” the sheer volume of establishment representatives who oppose him seems to lend credibility to Justin’s reputation. Of course, the GOP rumor mill has saddled Amash with the less than flattering moniker of a Democrat Infiltrator so it would only be fair to determine where the most powerful woman in Congress stands with regard to Amash’s call for impeachment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who assumes one of the lowest Liberty Scores at 14% – F:
“Let me be very clear: the president’s behavior in terms of his obstruction of justice, the things that he is doing, is very clear. It’s in plain sight. It cannot be denied. Ignoring subpoenas, obstruction of justice. Yes, these could be impeachable offenses…I do think that impeachment is a very divisive place to go in our country,”
Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer (D-NJ), whose Liberty Score barely registers at a mere 4% – F, is punting with this quick quote:
“My view is that we ought to get all the facts out, the way the House is doing now with Leader Pelosi, If you have a little patience all the information will come out and then decisions will be made,”
So being a shill for the Democrats requires him to take a position against Democrat and Republican leadership. These are the leaders of the legislative branch that comprise ‘The Swamp.’ He has taken a position that runs contrary to all of them. For this, only HIS reputation is being called into question.
CAIR to Elaborate:
Another attempt at character assassination, comes at the expense of his heritage. Amash, being the son of a Christian Palestinian Immigrant who fled the Palestinian territory in 1956 (at age 17) during an Egyptian assumption of power there, has invoked the salacious accusation that somehow the liberty-minded Orthodox Christian is tied to a plot by the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate our government. Aside from acknowledging that CAIR (Counsel on American-Islamic Relations) indeed does give him high ratings, the obvious alt-right origin of such fabricated nonsense hardly deserves mention. However, those who wish to pursue this line of concern should consider the fact that Justin, much like Donald Trump, cannot decide who supports him. President Trump, after all, received the endorsement of David Duke. There is nothing in his history to indicate Amash has sought the support of CAIR. At best, it can be surmised that his opposition to further military excursions in the Middle East without Congressional authorization have won him the respect of Muslim advocacy groups.
The Trader in Congress:
Then there are those who will tell us the whole reason he is calling for impeachment is in retaliation for Trump’s tariff trade war with China. They will go on to explain that his family business is suffering as a result of the higher cost of imported goods from our current economic opponent. First and foremost, he has long been an opponent of tariffs as were many of his Republican colleagues prior to the President’s aggressive demand for this fundamental Republican policy shift. The fact of the matter is 85-90% of the products his family business (MIT or Michigan Industrial Tools Inc. aka Tekton Inc.) deal with come from Taiwan against which no tariffs were imposed. The trade war is having a positive impact on business as their competitors are having to pass the higher prices on to their customers while MIT is able to sell at a rate that is not impacted by the tariffs. In spite of this boon for the business his father founded, he maintains a view that tariffs are merely a tax on consumers. On the other hand, Ivanka Trump has a clothing line that is, at the time of this writing, still being produced in China. I’d like to ease the concerns of her father’s supporters by informing them he made sure her products would not be affected by the trade war.
By my estimation, the most insidious volley (and the official position of the White House) against Rep. Justin Amash is that he is seizing a political moment for personal advancement. In other words, he is an opportunist. This would imply his nearly 10 year career of maintaining a voting record that adheres to the Constitution within a 3% margin of error was a ploy to gain public trust. In all of that time, he participated in all but one vote which ended his record breaking streak of 4293 consecutive votes in 2017. Upon realizing he’d missed the vote, Justin wept. It requires that we believe he has adhered to personal convictions and our Constitutional framework just long enough to undermine the party whose actions, in recent years, have been anything but Conservative. It demands we assume he anticipated the advent of a Donald Trump presidency. He would have had to calculate how to go about bringing him down after having jilted both sides of the aisle. He would have had to pretend to oppose the very FISA courts that are being blamed for the initiation of the investigation in the first place, even going so far as to write an amendment which would restrict FISA from operating with impunity (It is worth noting that FISA was only involved in one aspect of the overall investigation). We must accept that refusing to conform to establishment leadership and party loyalty, wherein all decisions are made regarding Congressional activity, would be instrumental in gaining their support for his own ends.
While such political strategy would illustrate a level of tactical genius to rival Sun Tzu, it is not playing out in his favor at the moment. He has turned the entire Republican Party apparatus against himself. In advance of a re-election bid, he just lost a major contributor of campaign funding, the family of Sec. DeVos (D.O.E).
“Family members have expressed increasing concerns about a lack of representation for their district, the Third Congressional, and I would say an inability to advance efforts connected to important policy matters.”
Now, he has picked up a primary rival for his Michigan seat in Congress. Justin Amash has inspired a multitude of notable as well as obscure bloggers, talk radio personalities and digital defense attorneys at Donald’s disposal to utilize one or all of the cases listed above in an effort to discredit him. The only opportunity such convictions and principles provide him is the ability to sleep at night, and the respect of the people who recognize what he is willing to give up in doing so.
In an age of political populism, he chose an unpopular position. As one of the most consistent characters in Congress, Rep. Justin Amash (a lawyer prior to his initial Congressional run) read the same redacted version of the Mueller Report made available to the public by AG William Barr. He studied it for a full month, drew specific conclusions and presented those conclusions to the general public. He further advanced his opinion that corruption is not exclusive to one party, and gave specific examples of its existence in the GOP. I have yet to see anyone address the case Representative Amash made for impeaching President Donald Trump – only his motives for doing so. In fact, I suspect no one will challenge his case… just his character.
I believe both will stand up to scrutiny.
photo credit: Gage Skidmore