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reason: Do you see yourself in a national liberty-movement leadership role?
Amash: I do view my role as important in bringing the liberty perspective to light. I am chairman of the House Liberty Caucus and we are trying to use that as a tool for getting some of these ideas out to our colleagues and constituents across the country.
My constituents are all very concerned about their liberty, so I don’t see the roles [of being a national leader and a local representative] as incompatible. It’s the same role. I was elected to Congress to follow the Constitution and defend my constituents’ economic freedom and individual liberty.
reason: In theory, given the Republican Party’s rhetoric, more congressmen should feel free to be like you. Why aren’t they?
Amash: I think a lot are afraid if they are too bold they will be voted out of office. My message to them is that’s not true. People don’t vote you out of office for being too bold. They vote you out for being stupid. Sure, if you vote in a way different from other members and are unwilling to explain yourself, you might have a problem. But as long as you are willing to explain, you can be very bold and get new people involved in the process who will also be bold. Lots of new members, I think, will be inspired by the kind of work I’ve done in terms of transparency.
reason: Any surprises about your experience in Congress after your first term, pleasant or unpleasant?
Amash: I’ve been surprised by the level of unwillingness to work on issues like our debt in a serious way. I would have hoped that when Republicans were swept into office in 2010 we’d make some real gains in reducing the size of government or at least explaining to the American people why we need to have much smaller government. I look back on two years and see essentially no big accomplishment; it’s been two years of treading water and deals made that only serve to grow our government.
I’ve been surprised how many new members are aligned with the principles of limited government and economic liberty and individual freedom, but we don’t have the position in leadership yet to make an impact on the Party’s direction, at least directly. We are impacting people back home that will eventually translate into a new direction for the Party.
reason: What are your biggest priorities for your second term?
Amash: My top legislative priority is my balanced budget amendment. It has 14 Democratic co-sponsors, which makes it among most popular bipartisan balanced budget proposals we ever had. I’m going to continue to work with Democrats and Republicans and maybe get a vote on it eventually. My amendment requires current year spending to balance with the average revenue of the previous three years. It requires you to make tax decisions for the future rather than the current year.
My other role over the next two years will be to continue to fight to defend civil liberties and ensure our foreign policy is one of defense. We need people who will make the case that Republicans and Democrats are not doing a good enough job protecting our rights and in fact protecting our country. Especially with Ron Paul retiring, it’s important to have a voice there fighting for civil liberties and a sound foreign policy.
Thomas Massie: A lot of domestic programs I cannot find a constitutional basis for.
Rep. Thomas Massie, a new congressman from Kentucky’s 4th district, had retreated to a life of cattle and timber ranching after a successful career as a tech entrepreneur. But Massie, 42, developed an interest in politics while fighting some agricultural zoning changes and new tax initiatives in his county. He became a local hero to those annoyed by government regulation and overreach by spearheading citizen victories in those fights. This paved the way for a congressional race in which he was mentored by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul—Ron’s son—and heavily funded by national liberty-minded superPACs.
reason: What led you to run for Congress?
Rep. Thomas Massie: When Rand Paul started running in the primary [for Senate] I decided to do a fundraiser at my house. His message resonated with me. I was a supporter of Ron Paul’s but I never knew his son was living in my state; when I found out he was running for senator, I backed him. At the same time people in the county were encouraging me to get in a local race for county judge-executive. That’s a bit of a misnomer; the judge function no longer exists, so it’s basically like being mayor for a county. I put my name on the ballot and beat the Republican incumbent two to one on the same day Rand won his Senate primary.