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Amash: When you have the case of abortion, you’ve got two people involved. You’ve got a baby and you’ve got a parent. I think it falls within the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
reason: Under current federal law, the constitutional reading is the state does not have an interest in a fetus or in a pregnancy for the first trimester. You would say that that is an error. How far back to the moment of conception should it go?
Amash: It’s a tricky question, but I think that where we have it now is not correct. It should be closer to the point of conception. Whether it’s instantly or the first three days, I think that’s more sensible and that’s what I think would be correct.
reason: You’re an Orthodox Christian. Talk a little bit about how that informed your upbringing and how it informs your legislative profile, if it does.
Amash: There’s a strong emphasis in our church on free will and on the mystery of the order of the world. I think that really fits in well with my views. I’m not sure that my political views were necessarily shaped by that, but they definitely do mesh together very well. I believe strongly in an idea of free will. People can make up their own mind about how they live their lives, and they will be judged accordingly.
reason: What are the most important issues that America has to grapple with in this next congressional term?
Amash: It’s got to be debt, and civil liberties as well. Debt is number one. You have to get the debt under control.
reason: Does that mean not raising the debt limit at the end of March? Or brokering a tough deal to say, “We will have a short term increase but it’s got to start coming down”?
Amash: I don’t think you raise the debt limit unless you get major reforms to major programs. You’ve got to get the laws changed now. Some of those mandatory programs, it does take a while for the cost savings to kick in because of the way they work, but you’ve got to make the changes immediately.
reason: Talk a little bit about how your votes against things like the National Defense Reauthorization Act played out in your party and how you will continue to push for broader civil liberties going forward.
Amash: I think it’s important that we do have someone who is pushing on this issue, because we haven’t had good protection for civil liberties in either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party for many years. You have a few members, but not that many who are outspoken about it.
I think the Republican Party is actually coming along in the direction of my way of thinking, and of many young Republicans. Protecting civil liberties is one of the most important things our government should do. It’s really the reason for the Founding, to protect civil liberties of Americans. So when you look at various issues like drones—I’m not against drones as an object. I don’t object to the idea that there’d be drones. I think drones can be a useful weapon in war. But any use of drones should be authorized by Congress. It shouldn’t just be an open-ended use of force against anyone that the president sees as a threat without any approval from Congress.
The same with the National Defense Authorization Act. There may be reasons to detain people, but it should be in the context of war. It can’t be so broad that you can actually come into a home in the United States and grab an American citizen out of his home and detain him, not tell his family anything, and say, “Well, we think he might be associated with terrorists.” That’s the current law, and that’s frightening. That’s not what our Founders intended.
reason: Final question. You’re the parent of three children. What would you say the odds are that they will come of age in a richer and freer America?
Amash: I have to say the odds are pretty high. It’s still 90 percent odds, because I really do believe in the American people. My dad and mom came here as immigrants. They came here with nothing. There is a spirit here that is independent. It’s libertarian in many ways, and it’s in pretty much everyone I run into, regardless of their political affiliation. I think that it’s still strong. And when I go to town halls I get a good reception. I think we can turn this thing around, but not with the current Congress or the current president. It’s going to take some changes and some time.