Justin Amash: A Politician with Presence


Jim Antle profiles Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), one of the most interesting figures lifted into Congress by last year's Tea Party wave. A Ron Paul Republican who posts detailed explanations of all his votes on his Facebook page, Amash is best known for voting "present" on bills whose ends he supports but whose methods he feels are unconstitutional. That includes recent measures to defund NPR and Planned Parenthood: Amash opposes the subsidies, but he felt that the legislation singled out specific organizations and thus were illegal bills of attainder. He also voted "present" on Dennis Kucinich's resolution to withdraw from Afghanistan, again on constitutional grounds, even though Amash opposes the Afghan war.

Writes Antle:

"I think [Amash] makes a mistake by accepting the premise that individual groups have some kind of right to federal money and that barring them is constitutionally dubious," journalist David Freddoso wrote after the Planned Parenthood vote. "No such right exists, and the Second Circuit Appeals Court ruled on the latter issue this last year when it upheld the ACORN defunding provision."

But most strict constitutionalists agree that members of Congress have an obligation to make their own independent judgments about the constitutionality of legislation and then vote accordingly. In a way, that makes Amash an interesting test case. Although they frequently invoke the Constitution, do social conservatives and libertarians—and, for that matter, Tea Party sympathizers and Ron Paul supporters—really want legislators who will vote against their preferred policies on procedural grounds? Or at the end of the day, do the results—whether getting out of Afghanistan or defunding Planned Parenthood—really matter more?