Tea Party

Justin Amash: A Politician with Presence

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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:

Present and accounted for.

"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?

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  1. Or at the end of the day, do the results?whether getting out of Afghanistan or defunding Planned Parenthood?really matter more?

    The ends justify the means? I thought we knew the answer to that one: No.

  2. And his name fits perfectly into the chorus of Monster Mash.

    So he’s got that going for him…

    1. Thank you for getting that song stuck in my head. Now think about the theme from M.A.S.H. and see how you like it.

      1. Cause voting ‘No’ is painless
        It brings on (zero) changes
        And I can take or leave it
        As I please

  3. He’s not very good at reading comprehension if he thinks that funding NPR or Planned Parenthood are enumerated powers granted Congress in the Constitution.

    1. and yet despite his reading incomprehension, he’s in congress & ur an anonymous poster.

      1. Yes, and going by the polls, prolefeed is much, much more popular than anyone in Congress.

      2. an inability to comprehend the wording of the constitution and just vote for whatever is politically popular seems to be a de facto job requirement to get elected in virtually congressional district.

        oh, and your post was the logical fallacy of arguing from authority.

        1. and yet he did NOT vote for “whatever is politically popular”

          1. hi old mix. havin fun spoffing me?

          2. how do you know what is “politically popular” in Amash’s district? do you live there?

        2. i m sorry if my post was to newants for u. hes in congres & u r not. pertty logcal actualy

          1. The stupid….it hurts me!

            1. so pull ur foot outta ur ass. jeesch

          2. hmmm. so your argument is that if someone gets elected to congress, then they are by definition better at understanding the constitution than a random person on H&R? that argument from authority?

            or are you just pointing out the he has a more prestigious job title, in the eyes of most people, than me, say nyah nyah nyah?

            because if that is where you’re going, let’s just note that since I’m the Chair of the Libertarian Party of Hawaii, then by your logic everything I say here should be assumed to be correct and everything you say should be presumed wrong.

            not that i would make that assertion, since that would be arguing from authority.

            or are you arguing for the goodness of naked power, that getting into congress is something to be admired, regardless of what one does there?

            because

            1. no the implication, which eluded you, is that members of congress dont have reading comprehension issues. and he’s voting unpopular positions. so BOTH ur assertions are prima facia false. the rest of those clowns above werent moi

              1. is that members of congress dont have reading comprehension issues

                Oh, citation needed so very, very much.

                1. u may not like their interpretations, but they read just fine.

    2. You aren’t very good at reading comprehension if you think he thinks that.

      1. i know what he thinks — i’m noting that not funding stuff for unenumerated powers trumps his argument about bills of attainder.

        i’m saying he’s wrong.

        1. Well the true test is if he writes a counterproposal that defunds activities in more broad terms. Of course, such a bill will never hit the floor.

          1. And amendment to the bill defunding PP and NPR would be better.

          2. He did write a amendment to defund all federally funded abortions. can’t remember the number. It’s somewhere on his facebook page – like everything else.

    3. At the same time, the bill didn’t completely defund an entire class of unconstitutional programs, only some specific ones that annoyed people in power. It was arguably the lesser evil, from the classical liberal perspective.

    4. I’m sure he doesn’t. I think his message is more along the lines of: “Let’s not cherry-pick who gets funding right now based on politics; it’s either everyone who wants it or no one at all.” And he’s right. Making the defunding of NPR and Planned Parenthood top priorities just prove the GOP is not serious about cutting spending, as total spending for NPR and PP barely register when looking at the big picture.

  4. …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?

    Yes. Next question.

    He’s not very good at reading comprehension if he thinks that funding NPR or Planned Parenthood are enumerated powers granted Congress in the Constitution.

    I think the Powers question is separate from the Attainder question.

    The Congress may not have the power to vote appropriations to pay for health care. [I think it does not.]

    But if the Congress does have the power to vote appropriations to pay for health care, it must do so in the form “All citizens meeting Standard X are entitled to Benefit Y.”

    It can’t write it in the form, “All citizens meeting Standard X are entitled to Benefit Y, except for Citizen Z, who gets no benefits because we don’t like him.”

    1. But if the Congress does have the power to vote appropriations to pay for health care, it must do so in the form “All citizens meeting Standard X are entitled to Benefit Y.”

      But what about the philosophically harder question, where you do not concede that Congress has the power to vote appropriations for health care, but you know it’s going to happen anyway. Do you have the Constitutional obligation to ensure that this unConstitutional power is used in a Constitutionally-friendly procedural form, i.e., no Bills of Attainder? Or can you argue that limiting the scope of the fundamental Constitutional offense (the appropriation) is a higher priority than the second-order procedural Constitutional offense?

      And does your answer depend at all on whether you think that the result of the restriction will be to sustain the primary unconstitutional appropriations (now that we’re able to exclude this unpopular minority, it’s easier to get support for this spending) or to cause it to go away (if Team Red is going to exclude Team Blue’s favorite charity, Team Blue will do the same to Team Red, and it will spiral into nothing)?

      1. I think the shorter answer is that funding anything that is unconstitutional because it is an unenumerated power, whether it be NPR or Planned Parenthood or whatever right-wing handout you care to pick out — is a de facto bill of attainder. it is saying, “we will give unconstitutional goodies to group X that we like, and no goodies to group Y because we don’t like them”

        the error in reasoning lies in not lumping all such unconstitutional goodies into a single bucket — “crap we hand out to buy votes” — and voting against ANY bill that contains any such goodies.

        oh, and everyone is allowed to listen to NPR or use Planned Parenthood if they want to, left-wing or right-wing, so it’s not a bill of attainder on those grounds either, even though right-wingers are unlikely to listen to NPR.

        It would only be a bill of attainder if it specifically limited funding for NPR only in, say, “those counties or states that voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008”.

      2. Good Analysis.

        I think it is a hard question. But regardless, I think it is up to each Congressman to do his best, as an inependent sentient being, and vote accordingly. So I can’t fault Amash for these kind of votes.

        If you don’t EVER see a conflict between the ends you seek and means to get there, and then back off because you judge the means improper, then it makes all of our talk about the constitution look like transparent B.S.

        1. While I think Amash’s reasoning is off here, he gets kudos from me for apparently trying to make principled votes.

      3. I think that some of these specifically-directed funding cutoffs were presented to the House in the form of amendments.

        So if Amash votes against the bill itself, but ALSO votes against an amendment to the bill saying, “Notwithstanding the other stuff about spending money we put into bill X, Planned Parenthood gets no money because they’re icky,” then it is possible for him to have acted properly on both the Powers issue and the Attainder issue.

        1. Funding bills have definite boundaries. They aren’t bills that say “Every person/group in America gets X”. So I’m not sure what the issue is with refining the expenditure boundaries.

          1. Exactly. Unless the provision Amash voted against explicitly said something discriminatory like “we will only fund Planned Parenthood in Blue states”, then it isn’t singling out particular people to be discriminated against, even if that is the de facto result.

          2. Actually, that’s pretty much what they are.

            Entitlement spending is set up as “every citizen who meets these criteria may apply for X”.

            Discretionary spending is set up as “Department Y is authorized to purchase the following goods using the following set of contracting procedures”.

            If you introduce a prohibition against a specific individual or company applying into the criteria for the first example, or into the procedures in the second example, you’re violating the Constitution.

            It’s also a violation if you refrain from naming a specific individual, but deliberately tailor your criteria with the aim of excluding a particular individual (as the record surrounding the debate on the Planned Parenthood matter would clearly show, for example) it’s also a violation.

            So you can’t say, “Well, I know we can’t ban Joe Schmo from applying for Medicaid by name, but let’s pass a bill disallowing Medicaid for left-handed people who live at 13 Main Street Podunkville IL” that doesn’t fly.

            1. Are they defunding Planned Parenthood and NPR for certain demographics (“left-handed people who live at 13 Main Street Podunkville IL”), or are they defunding these programs in their entirety for everyone in the U.S.?

              The former is a bill of attainder, the latter is not.

              1. More precisely: are they funding some right-wing radio stations but defunding NPR?

                Are they funding some abortion or family planning services but defunding Planned Parenthood?

                If they are funding some categories of goods and only singling out the left-wing providers of goods for defunding, if that is Amash’s objection, then fine, in that case he would have a good argument.

                1. I just don’t see such things as bills of attainder. Not having other people’s cash handed to you is not a bill of attainder.

                  1. I just don’t see such things as bills of attainder. Not having other people’s cash handed to you is not a bill of attainder.

                    My thoughts exactly.

              2. NPR’s case does not seem like a bill of attainder to me.

                But in the case of Planned Parenthood, they first came up with an amendment banning any organization that performs abortions from being a Medicaid payee for any other non-abortion services.

                But then people screamed that this would defund Medicaid from many hospitals, so they hurriedly said, “Oh shit, we only meant to get Planned Parenthood, not those nice hospitals.” And so they rewrote the amendment to banning any organization that performs abortions from being a Medicaid payee for any other non-abortion services, unless that organization was a full-service hospital.

                To the extent it’s humanly possible for the record to clearly show a transparent attempt to disguise an intention to pass a bill of attainder, the history here does so.

              3. I see what you’re saying and understand your logic, but as a practical matter, who is the prime demographic group that would utilize PP services?

                It’s like how we often say the WoD (weed in particular) has a racial aspect to it, because even though the law doesn’t say “weed is illegal only for blacks”, the practical implementation of the law disproportionately affects blacks (not to say that outlawing drugs and funding bills are in any way analogous, just pointing out that de facto and de jure discrimination aren’t the same thing, and that de facto effects could push something into attainder territory even if the de jure language of the bill isn’t blatantly so).

                1. Congress excluding a particular group or individual from participating in the redistribution of property is not a bill of attainder.

                  To be sure, there are instances where constitutional provisions may appear to be in conflict; however, given that there is no constitutional language authorizing congress to take A’s property in order to give it to B, B can hardly be heard to complain that it is unconstitutional for congress to take A’s property and give it to C and D but not B.

                  1. Congress excluding a particular group or individual from participating in the redistribution of property is not a bill of attainder.

                    Yes, it is.

                    Otherwise, the Congress could simply pass a law making the income tax rate 100%, with a 70% EITC rebate for everyone other than LibertyMike – and you’d have no Constitutional complaint.

                    1. Okay, I see your point.

                      Strictly speaking, could not one be heard to complain that one should be able to get all the goodies that are earmarked for, say, veterans, even if not was not a veteran? Or a medicaid recipient? Or student aid or loans, without any means testing?

                    2. Fluffy, I also see your point, but I still don’t think that would be a bill of attainder. Targeted legislation always includes some and excludes others. If Congress bails out GM, is it a bill of attainder because they didn’t bail out everybody else? Not every stupid/unfair bill is a bill of attainder.

            2. So you can’t say, “Well, I know we can’t ban Joe Schmo from applying for Medicaid by name, but let’s pass a bill disallowing Medicaid for left-handed people who live at 13 Main Street Podunkville IL” that doesn’t fly.

              But this only protects the individual. PP is de facto not a person, not an individual, but an organization of people. Most leftists claimed after the Citizen’s United case that such entities are not entitled to the protections of the Constitution.

  5. The Constitution was designed to prevent the rise and establishment of tyranny, however imperfect it is.

    Would be nice to see more of the Capitol Hill Clown Car take that into consideration.

    1. Tyranny risen? Check.

      Tyranny established? Check.

      Constitution failed? Obviously.

      Democracy is stupid.

    2. The Constitution was designed to prevent the rise and establishment of tyranny, however imperfectuseless it is.

      There we go.

    3. The Constitution was designed to prevent the rise and establishment of tyranny that was acceptable to a majority of Americans, and could be expanded over time as they relaxed their guard.

  6. I’m happy I was able to help send Justin to Washington. I just hope he’s able to do enough damage to the Status Quo before disillusionment sets in.

  7. His Facebook page is cool. He is literally summarizing each bill and why he voted the way he did.

    Meanwhile, I can’t find FB page for the Democratic Senator for my state.

  8. Semi-related:

    Zogby: Newt Crashes to Near Zero in Poll

    Ron Paul at 9%, Herman Cain at 19%

    1. Herman Cain at 19%

      The Who-The-Fuck-Is-That? bump!

      1. “He hasn’t pissed me off yet!”

        1. The “We Got Our Own Clean and Articulate Black Guy So No One Can Accuse Us of Being a Racists” bump. =)

      2. The “Zogby may just as well make up the numbers himself” bump.

      3. Atlanta radio talk show host.

        He was on WSB radio when I was there. He used to substitute for Neal Boortz when Boortz was out. Cain was interesting to listen to ? his talk on the estate tax was good. He has personal experience with it.

    2. The “I’m not racist!” bump.

      1. If Herman Cain hasn’t pissed you off yet, you’ve obviously never eaten Godfather’s Pizza.

        1. Wait, I’m replying to the wrong person.

  9. As I believe robc is on hiatus, I will add: fuck utilitarianism.

    Re: Amash, I will tentatively add him to the very short list of pols I don’t hate. He is kind of cute too, which is almost as rare in Congress as having principles.

  10. He’s actually my rep – hurrah for me.

    1. (FBI Agent reads)

      *Writes down name, email, location for database*

      1. We have an app for that.

  11. (FBI Agent reads)

    *Writes down name, email, location for database*

    1. I still don’t have an answer to the question of whether the approaching totalitarian state will come in threaded reply to some event or seemingly out of nowhere.

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