Keystone XL

Justin Amash Explains Keystone XL Vote, Shows Why He Should Be CLONED


Simply put, we need more legislators like Rep. 

Justin Amash (R-Mich.). Yes, he leans libertarian, which means a hell of a lot to me. He's serious about reducing the size, scope, and spending of the federal government. Hooray for all that.

But far more important, he is serious about governing and principled in his votes. Which he explains EVERY SINGLE TIME. 

None of this means he can't compromise or play well with others. It does means he's exactly the sort of person you want in charge of passing laws and regulations and policies.

I don't believe in government funding of science, but I might make an exception if it was a project to identify what's special in Amash and to clone the hell out of him.

Here's his explanation of his vote regarding The Keystone XL pipeline. He thinks there's no reason the pipeline shouldn't be built and that Obama's years-long dilly-dallying is pure politics. He also thinks it's wrong for Congress to write legislation to specifically benefit one private company and minimize eminent domain concerns.

Which is exactly right. If we can't yet clone him, here's hoping we can at least clone his commitment to principle, communication with voters, and simple courage to follow through on his campaign promises.

Here's his pipeline vote explainer. You can read it and all his votes on his Facebook page.

I voted present on H R 3, Northern Route Approval Act. The Keystone XL pipeline is a private project owned by TransCanada Corporation. This bill improperly exempts TransCanada Corporation—and no other company—from laws that require pipeline owners and operators to obtain certain government permits and approvals.

I support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and holding it up for over four years (with no end in sight) for political reasons is wrong. It's improper, however, for Congress to write a bill that names and benefits one private project, while doing nothing to address the underlying problems that allowed such delays to occur. The Constitution gives Congress the power "to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations," but the Rule of Law requires that legislation be of general, not specific, applicability. A proper bill would address the circumstances that allow *any* such project to be held up for political reasons, not just Keystone XL.

As F.A. Hayek explained in The Constitution of Liberty: "It is because the lawgiver does not know the particular cases to which his rules will apply, and it is because the judge who applies them has no choice in drawing the conclusions that follow from the existing body of rules and the particular facts of the case, that it can be said that laws and not men rule. Because the rule is laid down in ignorance of the particular case and no man's will decides the coercion used to enforce it, the law is not arbitrary. This, however, is true only if by 'law' we mean the general rules that apply equally to everybody. This generality is probably the most important aspect of that attribute of law which we have called its 'abstractness.' As a true law should not name any particulars, so it should especially not single out any specific persons or group of persons."

My commitment to my constituents when I took office was that I may vote present on legislation in three extremely rare circumstances (this is the 12th present vote out of nearly two thousand votes in Congress): (1) when I could otherwise support the legislation, but the legislation uses improper means to achieve its ends, e.g., singling out a specific person or group for special treatment; (2) when Representatives have not been given a reasonable amount of time to consider the legislation; or (3) when I have a conflict of interest, such as a personal or financial interest in the legislation—a circumstance that hasn't happened yet and I don't anticipate happening.

H R 3 uses improper means to accomplish its laudable goal by singling out TransCanada Corporation and its Keystone XL pipeline for special treatment.

It passed 241-175-1.

Related: Justin Amash talks to Reason about Debt, Immigration, Abortion, and More.

Also: 3 Reasons to Build the Keystone XL Pipeline


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  1. It injures no one to break a company free from the targeted political games of Barry and the Econuts. Just another case of best being the enemy of good enough. Really, this is just reestablishing the status quo for TransCanada, because it would have been approved under the normal, ethical approval process by now.

    I still like Amash, but this is flawed reasoning.

    1. Oh, and I’d add that the eminent domain concerns are a state issue and this resolves the federal aspect only as I understand it.

      I wonder if Amash and Gillespie were as concerned about the potential trade-offs when Barry declared immigration amnesty. Nah, the ends justified the means then, I’m sure.

      1. ED is very specifically a federal issue as its covered in the Bill of Rights.

        1. Eminent domain (United States, the Philippines), compulsory purchase (United Kingdom, New Zealand, Ireland), resumption (Hong Kong), resumption/compulsory acquisition (Australia), or expropriation (South Africa, Canada) is the power of a state or a national government to take private property for public use. However, it can be legislatively delegated by the state to bmunicipalities, government subdivisions, or even private persons or corporations, when they are authorized to exercise the functions of public character.

          Not clear at all to me whether federal eminent domain is being invoked here or something else.

          1. The Takings Clause applies to the states and localities. It’s a federal right that can be violated by state and local actions.

            1. Still doesn’t mean it’s a federal action. States can and do exercise it on their own.

    2. You were wrong. In the grand scheme of things, Keystone isn’t as important as proper governance.

      And secondly, did his present vote kill the bill? Or was it merely a protest vote? If the latter, which I assume (haven’t been following closely) then he good to represent the perfect without killing the good, so what is your beef?

      1. Not a protest vote:

        I may vote present on legislation in three extremely rare circumstances (this is the 12th present vote out of nearly two thousand votes in Congress): (1) when I could otherwise support the legislation, but the legislation uses improper means to achieve its ends, e.g., singling out a specific person or group for special treatment

        1. The more I think about it the less Amash’s vote makes sense. This is not a case of giving special treatment to a single company; it’s a case of removing a special punishment. Or would Amash consider the only valid remedy a complete removal of all permitting and regulation of all international infrastructure as the only solution?

      2. voting present is bullshit. Part of being in Congress is making tough decisions. No bill is ever going to be perfect.

        1. wareagle|1.10.15 @ 12:37PM|#
          “voting present is bullshit. Part of being in Congress is making tough decisions.”

          I don’t see that as an easy decision, and I think he explained why it wasn’t.

      3. It injured no one to support the bill and corrected a wrong that the president is imposing. What is your beef on actually voting to fix part of a problem?

        1. For exactly the reason he outlined: it is immoral to support laws that are written to benefit a specific private entity. See the relevant Hayek quote.

          1. This doesn’t benefit a specific entity, it removes a specific punishment.

            1. It benefits one specific company.

              This bill improperly exempts TransCanada Corporation?and no other company?from laws that require pipeline owners and operators to obtain certain government permits and approvals.

              1. No, it removes the extra scrutiny that has applied to this pipeline. They already met all of the criteria for the permit and Barry is refusing it. They even met his requirement that State determine that it has no significant impact on global warming. His response has been “wrong, do it again.”

                So show me another company that is being harmed in this same way.

                Additionally, this must mean that Amash is against individual pardons and commutations because that doesn’t benefit an entire class.

                1. They are being relieved of a cost that all of their potential competitors must bear. I’m not an MBA, but that sure looks like a benefit to me.

  2. We should have a reality show called Congress(wo)man Swap, where a district with a mediocre Congressman gets to switch for a time with a district with a good Congressman.

    But I realize that this would basically involve every district swapping to get Amash.

      1. Dammit autocorrect, learn our fucking reps.

  3. It’s improper, however, for Congress to write a bill that names and benefits one private project

    I’d be in favor of a constitutional amendment stating just that.

    Congress and the States shall make no law favoring or discriminating against one individual or group of individuals over another.

    You can write a law that says no one may introduce arsenic into the environment in such and such a quantity, but you can’t say “oil companies” may not.

    It’d be a good step in eliminating cronyism. It would also limit government to a point where it might almost be affordable.

    1. Maybe reading something like this?

      No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

      1. That obviously:

        a. Only applies to states.
        b. Was written to apply only to laws discriminating against blacks.
        c. Doesn’t really mean what is says.

        1. No part of the constitution means what it says, at least ever since the lawyers got hold of it. But it is a general statement, even if black equality was the immediate aim.

          1. at least ever since the lawyers got hold of it.


            Kill all the lawyers?

            1. I know which one I’d start with. My ex-wife’s.

      2. Or even:

        No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, nor any law impairing the obligation of contracts, shall ever be passed, and no conviction shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture of estate.

    2. An argument could be made that it follows logically from: “No Bill of Attainder … Law shall be passed”

      1. Also:

        The President … shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

        On separation of powers grounds. Congress exempting someone from a law is assuming a power reserved for the president.

  4. I might make an exception if it was a project to identify what’s special in Amash

    He’s smarter. I don’t know how smart, but compared to the rest of the lot he’s a genius. It’s odd to see everyone attribute politicians’ actions to malice and greed when the simplest explanation is stupidity. Pelosi, Reid, Boehner, McCain, Obama… the list goes on. They’re not intelligent. They were the kids in high school and college who studied endlessly so they could regurgitate the answers with no actual understanding. I had a more intellectual conversation with the janitor yesterday than I’d expect to have with any of them.

    1. A janitor needs to know what he’s doing.

  5. Would Amash rather the pipelines be nationalized? Should we just not transport hydrocarbons in pipelines and accept the costs attendant to that?

    1. I think Smash would prefer a competing set of pipelines.

      1. Smash and Massive…maybe autocorrect is on to something.

        1. John programmed your autocorrect. 😉

      2. Pipelines don’t compete in the normal sense. That’s not to say they are monopolies, but they are somewhat analogous to electric transmission lines.

  6. we laughed at Obama for voting present. The explanation and Nick’s support of it sound like the sort of let-perfect-be-the-enemy-of-good too-clever-by-half approach that serves no one. If you support the bill, vote yes. If not, vote no. If you think it needs amending, then offer an amendment.

  7. ED is an affront to basic liberties. We’ve got dozens if not hundreds of Susan Kelos here but they’re being sacrificed at the altar of economic growth once again. I’m all for growth, but not at the expense of property rights.

      1. Without the use of government force to violate property rights. If we can violate people’s property rights because it would be ‘good for society’ to have this or that pipeline, where does that stop?

        1. Without the use of government force to violate property rights.

          Yeah, no shit.

          How would you build a new highway from NY to LA? Or bury a power line for that matter? Let alone an oil pipeline which fruitcakes believe to be harmful to Gaia.

          You’re the project manager. How would you accomplish it?

        2. You mean like restricting how eggs are grown or pork is raised? Where would it stop?

    1. This would be an interesting county without or with a much reduced electricity and rail infrastructure.

      1. Or without space for streets & sidewalks.

    2. Again, Bo is fine as long as the ends justify the means. The eminent domain issues are separate from the federal approval of an international pipeline. You’re using one injustice as an excuse to fight another. Oops, there goes the consistency again.

      1. A defender of ED criticizing another person for ends justify the means thinking! Delightful.

        1. How is it ‘defending eminent domain’ to point out that the Federal Approval Vote has nothing to do with it?

          As noted below and above = the ’eminent domain’ issues are confined to the states and congress has no say on how those cases play out.

        2. No, Bo, you’re the one who is always so anxious to point out the logical inconsistencies of others. As Gilmore mentioned this bill says nothing about eminent domain. It merely removes stops Barry from his special harassment of this project. ED is separate, but you’re fine with Barry’s meddling because it prevents the problem of ED being applied later. I mean, just because this would remove Barry’s restriction on the international aspect of the pipeline doesn’t guarantee that ED will be invoked any more than the Irish are guaranteed Democratic votes, right?

          The fact that you’re too dense to realize your inconsistency is what’s truly delightful.

  8. from what i understand about the bill = it specifically approves the cross-border development of the pipeline – which is what congress has oversight over – and has zero connection to the eminent domain cases which are different in every state.

    i.e. it doesn’t empower or authorize transcanada to seize land or anything related to their different state-level development projects and agreements.

    unless i’m mistaken? this would explain why amash doesn’t even touch on the issue – its not relevant to what they’re ruling on.

    1. We have a winner!

  9. Justin Amash Explains Keystone XL Vote, Shows Why He Should Be CLONED

    we need more legislators like Rep. 350Justin Amash (R-Mich.)

    With a name like “350Justin”, sounds like somebody’s already fired up the Cloning Vats.

  10. I like Amash. Like him a lot. Don’t understand this vote. It’s stopping the government from unfairly punishing a company. He should have voted yes.

    I think Amash should run for GOP nom instead of Rand. Rand can’t risk his senate re-election.

  11. Amash gives an eloquent explanation of why he couldn’t support the bill, but he failed to vote against it. Why?

  12. I wish we could have logged a nay from Rep Amash.

  13. Oh, PUH-leeze! This whole “present” vote nonsense from Amash is just that: nonsense. Grow a pair and vote “No” for crying out loud, Justin. C’mon.

  14. You’d clone him, Nick? He hasn’t a clue.

    “I support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and holding it up for over four years (with no end in sight) for political reasons is wrong.”

    Amash, I guess, is completely unaware that there is a serious debate the world over about climate change. It has nothing to do with “political reasons,” and everything to do with the warnings science is giving us. If his take, and yours as well, is that one can only have the opinion that carbon needs to be left in the ground, or that tar sands oil is even more damaging than conventional oil, and those opinions are based only on politics, then you are both ignorant of what science says.

    There isn’t an ounce of fossil fuels that would be left in the ground if the current excuses for tar sands oil reign supreme. All of it will be taken out and burned. And if that happens, we are headed to catastrophe.

    Here, Nick, take a look at what SCIENCE is telling you about burning fossil fuel reserves, particularly that from the tar sands:…..14016.html

    “…and so the unabated use of all current fossil fuel reserves is incompatible with a warming limit of 2 ?C.”

    They particularly single out tar sands oil as being the type that needs to be left in the ground. Its a poor excuse that the pipeline would not be needed for it to be burned…oil companies know that pipeline is needed to provide tar sands oil cheaply enough.

    1. By the way, that all says nothing about eminent domain, and its expansion to another country, which is what the oil industry needed to use to build Keystone. And that is OK with both of you, I guess.

      Neither of you should ever be cloned.

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  16. I think this is macho flashing. Would you vote “present” on legislation to free a single slave by name? Every piece of legislation’s going to single out some group or other. You scratch one itch, that means you’re ignoring others. What’s the matter, didn’t you like the other sweater I made for you?

  17. Frankly the Keystone Pipeline is a bad idea. I’m Libertarian, I have no issue taking oil from Canada. My problem is that it makes NO SENSE not to simply set up a refinery and refine the somewhere near the border with Canada and THEN put the refined product into the EXISTING pipelines for that. Far less danger in that solution which alleviates the hazards that folks are complaining about while also helping with the energy needs of the future.

    1. it won’t be a single refined product

  18. I like his concern for rule of law, but no law is ever going to be perfect. Politics is the art of the possible, the ideal doesn’t belong in this world. Keystone is part of a much larger debate on the use of fossil fuels, which I think every libertarian should support.

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