Libertarian millennial Bonnie Kristian has penned a love letter over at The Week to the idea of installing Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) as House Speaker. The idea has gotten a little bit of attention, particularly now that frontrunner Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has already ticked off his party by suggesting Congress' investigation of Benghazi was all about getting at Hillary Clinton.
Kristian does make some great points: Amash never misses a vote, explains all his votes to the public, wants legislators to have time to read the bills they pass, and is a younger, newer generation of Republican. She notes that he and outgoing House Speaker John Boehner don't see eye to eye. Boehner booted Amash from the budget committee. Amash voted against Boehner as speaker.
I think Amash would make a great speaker, but I do wonder if that would be the best way to "use" Amash, so-to-speak. It is true that Boehner had significant disagreements with the goals of Republicans connected to the Tea Party movement, but Boehner also had problems with just getting anything done at all. And as Nick Gillespie noted when he recently wrote about Boehner's resignation, the man appeared to have no charisma, no vision for what he wanted government to be, no leadership skills, nothing. It's not just the Tea Party conservatives who are glad Boehner's leaving. Even traditional establishment conservatives are done with him.
Amash does have charisma and a really strong, consistent voice as a congressman. There is very little question of where he stands on the issues, partly because as mentioned above, he always explains them. Whenever he votes in a way that surprises (such as against authorization of the KeystoneXL pipeline), there's always an explanation that fits within his libertarian conservative philosophy (cronyism, in this case).
Congress needs more Justin Amashes. Making him speaker would certainly give him a higher profile, and his views would get more media attention. Here's a big concern, though: Amash is certainly a polarizing figure within his own party—and I say that as an absolute compliment. He has played an important, vocal role in going against parts of his own party on libertarian issues like surveillance. He was on hand to assist Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in forcing the reluctant Republicans of the Senate to accept the sunset of provisions of the PATRIOT Act that authorized mass domestic surveillance. He is developing a reputation similar to that of Rand Paul's father, Ron, putting his libertarian conservative philosophy ahead of party politics in the House.
The job of the Speaker of the House is to get stuff done. The speaker often doesn't participate in floor debate and often does not even vote. Amash is sometimes opposed to the things that Congress is trying to get done, even things promoted by members of his own party. Amash's value to the party and to his constituency is being that loud libertarian voice. Sometimes he serves as a roadblock.
Amash needs to continue to be Amash. While installing Amash as the speaker would on the surface appear to give a much higher profile to libertarian politics and philosophy, I worry that it would actually, paradoxically diminish Amash's role. Get him back on major committees, definitely. But I think we all may be better served with Amash deeply involved in the guts of legislation, not political air traffic control.