Last week when libertarian conservative Michigan Rep. Justin Amash's name was floated as a potential replacement for House Speaker John Boehner, I worried that a higher profile for Amash would come at the expense of his role as a legislative rebel.
If anything, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is almost a polar opposite of Amash while being within the same party. Chaffetz has announced he is running for consideration as speaker, challenging House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for the spot.
Here are some things Chaffetz has said or done that should concern libertarians (and others):
- Chaffetz has introduced legislation (carrying water for casino magnate Sheldon Adelson) to outlaw Internet gambling. He took the family values route, claiming Internet gambling would lead to kids downloading phone apps and blowing their parents money without them even noticing. (They would probably notice when the first bill showed up.)
- Chaffetz attempted to interfere with the implementation of a successful ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Washington, D.C. As the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform he even threatened back in February that D.C. officials could go to jail if they stopped enforcing marijuana bans. That obviously has not happened, and he appears to have backed off.
- The marijuana law wasn't Chaffetz's first effort to interfere with D.C. home rule. As a freshman congressman in 2009, he wanted to block an ordinance passed by D.C. to recognize same-sex marriages. He failed. His efforts got some additional press because his father had written a book about a committed gay couple who participated in reality competition show The Amazing Race.
- Chaffetz is in favor of a pre-emptive military strike to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions, telling Wolf Blitzer on CNN America has "to do everything and anything we can do in our power" to make sure Iran never gets a nuke.
- Chaffetz introduced legislation to give states the authority charge sales taxes for online purchases from out-of-state customers.
On the other hand, Chaffetz, in a recent CNN interview speaking about his ambition, had some sensible things to say about fighting to restrain debt and maintain a debt ceiling, telling CNN, "I have no interest in just simply raising the trajectory of spending." But he has a very Republican idea of spending cuts, meaning what he really wants to do is cut spending in some areas he doesn't like, then spend more on the military.
And none of this is getting into Chaffetz's embarrassingly dumb misfire with a chart during a hearing about federal Planned Parenthood funding that incorrectly made it appear as though they were now providing more abortions than cancer screenings and prevention services. Regardless of one's position on either abortion or federal funding for Planned Parenthood (those issues can be approached separately), he didn't exactly do his own side any favors.
House Republicans will be voting Thursday to decide which name they'll be advancing as a nominee for speaker. The vote will take place at the end of the month. Despite insisting he'll be more confrontational than the ineffectual Boehner, Chaffetz told CNN he would ultimately support whoever the party puts forward, even if it's not him. He also said that despite his own views, he'd let the House committees drive policy and listen to his caucus before making decisions. I'm not entirely sure what makes him significantly different from McCarthy, then, other than saying he's more willing to fight (but then immediately folding if he's not the top nominee).