Justin Amash

Justin Amash on Government Spending: 'It's Looking as Bad as Any Time I've Seen Since I've Been in Congress'

President Trump and his congressional collaborators get set for a free-spending fall, warns the libertarian congressman


Justin Amash and Kennedy, in Vegas. ||| Matt Welch
Matt Welch

It's been a gruesome month for those of us who believe the federal government should spend no more than it takes in. On Sept. 6, only three members of the House of Representatives—Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), and Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky.)—voted against spending billions on hurricane victims without offsetting cuts, quite a turnaround in Republican sentiment from just four years ago. On Sept. 8, President Donald Trump signed into law a deal he made with Democratic congressional leaders to raise the federal debt ceiling from $19.84 trillion to $20.16 trillion. (The debt limit had been the GOP's single most effective bit of leverage in restraining federal expenditures under President Barack Obama from 2011-2014, until Republicans retook the Senate and replaced that tool with a shrug emoji.)

Then on Sept. 11, sure as mushrooms follow rain, the nation's debt clock zoomed past the ominous $20 trillion mark. At a time of increasing comity between Trump and the Democratic leadership, all short– and long-term forecasts point to two main conclusions: Much more spending, and much more debt.

So yesterday, I asked Amash what his thoughts and worries were about government spending in the near future. "It's looking bad," he replied. "It's looking as bad as any time I've seen since I've been in Congress."

More from our interview, which came on Sirius XM Insight's Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang:

I think this tends to happen when one party has full control of government: that party starts to go on a spending spree and stops worrying about the debt and deficits. We're going to have to be vigilant here. There have been a lot of things that have passed over the past few weeks that waste a lot of money, that spend too much. When we spend for things that the American people do want, and many people want this kind of disaster relief funding for example, then we have to make sure that we're paying for it. We have to make sure that we make spending cuts elsewhere to pay for what's going on today. Otherwise we're just taxing the next generation. We're telling the next generation of Americans that they have to pay for the stuff that we want today. That's immoral.

Let's stay on top of this, keep pressing members of Congress, and don't forget about it. The Tea Party rose up a few years ago because of spending issues, because the government was getting too big. Now we have Republicans in positions of power and influence, and we have to make sure that we stay true to that message, that we want a limited government, we want spending to be brought down, and we want to get our debt under control.

Later in the interview, after going over more positive news such as the Amash-led effort to block some of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' odious moves on civil asset forfeiture, I asked whether we're seeing at least some preliminary indications that Congress, whose abdications he has long criticized, was finally beginning to do its job. Amash's answer:

I think they're doing their job in some instances, but overwhelmingly Congress continues to move in the wrong direction, the federal government continues to move in the wrong direction. Little has changed in that respect. I see some signs that on the spending front, which we already talked about, things are getting worse. You'll have some positive signs, a few steps forward, but many steps back. I think it's going to take a lot more from the American people to get things back on track.

During a video interview with me in July, the libertarian Republican told me that "Hopefully, over time, [the] two parties start to fall apart." Watch: