Justin Amash

Here's Why Rep. Justin Amash Was the Lone Vote Against a Suicide Prevention Bill

The bill passed overwhelmingly by a 379-1 House vote, but according to Rep. Amash, it lacks a "constitutional basis."


Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.) was the only member of the House of Representatives to vote against a bill that would make it easier for those considering suicide to get in touch with a mental health professional.

The House voted 379-1 yesterday to approve the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2017. The legislation would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to look into creating a three-digit hotline, similar to 911, for those contemplating suicide.

It's a "good idea," but it lacks a "constitutional basis," Amash declared. In a series of tweets last night, the libertarian-leaning Republican explained why. "I swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and I take that oath seriously," he wrote. "Constitutional limits are meaningless if we ignore them whenever we like the policy outcome."

Amash then responded to a query from freelance journalist Jim Higdon, who asked where the Constitution prohibits "preventing suicide by hotline." Amash explained that it's not a question of where the Constitution prohibits such a hotline, but rather where it authorizes Congress to create one. "We live under a Constitution that grants Congress limited, enumerated powers," he wrote.

Higdon went on to ask the Michigan representative if the Constitution is a "living document," citing the creation of the Air Force, which was not mentioned in it. Amash replied that "Article V provides for the amendment process," and though "many people" believe the Constitution is a "living" document, "I clearly do not subscribe to that." He also defended the existence of the Air Force by noting that it "was founded as part of the Army."

Amash summed up his argument against the suicide hotline act by responding to a constituent who wanted to know "in layman's terms why it's unconstitutional." The Constitution, Amash wrote, "grants Congress only limited powers," including those laid out in Article I and in subsequent amendments. "This hotline is not authorized under any of these powers," he said.