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.

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  1. I like Amash, but this is grandstanding. As stupid as the suicide prevention hotline is, Amash votes “present” on bills to defund Planned Parenthood. Where is that funding defined in the Constitution?

    The man knows his donors well.

    1. Yes, point taken.

      However, give him some props on this vote. As for the grandstanding, may I suggest you change your lens and look at the 379 idiots who voted for the bill.

      1. 379 sounds like a lot of Congresscritters voted present on this one…

      2. All I’m saying is that Amash can always be counted on to take brave stands on benign issues. Controversial issues, not so much.

  2. Where is Social Security defined or authorized? Welfare? Medicare, Medicaid? Involvement in schooling? FDA, DEA? Energy department? Farming department? Many more… Presidents declaring war?

    In the old days (Income taxes, no boozing amendment, boozing is OK after all amendment) we actually bothered to update (amend) the Constitution. No longer, now any more… True for many decades now…

    If we are going to expand fed powers, we really should update the Constitution… Either that, or just go ahead and wipe our butts with the Constitution, for all it is worth any more…

    1. We have been wiping our butts with that parchment for so very long now…..

  3. There’s being constitutional, & then there’s being a jerk. Directing the FCC, as part of its job, to research special phone #s doesn’t make the FCC any less constitutional than what it’d do otherwise. This is so far removed from the Q of Cngressional powers, it’s silly.

    1. I agree with this assessment. Managing phone infrastructure seems like the kind of thing the FCC would do.

      You can argue that “suicide prevention” isn’t interstate commerce but I think reserving a dedicated phone number is.

      1. 1. Why is there an FCC in the first place?

        2. Why is an agency created to manage scarcity and conflicts in broadcast spectrum managing the phone network?

        3. That a common suicide prevention number migjt be useful – like a common emergency services number – dors not mean that it should be imposed at the federal level.

        4. How does this number impact places with multiple suicide hotlines? Does only one now get the imprimpateur of ‘official’?

    2. Which enumerated power justifies the FCC doing that, exactly?

      (The FCC regulating interstate commerce as regards communications, sure.

      The FCC regulating communications insofar as they interfere with necessary military utility under the Necessary And Proper Clause, sure.

      “Doing nice stuff because it already exists to do other stuff”, not so much.

      The States are the proper place for organizing a nationwide-standard suicide hotline number. It’s well within their competence and properly their place under the 10th Amendment.)

  4. Does this mean the fcc would run the hotline or are they simply providing the interstate infrastructure to enable local providers?


    1. Seems like it could just be a number that would connect you to existing local suicide prevention services based on where you are calling from. My understanding of 911 is that there are local answering points maintained by the phone companies and local governments. There is no large national center. So you are paying through local taxes and your phone bill.

      It actually seems like a good idea. Of course the government could mess it up with a bunch of red tape and all of that.

      The call centers we have now, from what I can find have a decent success rate. The goal being to avert the crisis and get the individual to mental health services. Suicidal threats or gestures constitute an emergency with a high rate of mortality so even a 50% success rate which I have seen reported, is well worth it.

      Looks like the bill just tells the FCC to come up with a plan.

  5. Amash is just grandstanding. He could have ‘Filibustered’ and given a super long speech about this is unconstitutional as well as Socialist Security, Medicare….

    That’s how you make a grand gesture that might actually get public attention.

    1. Oh my God- did you just say that a congressman should filibuster in the House?

    2. And this is the perfect issue to grandstand on. Everyone is for it, so his grandstanding vote won’t change the outcome. And it will remind people that yes, the Constitution grants only enumerated powers to Congress.

  6. “Is there some goddamn reason the States can’t do this?”

  7. “The legislation would require the FCC to look into creating a three-digit hotline … for those contemplating suicide”

    surely the commentariat can help propose 3-digit numbers. How about 343?

      1. I agree, suicide is evil, so why not?

      2. “You have reached the Number of the Beast. I can’t come to the phone right now, but I’ll be with you just as soon as I can.”

  8. And good comeback to the Air Force question. As the song said, “nothing can stop the Army Air Corps….”

  9. Hey, if we’re reserving numbers, how about a 3-digit dial to report government waste, fraud, and abuse?

  10. A suicide hotline will only *increase* suicide. Good he voted against it. On the other hand, if it included funding to test whether it was effective, then maybe fine to vote for it. How does it increase suicide? Because basically they will tell callers that their brain has a defect that it will kill them when they least expect it. Some people actually believe it.

    1. Citations if you have them please… Seriously, I am interested…

      You mean generally like, too many therapists push the idea that we are all just bags of biochemicals, floating randomly like flotsam on the waves of reality? That free will is a fiction? That MAYBE suicide victims are victims of themselves, but we can’t say that, because it’s not “sensitive”?

      When we have “delusions of grandeur”, that is just our bags-of-biochemicals speaking, and “humility” as a counter-acting agent against “delusions of grandeur”, the therapy patients do NOT want to hear that they should try and be more humble, that hurts their baby feelings, so if the therapist says that, they’ll go find a different therapist!

      Is this the kind of thing that you are driving at, and if not, then what?

      1. Basically what I’m saying is that people are depressed for very real reasons, like they are unhappy with their job or their kids or whatever, and the hotline will tell them that’s just their brain trying to trick them into killing themselves. And refer them to someone to give them drugs that will supposedly ‘fix’ it. And when it doesn’t they kill themselves. But yeah what you’re saying is true too. If you want to know more, just call the national suicide prevention hotline (which already exists) and see for yourself.

        1. Well yes, some shrinks are blind, knee-jerk pill-pushers! And it is a FACT that bipolar people should NOT take SSRI anti-depressants, since it drives them to mania! But many shrinks prescribe them to bipolar patients anyway…

          If you know anyone who has (or suspect that they have) bipolar, tell them to stay the hell AWAY from anti-depressants! Mood stabilizers (for bipolar) and anti-depressants do NOT mix well!!!!

          1. So then in summary, I can’t say this is absolutely FACT, but there are strong reasons to suspect that the anti-suicide coaches on the suicide hot lines have been “captured” by the therapists and pill-pushers, and so the “coaches” may NOT rely on good old-fashioned “horse sense”, they MUST trot out the party lines about being bags of biochemicals, to be fixed by therapists and pill-pushers, and NOT by toughening up and taking a good and honest look at oneself! WITHOUT relying so heavily on being a passive lump of biochemicals, to be “fixed” by the “fixers”!

          2. If your friend seems ‘bipolar’ tell them easy on the meth.

            1. Well yeah man, easy on the cocaine as well…

  11. What a fucking moron.

    So the constitution creates a legislature but then requires that it refrain from legislating?

    1. So the constitution creates a legislature but then requires that it refrain from legislating?

      Yep. It requires that Congress refrain from legislating on anything outside Article 1 Section 8.

      1. The creation of the Bill of Rights was directly responsive to the fact that Article 1 does not specifically say that Congress can’t do certain things. At any rate this is yet another is-ought problem. Congress does legislate outside of enumerated powers all the time, thus the constitution permits it. At least until we get a supreme court full of Amashes.

        1. The creation of the Bill of Rights was directly responsive to the fact that Article 1 does not specifically say that Congress can’t do certain things

          Yes it does.

  12. Is the Constitution a living document? Anthropormorphizing it will not give it life, so no…

  13. I appreciate you responding and your POV here is necessary. But, is the Constitution a living document or not? I get that it grants limited powers to the state, the Army & Navy, e.g., but not an Air Force. Is the Air Force constitutional?

    Haven’t been able to do this in years. *ahem*

    Llllllllllllllllllllllliiiiiiiiivinggg Document… WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

  14. 611 and 411 belong to “the phone company.” Nothing to stop anyone else from doing it.

  15. I mean, I know that the answer is “no”, but… jesus fuckin’ christ, has no one ever taken even a middle school civics class?

  16. When the constitution was written there were no telephones. However, we now have a national 911 number to call for emergencies. If it is constitutional to have 911, then a suicide hotline number would also be acceptable.

  17. One tiny step further please, Mr, Amash. Explain that such providing such a service is perfectly within the power of the states. I applaud you for taking the correct vote.

  18. Amash is correct and we would be much better served if all Federal elected officials and the federal courts considered and stayed within the originally intented enumerated powers.

  19. I propose they create the hotline on one condition. They use Filter’s ‘Hey Man, Nice Shot’ as hold music.

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