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Welch: You have one of the great Twitter feeds out there in Congress, and a week or two ago you tweeted something along the lines of, "Having principles is better than just resorting to 'what-aboutism' all the time." Do you see a lot of what-aboutism happening from your caucus these days when it comes to treating with and reacting to the actions of President Trump?
Amash: Yeah, it's not just from Republicans in Congress, Democrats in Congress do this too, and so does the general public. I think we should be concerned about hypocrisy, where one side is doing something we think it's okay, and then the other side does something and we think it's bad. So there are reasonable concerns about hypocrisy, but that doesn't mean that every time President Trump or Republicans do something we should just say, "Well, the Democrats did the same thing." Because there's no accountability in that.
At some point, people have to decide to make the change themselves. They can't always blame the other side and say, "Well the other side did the same thing." That's how you get these third-world despotic systems, where everyone says, "Well, the other side does it, so we just want our strong man to beat up on them when he's in power." And you see that all around the world, Venezuela and other places, where people's rights are restricted on the basis of, "Our guy is in power now, we should do the same thing that they did to us."
Welch: Do you feel like the Republican Caucus, in particular, has been ... As someone, you're a critic of congressional inaction, and abdicating its responsibility, do you feel like Congress has been doing well in its oversight responsibility of the executive branch under President Trump, not so well, just right ... What's your assessment of that so far?
Amash: Not so well. The number of committee hearings has dropped significantly. When you had the Obama Administration in charge, you had a lot of Republicans making sure that we were investigating every little detail, and now, you don't have that as much. And you certainly have many members who are concerned about what's going on, but you don't have it to the same degree. And that's not to say that in any particular situation the president is necessarily doing something wrong, but we always have to stay on top of things as a congress, that's part of our role, to have oversight. And I think it's good for everyone if we oversee the executive branch and find that nothing was wrong in a particular situation, that's better for everyone. It's better for Republicans, it's better for Democrats, it's better for the country.
Welch: Let's talk a little bit about other ways that Congress abdicates its responsibility. This week, if I'm not mistaken, the authorization for use of military force was in play as part of the Defense Authorization Act, and it kind of vanished overnight. What happened there, what's the status of that?
Amash: Yeah, it was in a Defense Appropriations Bill, and it was seemingly stripped out. So, the idea was to restrict the government from using that old authorization for use of military force on whatever they want today. So, there is a lot of pressure in Congress, on leadership, to do something new, to put a new authorization in place if we want to go after ISIS. If we want to do things in Syria, and Yemen and other places, there should be a new authorization. It doesn't make sense now, so many years later, a decade and a half later, to be using the same authorization as though we are fighting the same war. It's a different group of actors, the people we're fighting today aren't the same people who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks.
So, if we want to continue that fight, let's get a new authorization with the appropriate limitations. And I think that there should always be a time limitation on authorizations, so there should be a requirement that they have to be reauthorized at some point. That doesn't mean you're telling the enemy when the war is gonna end, it just means that Congress has to do its job and say, "If this battle's continuing, we have to have another authorization."
Welch: Was this as close as we've come since 2001 to actually re-upping and requiring the re-uppage of the authorization of use of military force, and what happened to it? What was the process by which in vanished?
Amash: Yeah, it was the closest we've been. Allegedly, it was allowed on there by the chairman of the committee without the blessing of Republican leadership, without the blessing of the White House. And so, I think, whether it was the White House or House leaders, they came in and said, "We're stripping this out. We don't think this is the appropriate venue." And my understanding is they're putting a different provision in there, in the bill, so that we can do a watered down version of what was there from Representative Lee.
Welch: Let's talk more about Congress here. Obviously, Obamacare repeal, replace, or whatever we're calling it, revamp, retooling, and the failure thereof has been on everyone's lips. You were part of both the original House who defeated that bill, and then also the narrow victory of it's replacement in changes of some of the language of it. First, before anything else, the bill that didn't get put to floor, the motion to proceed failed. Mike Lee and others, and Rand Paul blocked that bill. If it had been passed and gotten to you, back, would you have voted yes or no?
Amash: I didn't read it, so-
Welch: reading the bills-
Amash: So I can't tell you what I would have done. There were a lot of things I heard about that were concerning, but I decided that it wasn't in my interest to read it at this point, because I've got a lot of other things on my plate, and I wasn't sure the Senate was gonna get it through anyways. So if I start reading that bill and then it doesn't pass, I've gotta read a whole nother bill.
Welch: Is it your understanding that there would have been, and there would be in the future in case anything passes, which I don't think is particularly likely, that there would be a conference committee, and there would be actual negotiations there, or would it be kind of an up or down, take it or leave it situation?
Amash: It's not clear. House Freedom Caucus members have called for a conference committee, because we suspect that whatever comes out of the Senate will be worse than what came out of the House. So, we think it would be a good idea to have a conference committee, but I'm not 100% sure. I don't know what's going to come out of the Senate at this point, if anything. And whether we have an up or down vote or a conference committee, that's almost for sure gonna be a political decision by leadership, it's not gonna be based on policy.
Welch: And just to display my own parliamentary ignorance here, if the House Freedom Caucus were to say, "We're gonna hold our breath and turn blue in the face unless we get a conference committee," do they have that power?
Amash: I think we can find some procedural tools to block it if we have to. It'll be challenging, but we can talk to the parliamentarian and figure out a way to stop something bad from passing through the House. And as you know, the House version of the bill wasn't very good in itself. That bill had plenty of problems. But, I thought it was marginally better than Obamacare, very marginally. So, if the Senate bill is any worse than the House bill, it's in trouble.