Why John Boehner Was a Better Speaker than Paul Ryan: Justin Amash

Boehner openly despised the libertarian Republican from Michigan but actually allowed him and others to debate and vote freely on spending bills.


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One Republican member of Congress who won't be sorry to see Speaker of the House Paul Ryan leave office is the libertarian-leaning Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who also served under John Boehner.

Boehner famously had no use for Amash's principled stand on shrinking the size, scope, and spending of government and was known to swear ferociously at the Michigander. Yet Amash told Reason that compared to Ryan, "In many respects, Boehner was the better speaker." That's because Boehner believed in letting Congress actually debate, argue, and vote on amendments to appropriations legislation in a relatively open manner. Ryan, in contrast, controlled the process tightly and thus stifled the legislative process. In a recent interview with Reason's Nick Gillespie, Amash says:

I would rather have the guy swearing at me and letting me have a vote than not considering me at all…Under [Ryan's] speakership, we've had the fewest open amendments of any speakership. We've had zero….Everything has to be pre-approved by the Speaker…. Under Boehner, you could walk up…and offer an amendment as long as it was germane to the bill, you got to vote on it. And this was true on basically all appropriations bills. Now, we don't even do appropriations bills. They come up with some omnibus bill and spring it on us at the last second and they say, 'This is the bill.'

When asked how the Republican Party might be dragged in a more libertarian direction, Amash didn't miss a beat in suggesting that "you [need to] change the Speaker of the House and have a libertarian Speaker of the House."

With Paul Ryan's departure in January 2019, that opportunity just might arrive.

This interview was conducted at Reason Weekend, our annual donor event, which was held this year in West Palm Beach, Florida.

For more of this interview with Amash, go here.

For a podcast version, go here.

Cameras by Jim Epstein and Meredith Bragg. Edited by Alexis Garcia.

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