Since arriving in Washington in 2011, Justin Amash has cast more consistently libertarian votes than any other member of Congress. A lawyer by training, the 37-year-old Michigan Republican is an outspoken defender of due process, civil liberties, and defendants' rights. He is also resolutely non-interventionist and friendly toward immigrants. Outspoken in his principles, he rarely misses an opportunity to excoriate his GOP colleagues when they fail to live up to the party's limited-government rhetoric.
"There is such a level of stupidity right now in the way we spend money," says Amash, an opponent of ever-increasing Pentagon budgets and adventurism overseas. He is also a fierce critic of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.): "The speaker has not been protecting the institution. You need a speaker in there who is an institutionalist, who cares about the institution first, who is not a partisan." Instead, Amash tells Reason's Nick Gillespie, Ryan is protecting individual members from having to cast votes for which they might be held responsible. "Let Republicans and Democrats and others offer their amendments, and let's have votes on all sorts of things, substantive things, not just post offices like they do now."
He is also fed up with Republican scapegoating of immigrants and refugees. "My parents are immigrants," he explains. "My dad's a Palestinian refugee. I think that a lot of his experience rubbed off on me. That he came from a place where he had no rights. He came here as a refugee. He told me all the time how wonderful it was to be in this country. How blessed we were to have been born in this country. That we have an opportunity here."
Amash is known for explaining each of his votes on Facebook and for maintaining a lively Twitter feed, where he excoriates Democrats and Republicans whenever they seek to expand the size, scope, and spending of the federal government.
"The omnibus is one of the worst—and most costly—pieces of legislation ever to become law. Period. That's why I voted no," Amash tweeted after his congressional colleagues passed a 2,300-page bill they clearly had not read.
This interview was conducted at Reason Weekend, our annual donor event, which was held this year in West Palm Beach, Florida.
NOTE: Podcast version contains full interview and audience Q&A. Run time 1 hour.
Cameras by Jim Epstein and Meredith Bragg. Edited by Alexis Garcia.
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. PLEASE CHECK QUOTATIONS AGAINST AUDIO FOR ACCURACY.
Nick Gillespie: Over the past couple of months, Congress has passed a budget deal that increases spending by about $300 billion dollars. It lifted the last of the budget caps from 2011, reauthorized domestic surveillance. The House overwhelming passed a sex trafficking bill that goes directly— It'll do less about sex trafficking, but it will open a lot of online speech to government regulation, which it had protected. And my first question, then, to you is remind us why anyone should vote Republican.
Photo Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom