A conversation with one of the purged, Rep. Justin Amash.
(Page 3 of 4)
Q: How will these events impact your behavior and votes going forward?
JA: It’s important for me to stick to my principles. If anything it emboldens me to get this message out there that we have a problem on our own side in terms of living up to the promises we make to our constituents and trying to reduce our debt. Members like me are going to be empowered by these actions.
Q: So how will leadership react to your being “empowered”?
JA: Leadership’s concern is much bigger than just Justin Amash. They are concerned about a growing number of conservative- and libertarian-minded Republicans who have a very different approach to policy and politics. The attempt was made by leadership to punish a few of us to send a message to the larger group. But it undermines their credibility and makes it more difficult to get independent-minded Republicans to toe the establishment line because members don’t trust leadership’s intentions anymore. If they tell you that they’re fighting for conservative values and then they punish conservative members for conservative votes which are somehow marked as negatives on their scorecard, they send the message that they’re not really fighting for these same ideals.
Q: Instead they’re fighting for what?
JA: That’s a good question.
(Discretion better part of valor in not continuing, Rep. Amash did not elaborate on this question, though I can imagine what he was thinking. After all, don’t most politicians from time immemorial care about their own power first and foremost?)
Q: Clearly you made news voting against the Ryan budget earlier this year. What else might you have said that would make leadership want to punish you?
JA: One of the aspects that unites the four of us is that we’ve been more open to looking at the Pentagon budget as part of any compromise with the Democrats. That’s also true of this larger group of conservative-libertarians who are new members over the past two years. Maybe they’re also sending a message that that’s not something we (leadership) are willing to cut or reform as part of any budget deal.
Q: So Spectator readers can understand some of the important background, why did you vote against the Ryan budget in 2012 (technically the 2013 Budget Resolution)?
JA: Three main reasons. First, it didn’t comply with the Budget Control Act. The Act included reductions in government spending, which is where we get the sequester from. The 2013 Budget Resolution acts as if the BCA doesn’t exist by assuming spending levels higher than the BCA called for. Spending levels were actually higher than the levels that Republicans and Democrats agreed to in the BCA, and therefore the budget included more spending than the law actually allows.
Another reason was that the Committee refused to put military spending on the table as an area of the budget that would be reduced. And the third reason was that it doesn’t balance for nearly thirty years.
But, it was a close call for me, and the BCA issue was the most important aspect. After all, I did vote for the 2012 budget which had the same problems I mentioned in my second and third reasons for voting against the 2013 budget. I voted for the budget the previous time because I thought it was important for Republicans who were elected in 2010 to show unity in shifting our budget priorities, even if the shift weren’t as far as I’d like. In the 2013 budget, I felt as if we’d had an important further year to deal with the issues, but that they were not taken in a serious way or even looked at. Adding the BCA issue pushed me past my tipping point, though it remained a very difficult vote.
Q: So are you always a thorn in the side of Paul Ryan and John Boehner?
JA: On the Budget Committee, I voted with the Chairman 58 out of 61 times, which is over 95 percent of the time. People should understand that when they (leadership) are concerned that I am not a “team player” they are talking about a very small percentage of my votes. And still we don’t know what they really mean by “team player” since they haven’t released their criteria.
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