The Spectacle Blog

It’s Not Easy Being A Constitutionalist

By on 2.22.11 | 10:48AM

Justin Amash, a freshman Republican from from Michigan who was endorsed by Ron Paul, is hearing from critics for two of his recent votes. Antiwar libertarians were disappointed that Amash voted against New York Democrat Jerry Nadler's plan for withdrawal from Afghanistan. But Amash did effectively agree with Nadler that singling out Planned Planned Parenthood amounts to an unconstitutional bill of attainder, and voted present on Mike Pence's amendment.

Here's Amash's explanation of his Planned Parenthood vote, from his Facebook page:

Legislation that names a specific private organization to defund (rather than all organizations that engage in a particular activity) is improper and arguably unconstitutional. Moreover, the legislation is easily thwarted because the organization may simply change its name.

As a conservative, and as the Representative for the people of Michigan's Third District, I cannot vote "yes" on legislation that violates the rule of law and does not take the process of legislating seriously. A responsible amendment-one that I would fully support-would defund all abortion providers. That is why I support Mike Pence's H R 217, which cuts off all federal funds to any organization that performs an abortion-including Planned Parenthood.

Where I think Amash goes wrong is in assuming Planned Parenthood has any right to this federal funding. I'd argue that giving federal money to an individual group for purposes not anticipated by the Constitution is what's unconstitutional here, not the defunding. But it is good to have congressmen who are this constitutionally scrupulous, and also a useful reminder that such scruples will sometimes put you at odds with people who agree with you on policy outcomes.

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