(CNN) — After leaving the Republican Party and supporting the impeachment of President Donald Trump, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan is exploring a presidential run as a Libertarian.
Amash has represented Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District since 2011. During his time in Congress, he has distinguished himself as an independent thinker, alienating Republican leadership with contrarian votes and his willingness to criticize the legislative process.
Even when he was still a member of the party, he was known for holding positions that differed from the GOP orthodoxy, such as opposing federal surveillance programs and foreign intervention, arguing against American involvement in wars in the Middle East.
Here is an overview of his stances on several key domestic policy issues:
Amash opposes regulations to combat climate change. He argued in 2017 that the best way to deal with pollution and the climate “is to continue to be economically prosperous, because the more economic prosperity you have, the greater ability you have to use clean technologies and to invent new technologies that will keep our environment clean.”
In a May interview with libertarian publication Reason, Amash said climate change “is really important.”
“I believe there is climate change. I believe it’s very important. I believe that humans do affect it, and that we should take action with respect to climate change,” he said. He pointed to nuclear power as an energy alternative to reduce emissions.
Amash opposed former President Barack Obama’s decision to enter into the 2015 Paris climate accords. He has said the Senate should have considered and held a vote on whether to ratify the pact. Yet Amash voted against legislation last year to block President Donald Trump from unilaterally withdrawing the US from the pact, which he has promised to do.
Amash told Michigan radio station WGVU that “the responsible thing for the Trump administration to do would be just bring it back to the Senate and have that debate so we can all have this discussion.”
Amash is a fiscal conservative who supports free trade policies and limited federal spending. He has been a vocal critic of Trump’s tariffs, calling them taxes on American consumers.
“Tariffs decrease competition and increase the competitive price of goods and services. Even firms that produce entirely domestically face higher input costs,” he wrote last year. “These factors hurt all Americans while benefiting only a few.”
In the House, Amash frequently votes against legislation for spending reasons, even when it’s a controversial move. In 2012, he was kicked off the House Budget Committee by Republican leadership for not voting with the party often enough, often pushing for stricter limits on spending than most of his colleagues.
Amash has also introduced a balanced budget constitutional amendment that would prevent government spending from exceeding average annual revenue. The proposal allows for exceptions in the event of an emergency.
He has repeatedly condemned his Republican colleagues during the past three years for setting aside their concerns about the national debt, which was a high priority for the party during the Obama administration.
“Even when the economy was good, [Trump] kept signing these spending bills and saying the debt doesn’t matter, the deficit doesn’t matter. So I do see us going off a cliff. I don’t think that the President cares at all about the deficit or debt. I think he’ll just keep running it up,” Amash said during his interview with Reason earlier this month.
He did support the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, however, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected will add nearly $1.9 trillion to the national debt over an 11-year period. He said at the time that he supported it because it reduced complexity in the tax code and broadly lowered taxes.
“This bill will probably result in additional borrowing in the short run — but only because my Republican and Democratic colleagues continue to vote for higher spending,” he wrote in an explanation of his vote.
Amash has also called for the Federal Reserve to be abolished — a view shared among libertarians. “We need to end the Fed,” he told Fox Business in 2011. “The Fed continues to devalue our money and continues to print money. We’re having cuts to our livelihood by the fact that the dollar is weaker.”
In recent months, the Federal Reserve has taken unprecedented steps to lessen the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, including providing $2.3 trillion in lending for companies, cities and states. Amash responded to the move on Twitter, blasting the Fed for creating “money out of thin air.”
“This is not an economic solution; it’s an illusion,” he wrote.
Amash believes the federal government should stay out of education and opposes national education standards. He cosponsored a bill last year to terminate the Department of Education.
He supports alternatives to public schools, like homeschooling and charter schools.
“The right of parents to educate their children as they see fit, including the right of homeschooling, should not be infringed,” Amash said in 2010.
Asked about rising college tuition, Amash said in 2015 that he thinks curtailing government involvement in higher education, like ending subsidies for colleges, would bring down tuition costs by reducing “artificial demand.”
Amash opposes gun control regulations, saying on his 2010 campaign website that the “right of the people to keep and bear arms is the surest safeguard against violations of our liberty.”
He has made the argument that America doesn’t need more gun laws because it’s “not possible to legislate away every evil.”
In Congress, he has consistently voted against gun restrictions. Last February, he opposed the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019. The bill would strengthen background check procedures for federal firearms dealers, requiring them to wait for an answer from the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System for 10 days before selling or transferring a firearm to an individual.
Under current law, gun sellers have to wait three business days for the background check to be conducted. If the check is delayed past that time, the sale can proceed. The shooter who killed nine people in 2015 at Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina, was able to obtain a firearm because the completion of his FBI background check was delayed past the three-day window. He was ineligible to buy a gun under federal law because he previously confessed to drug possession.
Amash also voted against the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which would expand background checks to all gun sales, including online purchases and gun shows. The legislation made exceptions for close relatives. Despite its title, the bill received support from only eight House Republicans when it came up for a vote last February. It hasn’t advanced in the GOP-held Senate.
Amash opposes the Affordable Care Act and has supported efforts to repeal it. In 2017, he voted for the House GOP’s American Health Care Act, which ultimately did not advance through the Senate.
In an explanation of his vote, Amash expressed disappointment with the legislation, saying it was “not the bill we promised the American people” because it did not fully repeal the Affordable Care Act.
He defended his vote at the time “on the principle of incrementalism,” saying the legislation may have slightly reduced costs for some Americans due to provisions like waivers for states, which would have allowed insurers to charge consumers more based on their medical backgrounds in some circumstances.
He has called for health care to be handled at the state level instead.
“As long as Washington dictates health insurance policy to the entire country, there will be massive tension and displeasure with the system,” Amash wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. “I’ve always said, and I will continue to say, we need to start over: Fully repeal Obamacare, let the people of each state choose their own approach, and work together in a nonpartisan manner.”
Amash has said he opposes abortion, except in instances where it is necessary to save the life of the mother.
In 2010, he said he believes life begins at conception, according to the Library of Congress’s archived version of his campaign website. He is against the use of federal funds for abortions.
“It boils down to whether you believe an unborn child is a human being. I do,” Amash wrote last year. “The government’s purpose is to protect the rights of all persons within its jurisdiction. The Constitution requires that such rights, including and especially life, be protected equally.”
Amash also supports decriminalizing all drugs on the federal level. In the House, he has cosponsored legislation to end the federal prohibition on marijuana.
“The federal government has no authority in this area except with respect to potential regulations on commerce. States should make decisions about criminalization,” he wrote earlier this month.
Amash’s mother is a Syrian immigrant and his father came to the US as a Palestinian Christian refugee. He has said he wants to make it easier for immigrants to come to the United States legally. Asked about unauthorized immigrants living in the United States already, Amash told CNN he supports a path to legal status, “after which they may seek citizenship like anyone else.”
When he was still a Republican, Amash split with the party’s immigration approach under Trump on several occasions. In 2017, he was a vocal critic of the President’s travel ban affecting several Muslim-majority countries, saying it is not lawful to ban immigrants on the basis of nationality and that the order was an executive overreach. He also said refugees should be vetted, but “a blanket ban represents an extreme approach not consistent with our nation’s values.”
Amash was one of 13 House Republicans who joined Democrats last year in voting to overturn Trump’s emergency declaration to obtain funds for the construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border. The declaration allowed Trump to bypass Congress, unlocking billions of dollars for the effort.
Amash told CNN Trump was “violating our constitutional system” with the move.
In 2018, he was the only House Republican to vote against a GOP resolution supporting Immigration and Customs Enforcement and denouncing progressive calls to abolish the agency. Amash called the resolution “inane.”
“I wouldn’t abolish ICE without an alternative, but there’s no reason to treat a federal agency as though it’s beyond reproach and reform,” he said at the time.
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