Archive for the ‘House Freedom Caucus’ Category

Rare Exclusive: Would Justin Amash run for president?

Friday, February 26th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is considered the most high profile libertarian Republican in Congress after Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), making national waves with his staunch opposition to the National Security Agency’s controversial metadata collection program. Along with libertarian firebrand Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Amash is one of two congressmen who are generally considered the most beloved by the Ron Paul-inspired liberty movement.

After originally supporting Sen. Paul’s presidential bid, who has since left the race, on Tuesday Rep. Amashendorsed Senator Ted Cruz for president. Amash noted in his endorsement in an op-ed at IJ Review, “Ted is not a libertarian and doesn’t claim to be.”

“But he is a principled defender of the Constitution, a brilliant strategist and debater who can defeat the Democratic nominee in the general election,” Amash said, adding that Cruz is “the only remaining candidate I trust to take on what he correctly calls the Washington Cartel.”

Some of Amash’s libertarian supporters cheered his Cruz endorsement while others seemed disappointed. Sen. Paul and Rep. Massie have said they’re not making any presidential endorsements during the Republican primary. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), also a leading libertarian Republican in the House, has endorsed Cruz. Former Rand Paul supporter Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Id.), a liberty-friendly leading member of the House Freedom Caucus and frequent Amash ally has also moved over to Cruz. Other former Paul supporters have also began to support Cruzin various states.

On Friday, Rep. Amash sat down with Rare to discuss his endorsement and what the future holds, both for him and the liberty movement.

Also: Does Justin Amash have any presidential ambitions?

Rare: Is there any context you can provide about the interactions you’ve had with Sen. Cruz that you allude to in your endorsement op-ed that make you believe he’s the remaining presidential candidate most likely to give liberty issues a hearing?

Justin Amash: I’ve seen Ted stand with Rand for hours on the Senate floor in opposition to U.S. drone policy. I’ve watched him vote against the NDAA, knowing he’d face attacks from people like Rubio, McCain, and Graham. I’ve spent time with him discussing our government’s failed interventions in Libya and Syria.

Ted cares about the Constitution, and that makes him a strong ally for libertarians despite our disagreements on some important issues.

Rare: Some of your libertarian supporters seem convinced that there’s no difference between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. You reference Rubio once in your article. Could you expand upon why you think they’re so different from your vantage point as a libertarian Republican congressman?

Justin Amash: While campaigning, Ted and Marco often use rhetoric that unfortunately conflates their very different records. Marco Rubio comes from the McCain-Graham school of foreign policy and surveillance policy. Ted Cruz’s voting record, while not libertarian, more closely aligns with Senators Paul and Lee. When an issue arises relating to war or privacy, I can usually count on Ted to stand with me or at least thoughtfully consider my position. I can usually count on Marco to take the anti-liberty position.

Rare: On one hand, Sen. Cruz opposed Obama’s regime change in Libya and Syria. On the other, he’s talked about carpet bombing and “making sand glow.” What are libertarians to make of those statements?

Justin Amash: We shouldn’t be happy about those statements. And those statements don’t do justice to his voting record, which has been much better than most senators on matters of foreign policy.

Rare: You’ve long said that your work in House has helped to persuade your colleagues toward a more libertarian vision. What would you say to those in the liberty movement who are convinced that working within the Republican Party is a fruitless endeavor?

Justin Amash: Our work in the Republican Party has made a difference. My colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus have told me many times that I’ve made them more libertarian. And it’s evident in the votes. They’ve stood with me against corporate welfare, against unconstitutional NSA spying, against encryption backdoors, against wasteful Pentagon spending, and against arming Syrian rebels. Recently, when a cyber-spying bill was slipped into the omnibus, the House Freedom Caucus jointly offered an amendment to strip that section. We have stood together in support of liberty and the Constitution. With each new Congress, our numbers grow.

Rare: If Trump or Rubio were to become president, do you think that would make the liberty Republican faction even more crucial? To stop them from undermining the Constitution?

Justin Amash: Yes.

Rare: Many libertarians are dying to know: Would you consider running for president some day?

Justin Amash: It’s important that we have a strong libertarian voice running for president. And it’s important that we win. So, yes.

This presidential race shows how influential liberty Republicans have become

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

When Senator Rand Paul dropped out of the presidential race, his supporters were justifiably disheartened. So many had worked hard for the cause and felt Paul was the only candidate pushing a liberty message.

But as I wrote when Paul exited, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come in just the last eight years.

A recent Politico piece helps put this in perspective. As Lauren French writes, “With Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul out of the race, the GOP field has been burning up Rep. Mick Mulvaney’s phone lines, hoping to win an endorsement from the influential member of the House Freedom Caucus.”

Mulvaney is a Republican congressman from South Carolina, and presidential candidates see him and his liberty-leaning colleagues as an important part of the Republican constituency. Can you imagine that being a consideration during the Bush presidency? Even six years ago, liberty Republicans barely registered as a factor. Remember when Mitch McConnell took the rare step of endorsing against Rand Paul during his Senate primary?

We’ve come a long way! Change doesn’t happen overnight. But it is happening.

Of the House Freedom Caucus, French writes, “Mulvaney has gotten…calls from most of the 2016 Republican hopeful… So did many of his fellow Paul supporters in the Freedom Caucus. Michigan Rep. Justin Amash and Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador said they were both the recipients of eager calls from campaigns angling to discuss an endorsement.”

While this doesn’t mean that Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz will adopt libertarian positions overnight—or even ever—it shows how liberty Republicans can begin to affect the political process in a tangible way if we’re enough of a constituency. Politics is, as always, a numbers game.

If there are enough liberty Republicans in Congress representing a sizable base of supporters, we will matter. So will our ideas. There will never be a perfect utopia in which only libertarian thought exists in Washington. But we can certainly keep up the fight and potentially become a dominant faction, especially as young liberty Republicans age into positions of leadership.

This is a point that Congressman Justin Amash has made time and again. When I was disheartened by Trump winning the New Hampshire primary, Amash wrote an encouraging note on my Facebook page (how cool is social media?!) that really spoke to the point.

Said Amash:

I have about 40 colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus who agree with my principles and positions to a degree I never would have imagined just a few years ago. I’ve run openly as a libertarian Republican (without using Ron Paul’s more paleoconservative rhetoric that appeals to Trump voters), have been challenged aggressively, and consistently win by large margins. Things are moving in our direction in the background, even as things get worse in the foreground.

I believe this is absolutely true. And I’m happy to know that the House Freedom Caucus has more influence now than ever.

As for Amash’s presidential plans now that Paul is out? He’s hinted at where he’s leaning.

Amash told French, “It’s not a close call comparing Ted Cruz to the rest of the field. We’ve been playing phone tag but I’m going to continue to have conversations with Ted.” Amash added that he thinks Cruz is “an excellent candidate.”

Amash, along with Ron and Rand Paul, endorsed Cruz during his U.S. Senate campaign in 2012. Throughout the presidential race, Cruz’s thinking has straddled the line between liberty-friendly and more establishment.

Disappointingly, Cruz came out against Apple’s recent stand opposing the FBI’s attempt to destroy their encryption standards. On the other hand, Cruz is the most likely of the remaining Republican candidates to support NSA reform.

As Rare’s Jack Hunter recently wrote, liberty Republicans have a lot to think about if they decide to back another presidential candidate. There is no monolithic or ideal choice. But we can certainly focus on growing our ranks within the GOP on a state and federal level, even if the presidency is currently out of reach. And in doing so, we can make a difference.

The Fight For Liberty Will Always Transcend Presidential Politics

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Originally published at Every Joe

I’ll admit it. I kind of lost it when Donald Trump won New Hampshire this week. I know, the polls showed it was a long time coming. But after Ted Cruz took him out in Iowa, I thought there was at least a chance that someone could repeat the performance and bruise the alleged tough guy’s ego enough to induce Trumper Tantrum part two. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Trump won New Hampshire with 35% of the vote; more than double second-place finisher John Kasich.

This presidential cycle, I’ve written extensively about how anti-establishment instincts are not inherently pro-liberty. If anything proves that from a data standpoint, it’s the fact that Trump won the New Hampshire towns where Ron Paul performed the best in 2012. Sanders also did well in those areas on the Democratic side. Of course, we don’t know how well Rand Paul would have done if he’d stayed in for New Hampshire. But polls showed him hovering around just 4% in the weeks leading up to the race. Dropping out to focus on his Senate race made sense at that point.

Simply put, it’s just not a good year for liberty on the presidential side. But what I needed to remember while I was busy seeing red on Tuesday is how much progress we have made. When Rand Paul dropped out after Iowa, the first thing I did was pen an optimistic piece about how much the liberty movement has accomplished in the past decade, and why there’s so much more to work toward. And as I raged on Facebook post-primary about how I feared my work had helped, even if slightly, to pave the way for the Trump juggernaut, I got a nice reminder that reinforced my typically optimistic outlook.

“Corie, I have about 40 colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus who agree with my principles and positions to a degree I never would have imagined just a few years ago,” wrote Congressman Justin Amash on my status. (How cool is social media, by the way?) “I’ve run openly as a libertarian Republican (without using Ron Paul’s more paleoconservative rhetoric that appeals to Trump voters), have been challenged aggressively, and consistently win by large margins,” he added. (True story; a Chamber of Commerce backed, self-funded challenger tried to take Rep. Amash out in a primary two years ago and failed miserably.) “Things are moving in our direction in the background, even as things get worse in the foreground,” he concluded.

The truth is, Rep. Amash is absolutely right. Congress is in a much better position to fight for reform than it has been in quite some time. And I’ve long expressed my belief that the fight for liberty is largely a generational one. I continue to believe that despite temporary setbacks amid the normal ebb and flow of politics. The vast majority of young Republicans tend to lean libertarian, and there are pro-freedom instincts present among Millennials – it just takes the right messengers to tap into. Some look at the support Bernie Sanders commands from young people and conclude that there’s no hope. He’s a socialist, after all! But it’s a lot more complicated than a cursory look reveals.

As Bonnie Kristian wrote at Rare this week analyzing a Nate Silver piece on Bernie Sanders’ youth support, “Silver argues, Sanders’ success—and Ron Paul’s success among the same Millennial generation—is about how ‘younger Americans view political labels like ‘socialist’ and ‘libertarian’ differently than older ones.’” As Kristian noted however, the data Silver presents shows that Millennials don’t actually like socialist economic policies. As she explained, “In other words, young people continue to be a little bit more left-wing than average, but they drift right with age. What else is new?” And as Kristian noted per Silver’s data, Americans under 30 actually have a more positive view of libertarianism than socialism.

Ultimately, I agree with Kristian’s take here: “Millennials like me have grown into adulthood with an awful economy and constant war. Each new newsday seems to bring yet another report of some secret, dastardly way the government is violating our liberties and trampling the rule of law,” she writes. “Of course, Paul and Sanders aren’t saying all the same stuff, but they are both saying that revolutionary change is long overdue. That’s incredibly appealing to the most politically independent generation ever.”

As Kristian adds, “[T]he good news is that libertarianism could well win out: Even with favorable feelings toward ‘socialism,’ Millennials are comparatively conservative with our money, ready for a more responsible foreign policy, and disinterested in running other people’s lives. That said, there’s certainly work to be done to provide Millennials the economic education they need to match their excellent pro-liberty instinctswith specific pro-liberty policies. But economic education is hardly an insurmountable hurdle—and honestly, simply growing older and taking on more financial responsibilities can accomplish a lot in that regard. In short, Millennials’ political independence is no cause for dismay for anyone except the moribund political establishment we’re no longer willing to support.”

This is all a good reminder that there is a lot to be optimistic about. It’s true that nothing is foolproof and that there are authoritarian strains in our politics to be worried about. But there’s strong evidence that people are fed up with the status quo, and want something different. It’s up to libertarians to explain why our ideas are the best suited to fill the gap caused by a lack of trust in political elites. And we no doubt have a long and arduous road ahead. But as Matt Kibbe, the former president of FreedomWorks and head of a Rand Paul Super PAC recently wrote, “Rand Paul is out – but libertarianism is finally mainstream.”

Said Kibbe: “Rand has seeded another generation of liberty-minded young people, much like his father did in 2008 and 2012. When I was a kid, there was no broad social movement for liberty like we see today. Rand juiced the build-out of this community simply by being on the presidential stage, by offering a compelling alternative to the establishment’s failed foreign policies, and by speaking about civil liberties and the failures of mass incarceration to new audiences that few Republicans have been willing to engage with.”

There’s much to continue working for. As Kibbe said, “Politics is a lagging indicator of social change, and the measure of a social movement is better taken upstream from voter turnout.” As libertarians, I believe we should continue to tap into the dissatisfaction people very clearly and justifiably feel. Now is the time to continue making the case that our ideas are viable. We’ve made incredible progress in a relatively short period of time. Instead of giving up, we should double down and push harder. Libertarian Republicans may have lost the presidential battle this year, but the war no doubt rages on. And the truth is, the liberty movement has more ground troops now than at any point in modern history. As Rep. Amash suggested, I’ll keep fighting.

The Tea Party: Not Trump, Not Dead, Just Different Now

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Originally published at Every Joe

Seven and a half years ago, I was sitting on the couch in my tiny 5th floor apartment in Boston’s North End pretending to study for the LSAT. But I couldn’t focus on the future prospect of law school because I was distracted by a congressional vote that had me both angry and depressed. I watched in disgust as our elected officials passed the Troubled Assets Relief Program, the corporate bailout that both John McCain and Barack Obama supported just weeks before the 2008 presidential election.

I remember that feeling of hopelessness quite well. The knowledge that a Republican president who started his term with what should have been a conservative Congress was going out in a blaze of corporate welfare glory. What was the point, I wondered, of electing Republicans if they were going to govern in a manner virtually indistinguishable from Democrats?

I was coming down off of my first year and a half of political activism in the insurgent Ron Paul for President movement. Not even a year prior to the bailout I had been one of the organizers of “The Boston Tea Party Freedom Rally,” held in support of a money bomb grassroots activists had put together for Paul’s campaign. Because we were the Boston Ron Paul Meetup group and our event was tea party themed, we thought we had a chance at getting Ron Paul himself to our rally. Instead, we struck a compromise.

We were told by the campaign that we should reach out to a Paul family member. It’s not Ron himself we thought, but at least we’d get to hear from someone who knows him well and is a pretty eloquent political activist in his own right. That’s when I got a message from a guy named Rand Paul. He told me he’d keynote our rally, and made it to Faneuil Hall despite the blizzard ravaging Boston that mid-December day.

Just under a year later, it felt like those efforts had been in vain. I watched in horror as McCain suspended his campaign to support a corporatist attack on the free market. And I wasn’t shocked by Barack Obama’s sweeping victory and resulting control of Congress. But I was somewhat surprised – in a good way – when months later I learned about the emergent plan for tea party rallies.

I hadn’t heard the original rant where Rick Santelli called for a tea party on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade at the time (though it’s still epic and I suggest you watch it). But I sure as hell understood the tea party sentiment instinctively. It was a reaction not just to President Obama, but to the whole government-financial complex. So I signed up to be the Boston organizer through the Tax Day Tea Party website that listed the points of contact for the April 15th, 2009 rallies.

The original tea party rallies brought a diverse cross-section of people together. You had individuals from across the political spectrum, not to mention frustrated apolitical types, many of whom were hurting economically and opposed the whole notion of corporate welfare. As the movement grew from rallies into political action, it focused more highly on the core principles of free markets and limited government. And quite honestly, the electoral results were impressive.

The tea party sweep of Congress in 2010 was no small feat, and there were many repeat victories in 2012. The fruits of this are seen in the current presidential election in Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. All three of these men, though they hold diverse views and align with various wings of the conservative movement, have one thing in common: They ran insurgent campaigns based on free market principles that took out the establishment-standard bearer during their senate primaries with grassroots tea party support.

Paul, Rubio and Cruz represent what the tea party movement’s groundwork matured into. Donald Trump, even as he showcases his endorsement from self-styled tea party advocate Sarah Palin, does not. I’ve gotten into this both on Twitter and in a Boston Herald Radio interview in the days since the incoherent Palin speech that spawned a thousand “The Tea Party is Dead” think pieces. There are several angles that need to be considered here that I think are largely being overlooked.

Number one is the overly broad conflation of right-wing populism and the tea party. Insofar as restrictionist views on immigration and trade protectionism can be considered right-wing populist, and in a subset of the movement they are (see Pat Buchanan and paleoconservatism generally) it’s possible to put Trump in that category – though even that is tricky given his very recent history as a liberal Democrat – but there’s no doubt he appeals to some people in that camp.

The tea party is also a form right-wing populism, but it was born of support for free markets in response to the pernicious corporatism of George Bush, Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Clinton. There’s no doubt that some tea party supporters, particularly those who liked the movement more for the anti-Obama entertainment factor than the policy fights, have gravitated toward Trump. But polling has consistently demonstrated that the most conservative voters reject Trump and that his base of support is disaffected moderates and independents.

Palin, who let’s not forget came on the national scene because McCain tapped her as his vice presidential pick right before he suspended his campaign to support the Wall Street bailout, latched onto the tea party movement as a rally fixture due to its popularity. She has no doubt enjoyed an enthusiastic audience among some tea partiers, and that speaks to a divide that exists in all political movements – identity and entertainment versus policy and governing.

As Jim Antle aptly pointed out at The Week, “Palin’s appeal has always been as much about who she is and what she represents as much as what she believes. She was the Bible-studying, gun-toting, hockey mom who affirmed social conservatism while defying stereotypes about what a social conservative — normally depicted as prudish men seeking to control women’s bodies rather than independent women — looked like.”

And really, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. Both the left and the right engage in their own forms of identity politicking. But the tea party has always been more than its entertainment wing, which is why Palin’s decision to latch onto Trump’s traveling circus is far from its death knell. We’ve seen the fruits of hard fought tea party victories translated into policy during presidential debates when Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz duke it out with the other candidates over the details of their remarkably conservative tax plans. We see it in the House Freedom Caucus and the once unthinkable fact that John Boehner and Eric Cantor are no longer members of Congress. And we see it from the ground-up as tea party organizers continue to impact both the Republican Party and their local government.

Yes, it’s remarkably frustrating to those of us who poured blood, sweat and tears into electing strong tea party conservatives to see an undesirable form of right-wing populism take the hot seat while ours gets less policy and media attention. In some ways, the same sense of hopelessness I felt during the bailout vote has returned. But this is the normal ebb and flow of politics. The right-wing entertainment circuit will travel on, as will the toilers who work to elect fiscal conservatives concerned with limited government principles.

Donald Trump and Sarah Palin might be dominating the news cycle, but don’t forget that the tea party movement put three strong presidential candidates on the stage. The truth of the matter is that the tea party isn’t dead, it’s just different now. Seven years in, it would be impossible to expect a populist movement that coalesced around a single issue to not have fractured. The early tea party organizers are busy supporting candidates of their choice, and many have made big impacts in their local and state government. Neither Trump nor Palin will ultimately kill this ongoing grassroots work.

Rare Exclusive: Rep. Justin Amash talks about his anti-spying bill

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Last month, Congressman Justin Amash sounded the alarm on controversial spying language that was snuck into a 2,009-page omnibus bill. The massive budget legislation was, as is typical in Washington, haphazardly passed to avoid an end-of-year government shutdown.

This week, Amash introduced legislation to repeal these anti-privacy provisions.

When the omnibus passed, Amash said he didn’t think most of his colleagues realized a pre-existing bill called the Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA) was folded into its pages. Amash describes CISA as “the worst anti-privacy law since the USA PATRIOT Act.”

As Amash told Rare in an exclusive interview, “Everyone understands why appropriations were rushed into an omnibus before the December fiscal deadline,” referring to the looming government shutdown. He added, “There’s no legitimate justification for sneaking a massive cyber surveillance measure into that omnibus.”

This is why, as Rare reported in December, Amash took time over Congress’ winter recess to draw attention to CISA and the fact that it was passed in a sneaky manner.

A statement from Amash’s office introducing his new bill describes CISA as, “[Allowing] unconstitutional, warrantless surveillance on law-abiding Americans.” It explains, “The law grants immunity from liability to companies that share employees’ or users’ private information with the government or other companies, as long as they do so under the guise of cybersecurity.”

Further: “It places no limits on the type of information that can be shared, which could include individuals’ personal online communications, and it allows the government to use the information it receives for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity, including the investigation and prosecution of unrelated crimes.”

Amash’s bill is bipartisan, and is co-sponsored by Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas), and Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colo.).

Rare asked Amash if he believes his legislation will get a fair hearing under the new Republican leadership of Speaker Paul Ryan. In the past, Amash and several of his “rebellious” colleagues clashed with former speaker John Boehner, and lost their committee assignments as a result. Amash was kicked off of the House Budget Committee.

“Speaker Ryan committed himself to a fair, open process, and I hope he’ll recognize he made a mistake here,” said Amash. “He can show a real difference from Speaker Boehner by bringing my repeal bill to the floor so we can have the necessary debate.”

Amash, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, supported Paul Ryan for speaker because Ryan promised Amash and other members that he would give a greater voice to the conservatives who were shut out of the governing process under Boehner. At the time of Boehner’s resignation,House conservatives lobbied for a speaker who would democratize legislative operations. The Republican Party eventually coalesced around Ryan.

Amash said he hopes to see Ryan keep the promises he made to secure his speakership. Bringing a bipartisan bill to the floor aimed at exposing the nefarious passage of CISA would certainly be a good start.