Justin Amash Quits House ‘Freedom’ Caucus
Michigan Congressman Justin Amash has quit a group he helped found nine years ago after they voted to condemn him for advocating for the President's impeachment.
In the latest chapter in his increasingly outspoken independence from the Republican Party, Michigan Congressman Justin Amash has quit the House Freedom Caucus, an organization he helped found when he first entered Congress after the 2010 midterms:
Rep. Justin Amash quit the conservative House Freedom Caucus on Monday night, weeks after becoming the lone Republican to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
The Michigan lawmaker told a CNN reporter that he has “the highest regard for them, and they’re my close friends,” but he “didn’t want to be a further distraction for the group.” Amash’s decision to step down was confirmed to POLITICO by his office.
Amash, a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, has long been a lone wolf in Congress, routinely bucking GOP leadership and defying Trump on a number of issues throughout the past two years.
But Amash’s support for impeachment roiled members of the Freedom Caucus, who found Amash’s criticism dead wrong. The group decided to uniformly oppose his impeachment stance last month, though they stopped short of kicking him out of the caucus — despite some lawmakers complaining that Amash was still a member.
Amash, a 39-year-old libertarian who rode the 2010 tea party wave to Congress, had stopped showing up to HFC meetings this year and even threatened to quit the group at one point last year after they didn’t stand up to Trump for attacking one of their own members, South Carolina’s Mark Sanford, who was facing a pro-Trump primary challenge. (Sanford lost his primary.)
Now, Amash finds himself in a similar position, facing two primary challenges back home and being ripped by Trump on Twitter. While Amash beat back a primary challenge from an establishment candidate in 2014, he faces a far more uncertain political future in the age of Trump, in which fealty to the president has often become a litmus test in the GOP.
Rep. Justin Amash, the only Republican member of Congress to have accused President Trump of impeachable acts, stepped down Monday from the conservative House Freedom Caucus — a group he helped found more than four years ago.
Amash’s resignation comes about three weeks after he posted a series of tweets contending that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III documented “impeachable conduct” in his report on Trump’s campaign and administration. In subsequent public statements, he challenged his colleagues of both parties to take action.
His views turned out to be a particular affront to the Freedom Caucus — a group founded in 2015 to push House Republicans in a more purely conservative policy direction. But as Trump rose to dominate the GOP, so, too, has he come to dominate the Freedom Caucus.
After Amash (Mich.) declared Trump’s conduct potentially worthy of impeachment last month, members of the Freedom Caucus took an informal vote disagreeing with him, though they made no formal move to break ties.
CNN reporter Haley Byrd first reported Amash’s resignation Monday evening. It was confirmed by an aide, Poppy Nelson.
“I have the highest regard for them, and they’re my close friends,” Amash told Byrd. “I didn’t want to be a further distraction for the group.”
Among its leaders are Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), two of Trump’s strongest defenders on Capitol Hill. Both men distanced themselves from Amash’s views last month.
“Justin Amash’s conclusions are poorly informed and fatally flawed and don’t represent the views of any of the Freedom Caucus members that I’m aware of,” Meadows told reporters.
Amash, 39, is serving his fourth term representing a district centered on Grand Rapids. He remains chairman of the House Liberty Caucus, a group with a much lower profile on Capitol Hill that traces its roots to former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.).
Amash has always been something of a standout among his fellow Republican Congressmen and has shown an independent streak that has often found him opposed to the GOP leadership, something with got him in trouble with John Boehner when he was Speaker. Unlike fellow House Freedom Caucus members such as Mark Meadows or Jim Jordan, though, he hasn’t gotten nearly as much national attention outside of the libertarian-ish wing of the GOP, which is mostly dead at this point, and beltway libertarians.
That all changed last month, though, when Amash came out in support of impeaching the President after having read the Mueller Report from cover to cover, revealing his conclusions in a twitter storm on a Saturday that got national attention. The immediate reaction from Amash’s fellow Republicans was, generally speaking, negative and defensive of the President, revealing just how far gone the Republican Party actually is. Amash stood his ground, though, and doubled down on his allegations against the President even as the party aligned against him. This included his fellow members of the Freedom Caucus, which voted to condemn him for daring to attack the President with the truth. Despite the blowback, Amash continued to take to Twitter to support his position. Most recently, Amash expanded his target list to include Attorney General William Barr, who he has credibly accused of misrepresenting the contents of the report prepared by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his comments to the public and representations to Congress.
This action by the Freedom Caucus is entirely unsurprising, of course, While the group claimed that it was taking principled stands during the Obama Administration, that lie became apparent from the moment Donald Trump took office. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows both became close allies of the President to the point where Meadows has been reportedly considered for various Cabinet positions and even White House Chief of Staff. Where the group would openly criticize former President Obama for presenting budgets that were not fiscally conservative, they have become slavish defenders of a President whose fiscal policies make Obama look like Calvin Coolidge by comparison. They are, in other words, hypocrites.
Additionally, this action basically just another indication of how bad things have become in the GOP in the age of Trump. With the notable exception of Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who called Amash “courageous,”, the Republican reaction to Amash’s comments have been predictably sycophantic. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have both condemned Amash’s remarks. More recently, Senator Rand Paul, allegedly a libertarian like Amash, declined to back the Congressman and instead backed the President as he has repeatedly over the past two years.Senator Paul, of course, used to be a harsh critic of Trump when he was running against him for the GOP nomination in 2016 but he has since turned into one of Trump’s biggest sycophants on Capitol Hill. With only a few minor and largely inconsequential occasions, Paul has fallen in line with party orthodoxy regarding the President and his policies even when doing so clearly violates the libertarian principles that Paul claimed in past campaigns for office were his lodestar. In that respect, of course, he’s not much different from most of the rest of the Senate GOP,
All of this reinforces the argument that both James Joyner and myself have made in the past that the GOP is Trump’s party now. It’s also an indication of where the party is likely to go after Trump. Rather than rejecting Trump and Trumpism after he’s gone, whether than happens in 2021 or 2025, the changes that Trump has made to the party guarantee that the nature of the party has changed and it will likely take a generation before the stain of Trumpism begins to fade.
All of this leads to the question of what Amash has planned for the future. As I’ve noted before, his decision to step up against the President was followed quickly thereafter by the entry of what many seem to think is a particularly strong challenger in the form of State Representative James Lower. While Amash has fought of intra-party challenges in the past, and he has received a relatively warm welcome from constituents at town halls scheduled after he came out for impeachment, the perception is that he could face an uphill battle this time. Additionally, Amash faces the prospect of losing his seat after the post-2020 Census reapportionment since it is expected that Michigan will lose at least one seat in the House and Republicans will use that as an opportunity to draw Amash out of office by placing him in a district that he’d have a harder time winning in a primary or General Election. Amash has yet to commit to running for re-election in 2020 as a result of all this, and this has led to speculation that he may leave the GOP and seek the Libertarian Party’s Presidential nomination, which he’d probably win quite easily. Asked about this at the end of May, Amash refused to rule out the possibility of doing just that. He won’t win the Presidency as a Libertarian, of course, but his campaign is likely to get national attention thanks to what he’s been doing for the past several weeks.
In any case, good on Amash for walking away from the improperly named “House Freedom Caucus.” Now all you need to do is walk away from the GOP, Congressman.