Unpopular opinion? Justin Amash doesn’t care.

By: - May 28, 2019 4:01 pm
Rep. Justin Amash

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash at the 2016 Young Americans for Liberty conference | Gage Skidmore via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Twp.) is no stranger to political combat.

The five-term Republican from Michigan’s 3rd District has sparred with friends and foes alike since entering Congress, gaining a reputation as one of the most independent — and to some, frustrating — actors in the House.

Amash and Trump
Justin Amash (left) and Donald Trump (right)

He’s been a steady critic of President Trump since the latter took office, but that feud escalated dramatically this month when Amash became the first Republican member of Congress to call for Trump’s impeachment. His GOP colleagues immediately distanced themselves from Amash while the president lashed out, calling the Michigan lawmaker “a loser.”

And if that weren’t enough, Amash has been openly flirting with the idea of mounting a challenge to Trump by running as a Libertarian in 2020, setting the stage for a prolonged and bitter fight against the sitting president and his former GOP allies — most of whom have remained staunch Trump defenders.

Amash doesn’t appear rattled. Asked about Trump having called him a loser, he responded with a cool, “Okay.” And despite being publicly reprimanded by his colleagues in the conservative House Freedom Caucus and House Republican leadership, he unleashed yet another Twitter screed Tuesday assailing Trump and Attorney General William Barr.

Lower and Amash
State Rep. James Lower (left) and U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (right) | Lower campaign photo and Gage Skidmore Amash photo

Even if he doesn’t challenge Trump in 2020, Amash will have multiple primary challengers to fend off if he wants to keep his seat. State Rep. Jim Lower (R-Greenville) and Tom Norton, a former village trustee for Sand Lake in West Michigan, have said they will try to unseat Amash in the GOP primary.

As Amash prepares for his next battle, here’s a look back at some of the political clashes he’s had during his career:

Siding with Dems on border emergency

Earlier this year, Amash broke ranks with his party to become one of just eight House Republicans who voted to block President Trump’s attempt to circumvent Congress and secure funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border. Amash was the lone House Republican to co-sponsor the Democrats’ effort, in a pointed snub of the president.

“The same congressional Republicans who joined me in blasting Pres. Obama’s executive overreach now cry out for a king to usurp legislative powers,” Amash wrote on Twitter. “If your faithfulness to the Constitution depends on which party controls the White House, then you are not faithful to it.”

Opposing federal aid to Flint

Flint water crisis protest signs
Signs at the rally drawing attention to the Flint water crisis starting five years ago | Nick Manes

In the wake of the Flint water crisis, Amash was the lone member of Michigan’s congressional delegation to oppose federal aid, arguing that the state — not the feds — should be held responsible.

“While the U.S. Constitution does not authorize the federal government to intervene in an intrastate matter like this one, the State of Michigan should provide comprehensive assistance to the people of Flint,” Amash said, according to MLive. “The residents who were harmed deserve an independent, nonpartisan investigation, and the persons responsible for this crisis must be held accountable.”

Democrat Douglas Smith, who challenged Amash in 2016, criticized Amash for his stance on Flint aid during a debate that year. “I think you had the opportunity to help and you failed,” Smith said.

Bitter re-election campaign

In 2014, Amash faced a primary challenge from local businessman Brian Ellis, who scored the endorsement of former Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-2nd).

In his victory speech that fall, Amash said of Hoekstra: “You are a disgrace. And I’m glad we could hand you one more loss before you fade into total obscurity and irrelevance.”

Pete Hoekstra
Former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra | Wikimedia Commons

Hoekstra lost both his 2010 gubernatorial bid to Rick Snyder in the GOP primary and his 2012 Senate bid against Sen. Debbie Stabenow. (Hoekstra has since been appointed Trump’s ambassador to the Netherlands).

During that 2014 victory speech, Amash lashed out at Ellis, as well. “You owe my family and this community an apology for your disgusting, despicable smear campaign,” Amash said.

“You had the audacity to try and call me today after running a campaign that was called the nastiest in the country. I ran for office to stop people like you.”

Not a ‘team’ player

During Amash’s first term in Congress, he was stripped of his seat on the powerful House Budget Committee after the GOP conference determined that he and three other Republican lawmakers were “not team players,” NBC News reported at the time.

Amash drew the ire of GOP leadership for objecting to Republicans’ budget legislation, arguing that it didn’t do enough to reduce the federal deficit.

Amash also ruffled feathers within his party by voting against then-House Speaker John Boehner’s bid for a second term in 2013. Boehner won the vote with overwhelming support.

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Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender

Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.