Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Justin Amash for Speaker of the House, To Make Congress a Deliberative Body


                                            Justin Amash on What Is Wrong with Congress

Now that the U.S. House of Representatives is in its second day of endless votes that fail to elect a Speaker, it is time to think about an alternative candidate for Speaker.  Yesterday, Justin Amash wrote a long Twitter thread laying out his reasoning for why he would be a good choice for Speaker.  The video above is a good discussion with Amash about why he thinks Congress has become an oligarchic institution rather than a body for democratic representation and deliberation.

Amash was the Representative for Michigan's Third Congressional District for ten years (2011-2021).  During the last five years of that time, I was one of his constituents in that district.  Through most of that time, he was a member of the Republican Party.  But in 2019, he left the Republican Party, declared his independence from the two-party system, and identified himself as a member of the Libertarian Party.

Since Amash is no longer a member of Congress, it might seem strange that he could be considered as a possible Speaker of the House.  But the Constitution does not specify that the Speaker must be a sitting member of the House.  So although it has never been done, the House could select someone from outside the elected body of the House to be Speaker.

Amash offers two good reasons for why he would be the best choice for Speaker.  The first is that because he is no longer a member of one of the two major parties, he could transcend the unreasonable partisan polarization that afflicts the Congress today.  He could be elected Speaker with votes from both Republicans and Democrats.

The second good reason why he would be a good Speaker is that he would institute the reforms in the congressional process necessary for restoring the House of Representatives as a truly deliberative body.  Amash was one of the co-founders of the Freedom Caucus, which is the group leading the challenge to Kevin McCarthy.  One of the primary goals of the Freedom Caucus was to allow the House to become a deliberative body in which every member would contribute to the debate over lawmaking.  In recent years, this has not happened because the House has been controlled by the Speaker and a few others in the House Leadership, who control the writing of legislation, and who prohibit the other members of the House from participating.

Amash has a number of proposals.  Members should be able to propose amendments to proposed legislation on the floor of the House.  Members should be free to work in their committees to deliberate about proposed legislation. Proposed legislation should be presented as single-issue bills rather than as complex bills that range over diverse subjects unrelated to one another.  All bills should be available to all members to read at least 72 hours before the scheduled floor vote.  Amazingly, members have often been forced to vote on bills that are thousands of pages long without enough time to read them.  So that members are literally voting on legislation that they have not even read.

Most of these proposals for making the congressional process more deliberative have in fact been set forth by the Freedom Caucus as part of the negotiations over the selection of the Speaker.  McCarthy has agreed to some of these proposals in his effort to round up enough votes to be elected Speaker.  But as Amash indicates, McCarthy has a history of lying and not keeping his promises.  That explains why 20 or more Republicans have refused to vote for him, because they do not trust him to do what he has promised to do.

Amash has a reputation for being trustworthy.  And since he has pushed for these reforms for years, he can certainly be trusted to put them into practice.

There is, however, one fatal mistake in Amash's scenario for becoming Speaker of the House.  He is good friends with Andy Biggs of Arizona, one of the founding members of the Freedom Caucus.  Amash intimates that Biggs might be his big supporter.  But Biggs is a 2020 election denier, who claims that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election by a landslide.  Amash is a severe critic of Trump and Trump's lies.  That is probably enough to rule out Amash as a candidate for Speaker of the House.

I have written previously about Amash and his dedication to restoring the House as a deliberative body here and here.

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