Leading hard-line conservatives in the House of Representatives said they could imagine a peaceful honeymoon with Paul Ryan if he becomes speaker of the House, as expected, provided he takes steps they favor to decentralize House power.
In a group interview with Reuters, three of the founding members of the House Freedom Caucus said that while they had constantly battled with outgoing Speaker John Boehner, Ryan understands that individual lawmakers need to help develop the legislative agenda.
“With that (approach) there would be less conflict, hopefully, because it would be member driven,” said Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a second-term lawmaker and sponsor of a July motion that sought to oust Boehner.
Meadows’ motion was never voted on, but it created much of the friction leading up to Boehner’s decision to leave, which he announced last month, stunning Washington and thrusting the Freedom Caucus onto Capitol Hill’s center stage.
“Paul Ryan can be the kind of speaker we need at this point,” Representative Jim Jordan, chairman of the caucus, said.
Jordan predicted that up to 28 of the caucus’s 39 members would back Ryan on Thursday when the House votes for a new speaker.
Caucus member Mick Mulvaney said, with caucus support, Ryan should get between 230 and 235 votes on Thursday, a comfortable margin of victory. He needs 218 to win if all members of the House vote.
The Freedom Caucus has earned a reputation for stubborn refusal to compromise in squabbles with Boehner over issues such as women’s health and abortion provider Planned Parenthood and raising the U.S. debt ceiling.
Boehner and other congressional leaders were racing this week to finalize a two-year budget deal and an extension of the federal debt ceiling until March 2017, before the transfer of power to a new speaker takes place.
But while Jordan, Mulvaney and Meadows said they had not seen details of the deal, they doubted they would support it. “It’s not designed to get us; it’s designed to get Democrats” to vote for it, said Mulvaney, of South Carolina.
Jordan said Ryan, the Republican 2012 vice presidential candidate, is talking about having more House Republican meetings to discuss policy. Jordan also said lawmakers are working on rule changes to reduce the speaker’s influence on determining committee assignments.
“We’re not always, ‘no, no, no, hell no.’ We’re actually trying to float some ideas out there,” Mulvaney said.
If the U.S. Supreme Court blows up the tax subsidies at the heart of Obamacare in June, Republicans hope to deliver on their promise to offer an alternative healthcare plan.
But key parts of it may resemble the one President Barack Obama delivered five years ago in the Affordable Care Act, partly reflecting Republican concerns that they could pay a political price if insurance subsidies are yanked from millions of Americans later this year.
Two front-running Republican options at an early stage in Congress include a refundable tax credit that experts say is virtually the same thing as the Obamacare tax subsidy being challenged before the Supreme Court. Republicans deny that their ideas are tantamount to “Obamacare Lite” but acknowledge they will need bipartisan support for their plans to stand any chance of avoiding an Obama veto.
“It’s not going to be like Obamacare, in my opinion,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, whose plan includes a refundable tax credit for low-and middle-income Americans.
“It’s not a literal subsidy, it’s a recognition that they should have this credit.”
Republicans have been vowing for years to repeal and replace Obamacare, the president’s signature policy achievement that Democrats passed in 2010 over united Republican opposition. Democrats say the act is insuring more Americans and helping to slow the growth in healthcare spending.
Conservatives call Obamacare a government overreach that drives up health costs. They object to its mandates — that everyone have insurance, that employers offer it, and that insurance plans must cover certain items.
But Republicans have never united around a replacement strategy. There is renewed interest in producing one now, however, to be ready if the Court rules for the plaintiffs in the current Obamacare case and disallows tax subsidies through the federal exchange in a ruling expected in June.
Up to 7.5 million people in at least 34 states that use the federal exchange could then lose their tax subsidies, according to the consulting firm Avalere Health, dealing a possibly fatal blow to the program.
Democrats and the White House have said little about what they might do if the Supreme Court rules against the administration. No replacement could go into effect before 2017 unless Obama signs it into law.
Some experts see bipartisan potential in key elements of what Republicans like Hatch, of Utah, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, have discussed to date.
The refundable tax credits in both their plans would be available to those who pay little or no tax, similar to the Obamacare subsidies for low-income Americans.
“There is a lot of common ground here,” said Stuart Butler, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, who called the refundable credits “essentially indistinguishable” from the Obamacare subsidies.
One difference is that Republicans would allow the tax credits to be used to buy insurance in the private market, an approach they say will help drive down insurance costs and give consumers more options. Under Obamacare, the credits can be obtained only through the state or federal online exchanges.
In an e-mailed statement to Reuters, Ryan said tax credits would “empower Americans to make their own healthcare decisions rather than government mandates.”
Ryan and Hatch have yet to introduce legislation, but their approaches also diverge from Obamacare in other ways. For example, both lawmakers favor allowing government mandates to be lifted, and letting consumers buy insurance across state lines.
Tax subsidies are popular. A Reuters-Ipsos poll conducted March 6-April 13 said that 79 percent of adults favor providing subsidies on a sliding scale to aid individuals and families who cannot afford health insurance. But Obamacare itself remains divisive. In the poll, 53 percent said they were opposed to it.
More Republican proposals are popping up. If the Court rules against the administration, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson wants to make the Obamacare taxpayer subsidies available through August 2017, while repealing the individual and employer mandates.
Louisiana Republican Representative John Fleming favors putting taxpayer money into tax-exempt health savings accounts that individuals can use to pay for healthcare expenses.
“Doing nothing, or not covering more people, was never a goal of Republicans,” Fleming said.
Secretary of State John Kerry defended on Sunday his presentation of a framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program after a different interpretation was offered by Iran’s supreme leader, and a prominent U.S. senator said Kerry was “delusional.”
“I will stand by every fact that I have said,” Kerry told ABC’s “This Week.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had strong words last week about Iran’s agreement with major world powers, declaring that once a final deal was reached it should result in an immediate end to all sanctions on Iran.
Kerry has said the sanctions would be suspended in phases.
“You know, they’re going to put their spin on their point of view and obviously they’ll allege that we’re putting a spin on our point of view,” Kerry said of the Iranian comments.
There were also differing U.S. and Iranian interpretations of a previous interim agreement with Iran, but Iran upheld that agreement, Kerry said.
Iran and major world powers – the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – reached a framework nuclear agreement on April 2 that would curb Iran’s nuclear program and prevent it from being able to develop a bomb, in exchange for the West lifting economic sanctions. Iran has long maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Kerry noted that President Barack Obama on Saturday delivered a public rebuke to Republican Senator John McCain for having called Kerry “delusional” in an interview in which McCain questioned whether Kerry was being forthcoming about the deal.
Kerry added that Russia, not a U.S. ally, had issued a statement saying that the facts about the deal as expressed by the United States were “reliable and accurate information.”
Kerry, who will brief Congress on the deal on Monday and Tuesday, warned lawmakers not to put in place any conditions that would impede implementation of the Iran deal. The framework is meant to be the basis of a final agreement to be reached by the end of June.
Congress is poised to advance a bipartisan bill to give lawmakers the right to review any final deal and to have a vote on whether sanctions imposed by Congress should be suspended.
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, a co-author of the bill, on Sunday did not rule out that senators would change a provision that has irritated the Obama administration. It would require the administration to certify that Iran is not involved in terrorism attacks against the United States.
Congressional Republicans are running out of options to pass a Homeland Security funding bill that blocks President Barack Obama’s immigration orders, raising the threat of another showdown that could idle parts of a key government agency.
With a Feb. 27 deadline looming, Republican House and Senate leaders have been unable to agree on a strategy to extend the spending authority of the agency charged with securing U.S. borders, airports and coastal waters.
A House-passed version of the spending bill would de-fund Obama’s 2012 and 2014 executive orders lifting the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. But Obama has threatened to veto the House bill, and Democrats have blocked Senate consideration of it in three separate votes.
The dispute has opened up Republican divisions and left the party with unpalatable options: partially shut down the agency that leads domestic counterterrorism efforts, pass a short-term extension that postpones the fight or set aside the immigration battle with Obama and approve a “clean” funding bill.
The eventual answer could offer clues to the leadership approach and abilities of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who have promised the new Republican-controlled Congress will get things done while confronting Obama. Lawmakers left town on Friday on a 10-day holiday break with no movement from their entrenched positions.
Conservatives are demanding that Republicans stand firm in challenging the immigration orders, which they see as another sign of the president’s constitutional overreach.
“I believe Congress unfortunately is in a position where it cannot acquiesce — because it acquiesces in a long-term alteration of the power relationship, and it acquiesces to an unlawful act,” Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, told reporters in a Capitol hallway.
“The president has put us in a position where it’s going to be difficult to maneuver a way out,” Sessions said.
“IN A FIX”
Some Republicans say the impact from a DHS funding lapse would be minimal, as the department would continue its core protective functions. See Factbox.
But a few moderate Republicans, who have seen the party get blamed for past battles over shutting down the government, are beginning to say a “clean” bill is better than a shutdown.
“I’ve been in this position before. We’re going to pass a bill at some point that funds this and some of us are going to be accused of being capitulators, surrenderers, squishes,” said Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.
Democrats said Republicans have painted themselves into a corner where the only way out is to climb down or cut off funds to Homeland Security.
“They’re in a fix. Let’s see how they get themselves out of it,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said of Republicans.
Tea Party conservatives say their constituents disapprove of Obama’s immigration actions, and that Democrats will take the blame if Homeland Security shuts down.
Giving up would produce an “uproar” from voters, Republican Representative Raul Labrador said this week.
Some lawmakers hope for a reprieve from a court case in Texas, where a federal judge has been asked by over two dozen states to block Obama’s 2014 immigration order.
Republican Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina said that if the court rules against Obama, it would be appropriate for lawmakers to consider funding DHS at least while the court injunction is in effect.
In the meantime, compromise has been elusive. Last week Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine proposed a compromise that would only block Obama’s 2014 immigration order and not his 2012 order, but she has found no Democratic takers.
“What I’ve found is that the Democrats at this point think they can just hold fast,” Collins told Reuters. “I hope there will come a point where people realize that we’ve got to find a compromise that prevents a shutdown of this important department.” _______________________________________________________
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday expressed doubts Congress would agree by the end of this month on an emergency response to the crisis involving an influx of thousands of child migrants at the U.S. southern border.
President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has requested $3.7 billion in emergency funds to bolster border security and speed up deportations.
But the Republican speaker said Democratic lawmakers’ resistance to changing a 2008 law that combats human trafficking was making Obama’s funding request “much more difficult to deal with” and darkened the outlook for bipartisan agreement before the start of a five-week recess on Aug. 1.
While Boehner placed the blame on Democrats, it was not yet clear whether enough of his own Republicans would be willing to vote for the extra money.
“I would certainly hope so but I don’t have as much optimism as I’d like to have,” Boehner said at a news briefing.
The Obama administration has warned Congress that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would run out of money by mid-August and that U.S. Customs and Border Protection funds would be depleted by mid-September. The Department of Health and Human Services also was rapidly running out of money to house the children temporarily while they await their hearings, officials said.
Many Republicans want to use Obama’s emergency funding request to change the 2008 human trafficking law, which gives some immigrant children more protections from deportation. They, and Obama, think that the law might be encouraging Central American children to flock to the United States illegally.
The law gave added protections for children arriving from countries that do not border the United States, including those from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, the three countries where the bulk of the new arrivals are coming from.
While there was a humanitarian crisis that needed to be dealt with, Boehner said, “I don’t know how Congress can send more money to the border to begin to mitigate the problem if you don’t do something about the ’08 law that is being abused.”
Many congressional Democrats oppose changing the law, despite some Obama administration officials saying they would be open to it. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that she did not think a change in the 2008 law was needed.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez said Congress should not “rush to change our laws in a way that would strip these children of their rights to due process.”
House Republicans said on Tuesday that they were working to pare Obama’s request to fund the most immediate needs.
A leading Senate conservative, Ted Cruz, said on Thursday he would introduce legislation to prohibit Obama from granting amnesty to people who are in the country illegally, as he said Obama did in 2012 when he eased deportations of some children brought to the United States illegally by their parents.
Cruz’s bill, unlikely to pass the Democratic-run Senate, reflects conservative Republican thinking that Obama is to blame for the influx of child immigrants because he did not enforce deportation law against those already here..
The Obama administration has been struggling to gain control of the influx of newcomers, which is overwhelming immigration resources and leading to scattered protests from people angry at the government for housing border crossers in their communities.
The issue is resonating with Americans, with polls this week showing them increasingly concerned about how to deal with the children. A Pew Research survey on Wednesday showed about half the public supports a U.S. policy shift to speed up the processing of children, even if it includes deportation.
House of Representatives Republicans on Thursday chose an ally of Speaker John Boehner for the No. 2 job in the chamber, a setback for some conservatives hoping to use a leadership election to boost their influence.
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, already the third-ranking House Republican, was chosen to replace Eric Cantor as majority leader. He will control the House floor and help decide the party’s legislative priorities.
Steve Scalise, a Louisiana lawmaker with backing from Southern Republicans, beat out two other lawmakers on Thursday to replace McCarthy as party whip, drumming up votes for bills.
Tea Party Republicans had pushed for one of their own to join the leadership after a little-known professor defeated Cantor in his Virginia primary by accusing the majority leader of not pursuing a conservative enough agenda. Cantor will leave his position at the end of July. The race brought fresh turmoil to the caucus, as Tea Party favorites argued that Boehner and other, business-friendly leaders gave in too easily to Democrats on spending disputes.
Tea Party-aligned Republicans said after the vote that they were disappointed with the outcome of the majority leader race, in which Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho lost to McCarthy.
But they said Scalise could push leaders to hold their ground on key issues for conservatives, such as immigration reform and spending cuts.
He has a conservative reputation and leads the Republican Study Committee, a group that includes about two-thirds of House Republicans. But he also has a good relationship with Boehner.
“We really need him to whip the leadership,” said Representative John Fleming, who, like Scalise, is from Louisiana.
McCarthy is seen as having similar political views to Cantor, if a more laid-back leadership style. On Thursday, he emphasized economic issues and the Republican push to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.
“America is struggling. It’s struggling with a stagnant economy, a failed healthcare law,” he said.
TEA PARTY CHALLENGES
McCarthy’s deputy, Peter Roskam of Illinois, was one of the lawmakers Scalise defeated to take the No. 3 spot. Representative Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, another Tea Party conservative, had also sought the job. Scalise emphasized his Southern conservative roots to solicit votes from lawmakers who view Boehner’s leadership team as too moderate. On Thursday, Scalise’s aides held placards that read “Geaux Scalise,” a play on Cajun words that is sometimes used by Louisiana sports fans.
Republicans leaving the room told reporters the vibe in the room was not contentious and lawmakers who introduced the various candidates kept their statements positive.
“No sparks flew at all,” conservative Representative Steve King of Iowa said after the vote.
Still, Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina said there was frustration among conservatives after Labrador lost, even though he said it was “at least a little bit of a shake-up” to leadership that Scalise won.
The results could embolden Tea Party Republicans to push their own candidates after the November midterm elections, when the party will again select its leaders, including the House speaker. Boehner has said he plans to run again.
“It’s important that we have a new look in a new Congress, should we hold the house,” Jones said.
Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, a Labrador supporter, told reporters the Tea Party candidate had a strong showing. But he said it would be harder to unseat current leaders after the midterms. “I think this was our best shot to change leadership,” he said.
House Republicans said on Wednesday that they are pushing a plan to delay for five years the penalties for failing to buy health insurance under Obamacare, and to use the savings to spare doctors from a steep cut in Medicare payments.
Delaying until 2019 the financial penalty for not signing up for health insurance would slow down Obamacare signups and save the government billions of dollars that would otherwise be paid out in taxpayer subsidies to enrollees, the Republicans say, citing Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates.
Democrats derided the idea as a “poison pill.” They complained that House Republicans have tried dozens of times to change or repeal Obamacare and now proposed another change to a bipartisan deal making a long-sought repair to the formula used to determine Medicare payments to physicians.
House Speaker John Boehner confirmed the Republican strategy when asked about it in a Capitol hallway. When a Reuters reporter noted that the Democratic-run Senate might not like the idea, Boehner said, “We’ll see.” The White House threatened to veto the legislation.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday there will be no delay in the penalty for failing to obtain health coverage this year.
The bipartisan deal to repair the Medicare funding formula was unveiled with fanfare last month by lawmakers in both parties and both houses of Congress. The agreement would prevent a 24 percent cut on April 1 in payments to doctors who participate in the traditional Medicare plan.
But they did not work out a way to pay for the repair, which CBO says would cost $138 billion over 10 years. Congressional aides say there are no serious cross-aisle discussions about how to come up with the money.
Floor debate over the bill to repair the Medicare formula could start on Thursday. The proposal to pay for it with a five-year delay in enforcing the Obamacare individual mandate penalty was expected to be offered as an amendment. A vote is planned by Friday, congressional aides said.
Describing the House strategy, Republican Representative Tom Price said delaying the individual mandate penalty for five years would raise “just north” of the $138 billion that the CBO says is needed to pay for permanently fixing the Medicare funding formula, a payment mechanism called the sustainable growth rate.
A CBO analysis released on Wednesday said the amendment to delay the individual mandate penalty until January 2019 would save $169.5 billion over a decade. Postponing the penalty would increase the number of people without health insurance by about 13 million people by 2018, resulting in 43 million uninsured, the analysis said.
Price said the Obama administration had already effectively delayed the individual mandate penalty by rule for nearly three years, citing a plan to let people whose health insurance policies have been canceled to claim hardship exemptions from the individual mandate penalty until October 2016.
“That gets the resources available to once and for all repeal the sustainable growth rate (Medicare funding formula), and replace it with a much more workable formula for physicians and patients,” Price said.
House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer called the Republican plan a “poison pill” on Tuesday, and the leader of the Democratic-majority Senate, Harry Reid, said it had “no credibility.”
The White House said President Obama would veto the legislation if it made it to his desk. A statement said the administration was committed to reforming Medicare payments, but “paying for these …. changes by reducing coverage and increasing costs for millions would reverse progress being made in making health care affordable and secure for all Americans.”
Not all Republicans are in love with the idea. Representative Tim Huelskamp, a Tea Party favorite, said he wondered whether postponing the Obamacare individual mandate penalties would really pay for fixing the Medicare formula.
“I’d have to look at the math … but I think it would be completely irresponsible to pass something that is really not paid for,” he said.
Over cocktails and chocolate-covered strawberries, a group of west Michigan Republicans gathered at a Tudor-style home in Grand Rapids and vented frustrations with Congressman Justin Amash and his Tea Party tactics that they blame for Washington’s gridlock.
“The Republican establishment has lost confidence in Justin,” said Mark Bissell, chief executive of vacuum manufacturer Bissell Inc.
“We’re sort of feeling like we’re not represented, because he is so far out there,” lamented small businessman Dan Bogo.
The venue was a fundraiser last month for Amash’s Republican primary opponent, Brian Ellis, the head of an investment firm who bills himself as “West Michigan Nice” for his collaborative style.
The contest in Michigan’s third district, for a congressional seat once held by President Gerald Ford, is emblematic of the nationwide struggle between the five-year-old Tea Party and more traditional Republicans who believe conservative upstarts like Amash have gone too far.
When the Tea Party movement for smaller government helped usher in Republican control of the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections in 2010, many in the party’s so-called “establishment” welcomed the grassroots energy that the movement inspired.
Amash, a lawyer and son of a wealthy Palestinian immigrant, was part of the wave of conservative House lawmakers elected that year. Back then, Bissell supported him.
But after a series of messy confrontations in Congress, including market-rattling showdowns over the debt limit and last year’s 16-day U.S. government shutdown, many in the party establishment, including some of the Grand Rapids Republicans, decided they have had enough of the upstarts.
This has led to a widening rift between the Tea Party and the establishment, and the tensions are shaping up as a major theme of the 2014 congressional elections.
THE ‘NO CAUCUS’
The 33-year-old Amash is part of a rebel group of House conservatives known as the “No Caucus” for their resistance to compromise.
Last year, Republican Senator John McCain described Amash as a “wacko bird,” along with Tea Party stars Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Rand Paul.
Running against Amash, Ellis, owner of Brooktree Capital Management, is 20 years older than the congressman. A former school board chairman, Ellis touts himself as a “true conservative” in the mold of Gerald Ford.
“Ask yourself: does this represent you? Is this what we want?” Ellis said of Amash at the Grand Rapids fundraiser.
Though the establishment versus Tea Party struggle is a feature of several other congressional races, the battle to win the August 5 primary contest in Michigan is also a rare case of an establishment candidate trying to oust a Tea Party incumbent. In contrast, several races that have grabbed national attention lately involve establishment incumbents trying to fend off Tea Party challengers.
Establishment Republicans are often reluctant to take on Tea Party incumbents “because they know they can’t win, in most cases,” said David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the Cook Political Report. “They know that in a Republican primary there is not a lot of oxygen on the left of these incumbents.”
In one of the most high-profile Senate races this year, Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin is running against Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the May 20 Kentucky primary.
Though polls show Bevin far behind McConnell, the primary fight could weaken McConnell as he prepares to face Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in the November general election.
In Idaho, Congressman Mike Simpson, an eight-term incumbent and close ally of House Speaker John Boehner, is trying to fight off a challenge from Tea Party-backed Bryan Smith.
Smith is supported by the conservative Club for Growth, while Simpson is backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Partnership, a moderate Republican group that launched a fundraising arm last year to fight Tea Party influence.
FUNDING THE MICHIGAN CONTEST
So far, both the Chamber of Commerce and the Main Street Partnership are staying out of the Grand Rapids congressional race.
But the Main Street Partnership has met with Ellis and has not ruled out entering the fray on his behalf, even though doing so would break with the group’s practice so far, said Sarah Chamberlain, the group’s chief operating officer. The group has helped Republican incumbents resist Tea Party challengers, but has not spent money to challenge a sitting member of Congress.
As with most attempts to unseat an incumbent, Ellis’ bid to oust Amash is a long-shot. A poll by Maryland-based Basswood Research last month gave Amash a huge lead, 60 percent to 12 percent. But a survey commissioned by the Ellis campaign says voters support Ellis by 52 percent to 33 percent once they learn details of Amash’s voting record.
On the other hand, deep-pocketed conservative groups that like Amash, such as Americans for Prosperity and the Club for Growth, appear to regard the Ellis challenge seriously enough that they are pouring money into the race on behalf of Amash.
Americans for Prosperity, founded by the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, has spent about $165,000 on television ads praising Amash for opposing Obamacare, a spokesman said.
President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare reform, which passed in 2010 and seeks to extend health insurance to millions more Americans, helped to ignite the Tea Party movement in elections that year. Opponents of the law decry what they view as government overreach.
The Club for Growth says it has spent about $200,000 on a TV and radio ad campaign criticizing Ellis’ school board record, accusing him of backing tax increases.
Some of the Tea Party’s biggest luminaries, including Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, are getting involved. Political action committees for both senators have donated to Amash’s campaign.
Amash raised $518,000 in the fourth quarter of last year after libertarian Ron Paul, Rand Paul’s father, urged allies to donate to Amash.
Ellis, who announced his candidacy in October, raised $308,000 for his campaign in the fourth quarter of last year and loaned himself another $200,000.
Ellis has labeled Amash’s votes “bizarre,” citing his opposition to the fiscally austere budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. He also pointed to Amash’s vote of “present,” instead of “yes,” on a bill concerning the proposed Keystone oil pipeline.
Amash, however, says a realignment is under way in his party and that old guard establishment Republicans are becoming a fringe group that doesn’t represent “what ordinary Republicans think.”
He is proud of his votes and explains them on Facebook. His stance on the Keystone bill, for example, stemmed from an aversion to Congress giving special regulatory preferences to TransCanada, the Canadian company that wants to build the pipeline. Amash says he supports the pipeline’s construction.
Amash denies he is hostile to compromise, but says many of the proposed bipartisan deals in Washington offer temporary fixes, rather than long-term solutions.
“I think unfortunately Washington has twisted the meaning of the word compromise, where compromise has come to mean passing phony deals that don’t do anything to improve our situation,” Amash said.
Bill Ballenger, the associate editor of Inside Michigan Politics, believes Amash’s credibility has been bolstered by Edward Snowden’s revelations about government surveillance programs.
Amash had focused on the issue before Snowden, a former security contractor, leaked a raft of secret documents on surveillance last year. “All of a sudden people are saying, ‘Maybe he’s been onto something here,'” Ballenger said.
Nonetheless, he said many locals are still not used to Amash’s style. Gerald Ford “was the quintessential mainstream establishment Republican. That’s what people are used to … Amash is a hothouse flower.”