Republican libertarians’ fave Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) explains his ‘present’ vote on NPR de-funding 


The Examiner’s David Freddoso posted an introduction in Beltway Confidential to “the NPR Republicans” - the seven GOP Reps. who voted against the House Republican bill that would “to strip National Public Radio's federal funding.”

David also noted that one Member, “Freshman Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., again voted present,” and that he “is acquiring a reputation for” casting “present” votes, as he cast one earlier on an amendment to de-fund Planned Parenthood. His “present” vote in this case does not qualify him as a “card-carrying” “NPR Republican,” but some conservative and libertarian critics might regard him with suspicion as a “fellow traveler.”

Understand where he's coming from: Amash was endorsed by that famous advocate of government agency-slashing, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., and he recently keynoted the national convention of the Republican Liberty Caucus, the GOP libertarian pressure group.  He told Time magazine that he counted free market economists F.A. Hayek and Frédéric Bastiat as his “political inspiration.”

Amash explains all of his votes on his Facebook page, and his explanation for this one showed up in the early hours this morning. He alsp posted further clarication in response to reaction on his Facebook page this afternoon.  

So why did small government hearthrob Amash vote “present?”  Here’s his explanation (emphasis is his):

H R 1076 does not actually save taxpayer dollars; it merely blocks CPB from exercising its discretion to send funding to NPR...The federal government should not subsidize speech. It has no place in picking one viewpoint over another in the marketplace of ideas. Based on those principles, I recently voted in favor of H R 1, which eliminates all federal funding for CPB...

I also believe in the Rule of Law; that is, the law should apply equally to persons or entities that are doing the same thing... HR 1076 is aimed at one private entity, NPR. Other private entities that are identical to NPR—except for their names—will continue to receive federal funding. Congress has singled out NPR not for any legitimate, objective reasons—such as, "taxpayers shouldn't subsidize any speech."
Instead, the legislation takes aim at one particular private entity because that entity is unpopular...I want to defund NPR. But I want to do it the right way, in accordance with the Rule of Law. I will continue to vote, as I already have, to defund CPB, the government entity that subsidizes NPR and similar radio producers.
Amash’s follow-up explanation stated: “I offered an amendment that actually would save taxpayer money, but the Rules Committee refused to allow a vote on it.

Freshman Amash is just beginning to compile a congressional voting record.  Is this a case of a “constitutional Republican” taking such a principled, nuanced ideological stance that - like his endorser, Rep. Paul, has been known to do - that it blurs his position in the larger political conversation, or is it deft positioning to deflect attacks he might expect when he faces voters in 2012? A future post will examine that question, with an eye on the demographics of his district and impending redistricting.

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