Justin Amash

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan U.S. Rep. Justin Amash and Democratic challenger Bob Goodrich clashed on several issues during a debate today in Grand Rapids.   

Amash and Goodrich face off in next month’s Third Congressional District election. 

The wide ranging hour long debate touched on a variety of issues, from Obamacare to terrorism.

Bridge magazine’s Truth Squad has been reviewing political ads in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District's Republican primary campaigns.

The Third Congressional district stretches from north of Grand Rapids to south of Battle Creek. The incumbent is Justin Amash, a libertarian and Tea Party favorite. He’s being challenged in the Republican Primary by Brian Ellis, who has backing from many business leaders and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The race to become the republican candidate for Michigan’s conservative 3rd congressional district is a flip of other races across the country. In this race, the tea party favorite is the incumbent, Congressman Justin Amash. So the primary has become a battle over who’s the true conservative and who can get things done in Washington.

Amash’s independent streak: love it or hate it

Congressman Justin Amash is more of a libertarian than your standard republican. He wants a smaller federal government. He’s buddies with Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

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Michigan Congressman Justin Amash never gets sick. His car never breaks down and he doesn't take off work for doctor's appointments.

OK, that’s probably an exaggeration.

Amash has represented Grand Rapids in Congress since 2010. He's never missed a single vote on the House floor. He's now cast 2,500 votes in a row. This appears to put Amash and Congressman Steve Womack from Arkansas in a tie for the prize of longest active voting streak of any sitting representative.

History suggests that this election year should be friendly to Republicans. That’s because Republicans are more likely to turn out in mid-term elections than Democrats, and the party out of the White House, especially in a president’s second term, tends to have an advantage. With about six and a half months to go before the November election, a lot of Republicans are harboring hopes that this is going to be a good year to be a Republican.

But here’s a question: Which kind of Republican is it best to be this year?

In Michigan -- just like nationally -- there’s some tension between the three threads of the GOP coalition. That’s the  Establishment Republicans, the Tea Party, and the Liberty Movement.

We’ll get a better idea of how big this fight is (and if it’s a fight at all worth talking about) after this coming Tuesday’s filing deadline. We’ll see exactly where and how many Tea Partiers will “primary” an establishment Republican figure, and where the Republican establishment (and by that we mean chamber of commerce Republicans) will try to dislodge a Tea Partier from Congress or the Legislature.

Official White House portrait

President Barack Obama will issue a call for expanding economic opportunity in his State of the Union address. He'll press a divided Congress to help shrink the income gap between the rich and poor, while asserting that he will take action on his own if lawmakers don't.

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Last night’s vote to end the federal government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling divided Michigan’s Republican congress.

The legislation reopens the government through Jan. 15th and permits the U.S. Treasury to borrow normally through Feb. 7th or perhaps a month longer.
 

Congress faced a midnight deadline Thursday. That's when U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had said the government would reach the current $16.7 trillion debt limit and could no longer borrow to meet its obligations.

Everyone knows there’s a war between the parties going on right now in Congress and in Washington, a war that has shut down the national parks and large parts of the federal government.

But there’s also a war going on within the Republican Party, a war being fought on battlefields from Washington to Lansing to Canton and Grand Rapids. It’s a war for the party’s mind and soul.

Essentially, it’s a war between the Tea Party Republicans and the party’s more traditional conservatives, especially the business community. Right now, the Tea Party seems to be winning. For a while, that had the regular Republicans concerned. They know that if extremists are the face of the party, they can say goodbye to any hopes of recapturing the White House, and probably also the U.S. Senate.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Updated 12p.m.

This morning,  Grand Rapids businessman Brian Ellis told supporters he’s challenging Congressman Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) because Amash “has failed to advance a conservative agenda.”

“This race is about a district that expects and deserves to be represented by a true social and fiscal conservative” Ellis said.

It only took thirty seconds for Ellis to mention his rival.

“I’m standing here today because I have very different views from Justin Amash,” Ellis said.

It turns out Ellis and Amash have some similar views. They both are not fans of the new health care law, both think the federal government needs to get its spending under control, and they’re both pro-life.

But Ellis says Amash doesn’t vote like the principled conservative he claims to be.

“Well anybody can say, like Justin, that he’s conservative, but he has a voting record and it doesn’t line up,” Ellis explained to reporters after his announcement.

Ellis points to a few of times Amash voted “present.” One bill would’ve defunded Planned Parenthood and another would’ve backed the Keystone Pipeline. Ellis also pointed out that Amash voted against conservative budgets for the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years and against the Small Business Tax Cut Act.

Amash, as usual, defends his votes on these and other bills on his Facebook page.

Ellis says he’d act on his conservative principles and would be a better collaborator in Washington than Amash.

“I’ve had to build consensus through the years in my time on the school board. I worked very hard at that. And so we were able to move forward even when we have differences of opinion and I’m proud of that,” Ellis said.

Ellis owns an investment firm and served on the East Grand Rapids school board for fourteen years.

East Grand Rapids schools Superintendent Sara Shubel says she came out to support Ellis as a friend.

Shubel says Amash doesn’t seem to be able to get things done.

“I do not see (Amash) as a collaborator and I do see Brian and I’ve engaged with him for many years on multiple levels and he has the ability to compromise which is a very important skill that you’re going to have to have in this position,” Shubel said.

Shubel says Ellis is passionate about having quality public education for all students and understands what districts are struggling with.

Amash was not available to comment on this story.

 

Posted 10:45a.m.

An investment firm manager will challenge Congressman Justin Amash in the Republican primary next year.

Brian Ellis announced his candidacy Tuesday among supporters at a hotel in Grand Rapids.

In a written statement, Ellis said Amash has “turned back on conservative principles.”

“Congressman Justin Amash has turned his back on our conservative principles by voting against the Paul Ryan Budget that would cut spending by $5 trillion, and against a 20% tax cut for small businesses,” Brian Ellis said.

“Congressman Amash refused to vote in favor of the Keystone Pipeline and he even voted to allow our tax dollars to fund America’s largest abortion provider.”

Ellis is president and founder of the investment firm Brooktree Capital Management, and has served on the East Grand Rapids Board of Education.

In a piece Ellis wrote for MLive today, he expanded on why he supports the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The last time the government was shut down in 1995-1996, it was clear where the leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives was coming from. Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich led the "Republican Revolution" in a showdown against former President Bill Clinton.

Today, just who the flag bearers are for the House Republicans is much less clear.

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Usually we do a story when someone decides to run for office. Generally, it's not much news when a possible candidate decides against a run. But, in this case, today it is news. The headline: West Michigan Republican Congressman Justin Amash has decided he will not run for the open U.S. Senate in Michigan in 2014.

As of now, former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land is the only declared Republican candidate.

Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

More than 1,500 works of art, with more than 160 venues, and 47 countries represented. Those are just a few statistics of this year's ArtPrize in Grand Rapids opening today with some 400,000 expected visitors to the city. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith was on the scene, and we spoke to her as well as the new Executive Director of ArtPrize.

And, Congressman Justin Amash has decided not to run for U.S. senate. What does this decision mean for the rest of the candidates?

The University of Michigan announced earlier that they will now offer in-state tuition to undocumented students. We talked with Serena Davila, the executive director for Legislative Affairs for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, about what this means for the students.

Also, how well are health care systems in the U.S. working? A new report by the Commonwealth Fund gave us some answers.

And, the small town of Colon in southwest Michigan has been dubbed the “Magic Capital of the World.” We spoke with one resident to find out why that is.

First on the show, our weekly check-in with Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes. And, on the front-burner? The mediation talks between Detroit's Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and dozens and dozens of lawyers representing the city's creditors. Howes joined us to tell us more about the mediation.

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Govenor signs hunting and fishing fee increase

"Gov. Rick Snyder has signed into law Michigan's first hunting and fishing license fee increases in more than 15 years. The revamped fees will kick in March 1 and generate more revenue for wildlife, fisheries and habitat programs. A new "base" hunting license will cost $11 for in-state residents, with lower rates for youths and seniors," the Associated Press reports.

Amash will not run for US Senate

"West Michigan  Republican congressman Justin Amash won't run for the US Senate seat opening with the retirement of Democrat Carl Levin. Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land is the only declared Republican candidate," the Associated Press reports.

Adrian College plans to pay student loans if students don't get jobs

"Adrian College is planning a new loan repayment program that offers to pay all or part of students' loans if they are unable to secure a well-paying job after graduation," the Associated Press reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - A Republican congressman from western Michigan has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate seat opening with the retirement of Democrat Carl Levin.

Justin Amash of Kent County's Cascade Township confirmed on Twitter Tuesday night that he won't run. The libertarian conservative has gained a higher profile in the House with a challenge to the National Security Agency's collection of Americans' phone records.

Amash's announcement further clears the way for former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land to proceed with her campaign.

White House press office

The president’s speech last night on Syria is drawing mixed reactions from Michigan’s Congressional delegation.

Senator Carl Levin says the president “made a forceful and persuasive case” for confronting the Syrian government over its alleged use of chemical weapons against its own citizens.    The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee says Congress should approve a resolution authorizing the use of force against Syria as a way of supporting diplomatic efforts.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Michigan’s congressional delegation is weighing in on the President’s call for congressional authorization for military action in Syria.

Michigan’s senior U.S. Senator says he’s glad the President is seeking congressional approval for a military strike against Syria.

In a written statement, Democratic Senator Carl Levin says “A congressional vote to authorize the use of force would strengthen the President’s decision to take military action.” Levin adds the President should also use this time to help the Syrian people “defend themselves”.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

West Michigan Congressman Justin Amash says he wants the House to go back into session to address potential military action against Syria.

A U.S. military strike is expected in the next few days in response to the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Amash told a group at a Battle Creek coffee shop today that the president must consult with Congress first.

“If the president intends to use force, we expect to be called back into session,” says Amash, “We demand we be called back into session to have a vote.”

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State Senate passes Medicaid bill

Yesterday, the Michigan state Senate passed a bill to expand Medicaid.  The legislation is now headed for the state House.  However, Michigan Radio's Jake Neher reports that the bill may be delayed because the Senate did not vote to put the bill into immediate effect.

State will re-tabulate some Detroit ballots

The state elections department will recount some of the ballots from Detroit's mayoral primary.  Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports that "state elections director Chris Thomas says they won’t discount any votes because of how they were marked."  Thomas says "you can’t disenfranchise voters because election workers make a mistake, or don’t do what they’re supposed to do.”

Michigan congressmen request collaboration between President Obama and Congress on Syria

West Michigan Congressman Justin Amash and Upper Peninsula Representative Dan Benishek joined seventeen other representatives requesting that President Obama consult Congress before taking action against Syria.  Many countries, including the U.S., are considering military action against Syria in light of recent chemical attacks against civilians.  Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that "isolationists in Congress oppose another U.S. military intervention in the Middle East."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Two Michigan Congressmen have signed a letter demanding the White House consult with Congress before taking military action against Syria.

West Michigan Congressman Justin Amash and Upper Peninsula Representative Dan Benishek joined 19 other Republicans and one Democrat lawmaker in sending a letter to the president.

They want President Obama to get an authorization from Congress before taking any military action against Syria.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Two Republican congressmen from West Michigan blasted the federal intelligence community for secretly collecting the phone records of millions Americans. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) and Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Holland) discussed the program during a luncheon in Grand Rapids today.

“I think it’s outrageous,” Amash said, “I think the American people are outraged about it and it has to stop.”

Ever since U.S. Senator Carl Levin announced three months ago that he wouldn't seek another term next year, most Michigan Republicans have been waiting for Godot.

Except in this case, Godot is Brighton area Congressmen Mike Rogers, who most GOP leaders felt would be their strongest candidate. Rogers has been unable or unwilling to decide, however, and it seems increasingly unlikely that he will run.

He has a safe seat in Congress and a powerful and prestigious position as chair of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Giving all that up for a risky run for a seat in a state where Democrats usually win U.S. Senate contests might not seem that appealing. But I’ve never felt Rogers was the Republicans' strongest potential candidate. I think their best chance to win is the woman who announced her candidacy this week, Terri Lynn Land.

For many years, it was far more common for Democrats to have brawling, bruising primary fights than Republicans.

The Democratic Party, after all, was a coalition of sometimes very different factions – African-Americans and Jews; labor and ethnic groups; factory workers and elegant, highly educated liberals in places like Ann Arbor.

They often had little in common except the fact that they were all more opposed to the Republicans.

Republicans, on the other hand, were more homogenous, more like an extended family that was largely business-oriented, largely white Protestant, and didn’t like fighting in public.

They even used to have what they called the Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.” Well, times have changed.

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Congressman Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) says libertarian leaning Republicans like himself are having an impact on federal policies involving people’s civil rights. He made the remarks at a town hall meeting Monday night hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union in Grand Rapids.

He points to US Senator Rand Paul’s 13-hour-long filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. That filibuster was, in part, to raise awareness about the ambiguity in the rules governing the use of unmanned drones on American soil.

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stuart Phillips / Official U.S. Navy Imagery

Congressman Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) and the American Civil Liberties Union are teaming up to talk about national security.

Amash is more libertarian than many Republicans. While he and the ACLU don’t see eye to eye on everything, ACLU of Michigan Deputy Director Mary Bejian called Amash “one of the ACLU’s strongest allies in congress on these important national security issues.”

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The federal budget, automatic spending cuts (known as sequestration), and the debt ceiling dominated a town hall meeting Congressman Justin Amash hosted Wednesday night in Grand Rapids.

"It's been a very eventful last month or two, "Amash started, "Even I'm sick of seeing myself in the paper."

Amash was one of twelve Republicans who voted against John Boehner for House Speaker last week. Boehner kicked Congressman Amash off the budget committee last month. People asked him about it at the town hall.

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Members of the new 113th Congress were sworn in last week, and they went about picking their leaders.

Republicans in the House of Representatives still hold a majority, so Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) was elected to a second term as Speaker of the House.

But the votes didn't come without controversy as Politico reported:

In an unusually suspenseful roll-call vote of the new House of Representatives, Boehner garnered 220 votes, but 12 Republican lawmakers either opposed him, voted present or abstained.

That was a change from his unanimous election to the Speakership two years ago. A group of Republican representatives led an 'anti-Boehner' effort the day of the vote. Roll Call reported Michigan Rep. Justin Amash played a 'key role' in the effort against Boehner. 

Republican Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina and Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho played key roles in organizing the plot. But participants describe its origin as organic and not led by any particular member, despite the suggestion by at least one House Republican that Amash was the ringleader. 

One member who participated in the effort described it as the work of small groups of Republican lawmakers who concluded independently that new leadership was needed in the speaker’s office. After learning of their agreement on the subject through discussions on the House floor during the week or two before Thursday’s vote, they decided to band together in an attempt to assemble a group of 25 members committed to opposing Boehner.

UPI reports Boehner told the group of twelve in a privatee meeting that he doesn't hold grudges and that his door will always be open to them.

Rep. Justin Amash ousted from House Budget Committee

Dec 4, 2012
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U.S. Representative Justin Amash of Cascade Township was one of four Republican congressman removed from prominent committees Monday by House Speaker John Boehner.

This “purge” of rebellious lawmakers is part of Boehner’s attempts to close ranks before looming negotiations on the fiscal cliff, Roll Call reports.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

President Obama and leaders in Congress will need to agree on a way to reduce the federal budget deficit to avoid automatic, sweeping cuts in January. There’s concern that the cuts could have a damaging effect on the economy and military programs.

The cuts are looming because Congress authorized the federal government to borrow more money last summer. In exchange, a bi-partisan super committee (Michigan Congressmen Dave Camp and Fred Upton served on the committee) was supposed to come up with a plan to cut the federal deficit. But that committee failed.

Congressman Justin Amash says, yeah, he called it.

"…That they would raise the debt ceiling, borrow more and then later on say ‘oh we don’t want to do these cuts’ and that’s exactly what’s happening,” Amash said.

Amash, who represents Michigan’s 3rddistrict, was the only Republican from Michigan to vote against what he says was a “phony plan” to begin with.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

There are now two democrats hoping to unseat first-term Congressman Justin Amash. The conservative republican faces a newly redrawn district in his reelection bid this year. 

Michigan lost a congressional district after the recent census. Newly redrawn maps cut the generally republican suburbs of Grand Rapids out of the third congressional district and added Battle Creek.

That could be a challenge for Amash. The freshman is a strong advocate of limited government and free markets. He’s one of only a few sitting federal officials supporting Congressman Ron Paul in the presidential election.

Democrat Steve Pestka thinks the new congressional map (and that it’s a presidential election) will help him defeat Amash in November. Pestka announced today in Grand Rapids he’s running for Congress. He’ll make another stop this afternoon in Battle Creek.

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Freshman Republican Congressman Justin Amash opposes a bill that would give the federal government the power to detain American citizens indefinitely, if suspected of terrorist activities.

"The federal government could come to someone’s house, pull the person out of the house and the family could ask, 'why are you taking my husband away?' and the federal government can simply say, 'we don’t have to tell you, he’s suspected of terrorism,'" he said in an interview with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

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