WASHINGTON (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - A day after he lost his seat on a prominent committee, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan was still waiting Tuesday for official word of the move by his own party's leaders -- as well as a new committee assignment.
On Monday, news leaked that Amash was one of four congressmen who lost their committee spots after members of the Republican Steering Committee - which doles out assignments - reportedly looked over voting records and other documentation. House Speaker John Boehner controls the Steering Committee, and Amash, like the others who lost their committee spots, was known to cross leadership on some key votes.
Amash, 32, of Cascade Township in West Michigan, had charted a libertarian, independent course throughout his first term, voting against leadership when he didn't think it was moving to cut spending or limit government enough. Speaking at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, Amash said he still hasn't received official word that he'd been removed from the House BudgetCommittee going forward.
"For a party that's trying to expand its base and make sure it reaches out to young people and new groups, I think it's pretty outrageous," Amash said. He called it "a slap in the face" to the growing libertarian wing of the Republican Party, noting that he voted along with leadership 95% of the time during his first term.
Amash defeated Democrat Steve Pestka in the Nov. 6 election and begins his second term in Washington in January. But he won't do so as a member of the Budget Committee, where he voted against budget proposals put forth by Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who was his party's vice presidential nominee this year. Amash said the budgets didn't go far enough.
"It's not acceptable to have budgets that are unbalanced to the year 2040," he said.
Amash also disagreed with what he described as an entrenched view among Republican leaders that defense spending is off limits for cuts. He believes that while the nation's military must remain strong, that defense spending should be on the table for reductions and that it could serve as a way to find a bipartisan agreement with Democrats on spending cuts.
"I think they (Republican leaders) are willing to raise taxes to avoid any defense cuts," said Amash. "I think they're willing to take really bad deals to avoid any defense cuts."
Amash said support for him on Facebook and Twitter have been strong. Meanwhile, the episode appeared to be causing further cracks in the Republican caucus inside and outside of Congress. Even as Boehner's counteroffer to President Barack Obama over how best to solve the fiscal cliff was being criticized by some conservative groups including Americans for Prosperity - whose policy director James Valvo said it offered "disappointing small spending reductions" - the Club for Growth, another conservative group, blasted House leadership for the reassignments.
"The dirty little secret in Congress is that while refusing to kowtow to the wishes of party leaders can sometimes cost you some perks in Washington, the taxpayers back home are grateful," said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola.
Detroit Free Press