Amash & Obama often on same side for different reasons

WASHINGTON (Gannett Washington Bureau) -- On the issues President Barack Obama cared most about last year, no House Republican broke from his party more than Rep. Justin Amash, according to an independent voting analysis.

But if you think that makes the Cascade Township Republican an ally of Obama, think again.

Yes, Amash ended up on the same side as the Democratic president 31 times out of the 61 House votes on which the president took a formal position, according to Congressional Quarterly, a nonpartisan publication that has been tracking vote statistics since 1953.

But the Michigan Republican often arrived there for different reasons.

For example, many of the times both opposed spending bills. But Obama thought the bills cut spending too much. Amash opposed them because they didn't cut enough.

Other times Amash voted with Obama when few other Republicans did included votes on detainee, cybersecurity and medical liability issues. He also voted against renewing a 1994 law funding programs that help victims of domestic and sexual abuse. The White House said the House's version of the Violence Against Women Act weakened existing law, among other objections. Amash said domestic violence is an issue for local governments and nonprofits, not for federal taxpayers.

Amash likewise objected to a GOP bill to restrict medical malpractice lawsuits because he said that's not the federal government's role.

"Conservatives are across the street from the Capitol arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court that the president's health care legislation is unconstitutional. Why? Because they claim the Commerce Clause does not empower the federal government to enact such legislation," Amash wrote on his Facebook page last March. "Yet, just a hundred yards away, Republicans on the House floor are voting to preempt core state power to regulate health care lawsuits based on improper application of that same clause in the Constitution."

The president took a position on a minority of the 659 House floor votes last year. But when the White House's position was clear, the average House Republican sided with Obama on only 10 of those 61 votes. That's the lowest level of support for a president from House Republicans since Congressional Quarterly began tracking presidential positions in 1953.

Senate Democrats set an all-time high for their support for a president, backing Obama on 93 percent of the 79 Senate votes for which the White House took a position. Support from Michigan Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow was slightly higher than average -- 96 percent -- though 17 Senate Democrats had higher scores.

Amash, along with most Republicans, did agree with Obama on bills to help small business startups, normalize trade ties with Russia, and require additional disclosure of stock trades by lawmakers.
And, as most Republicans did, Amash opposed the president on some high-profile votes including those to: repeal the 2010 health care overhaul; prevent the "fiscal cliff" by extending most expiring tax cuts except for the richest households; and cite Attorney General in contempt of Congress for not turning over documents about a botched gun-tracking operation.

While Amash is one of most independent voters in Congress, he's also known for regularly explaining his iconoclastic views through social media.

He challenged Facebook readers in July to guess how many times he had voted "no." The answer was 45 percent. And he's not afraid to be the only one voting "no." He bragged last May about having been the sole "no" vote more often than any other lawmaker.
"I will stand strong for the Constitution, limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty -- even if I have to stand alone at times," Amash tweeted.

Among his solo votes was his opposition in November to a bill expanding a domestic disaster preparedness grant program to include medical preparedness grants. Amash's objections included that the bill would pressure Congress to spend more "by making it more likely that existing dollars will be spread over more uses." He also said the bill's definition of terrorism was so broad that the grants could be used for non-federal purposes and would not be constitutionally authorized.

Amash's voting record has proven too independent for GOP leaders. At the end of last year, the party took away his seat on the House Budget Committee.

Amash said he had been told that he scored a "zero" on the leadership's scorecard of important votes and unsuccessfully asked the House Speaker John Boehner to release which votes they tracked.

"Still waiting for call from GOP leadership," Amash tweeted in December. "Are they too embarrassed to explain they booted me for working to reduce debt?"

Big votes in which Amash voted against the leadership last year included:

-- an extension of the payroll tax cut,
-- an extension of a lower student loan interest rate,
-- the House budget plan, and
-- a two-year transportation bill.

When the House split along party lines over votes, Amash opposed fellow Republicans 15 percent of the time. Only 17 House Republicans voted against their party more often.

Amash was elected to a second term in November, winning 53 percent of the vote in the newly-redrawn 3rd Congressional District, which stretches from Calhoun County north into Barry, Ionia, Montcalm and Kent counties, including the city of Grand Rapids. The district is considered strongly Republican, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

How often Michigan's congressional delegation voted with Obama in 2012:

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.: 96 percent.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.: 96 percent.
Rep. David Curson, D-Belleville: 100 percent.*
Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit: 90 percent.
Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak: 90 percent.
Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township: 90 percent.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit: 88 percent.
Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn: 85 percent.
Rep. Dave Kildee, D-Flint: 83 percent.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township: 51 percent.
Rep. Dan Benisheck, R-Crystal Falls: 18 percent.
Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township: 18 percent.
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Livonia: 18 percent.*
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland: 17 percent.
Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland: 17 percent.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Howell:15 percent.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph: 15 percent.
Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton:15 percent.
Source: Congressional Quarterly. Based on the 61 House and 79 Senate roll call votes on which the president took a clear position. McCotter, who resigned in July, was in office for 38 of the votes. Curson, who succeeded McCotter in November, was in office for five of the votes.

Contact Maureen Groppe at


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