With Kevin McCarthy likely short of the votes needed to become Speaker of the House, a “unity candidate” has finally thrown his name into the ring.
As RedState reported last night, Democrats have been batting that idea around for a while, and now they have a name to put with their theory: Justin Amash. The former Michigan representative announced his candidacy on social media early Tuesday morning (I guess he’s an early riser).
His announcement is really long so I’m just going to post the highlights, but if you click on and read the entire thread, there’s a lot of criticism of McCarthy’s record, much of it fair.
Process is where McCarthy fails miserably. McCarthy promises reforms, but he’s a notorious liar with a history of using and manipulating people. Some have compared him to Paul Ryan, who turned out to be one of the worst speakers ever, but McCarthy doesn’t deserve that much grace.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 3, 2023
Amash then goes on to offer himself up as someone who can work with Democrats and Republicans, garnering the votes needed to secure the role of Speaker and returning the House to regular business.
Democrats know that, regardless of our policy differences, they can count on me to maintain a system that is fair and representative. Every member will be empowered to legislate, and ideas will win based on votes, not dictates or pressure from the speaker.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 3, 2023
Amash is a founding member of the Freedom Caucus. He’s also very libertarian, to the level of having substantive disagreements with conservatives, and left the Republican Party as a staunch critic of Donald Trump, calling for the former president’s impeachment.
He is not the type that will play hardball with Democrats on things like committee assignments and floor votes. On the contrary, his entire pledge is to forgive and forget the abuses of the Pelosi era, returning things to a level playing field for both parties. That would mean Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, Ilhan Omar, and the rest keeping their high-level committee assignments.
In some alternate universe, that kind of de-escalation might be a good thing. Whether it is in the one we inhabit is an open question. Democrats never moderate, and they do not give up power willingly. For the last four years, they’ve ruled with an iron fist. Should Republicans once again voluntarily give up the reins of power the moment they seize it, exacting no cost for the left’s misdeeds? How has that worked out in the past? Again, I’m not sure that’s something that will garner much support from GOP voters.
Then there are the policy differences to consider. Amash is the guy you want on the topic of taxes and spending, but he’s also the guy who has criticized Ron DeSantis for his use of government power in Florida. Who one side’s with there will totally depend on where one falls on the ideological scale. The point is only that there would be tension.
My biggest concern with Amash being a unity candidate, though, would be whether he’d allow the litany of GOP-led investigations that are already planned. Given he’d be put in power mostly by Democrats, I suspect he wouldn’t give the green light that McCarthy is promising (whether you believe McCarthy is another issue). That’s important because the only real thing the current Republican House majority can deliver is exposing the Biden administration via its oversight role. Policy disagreements are very much secondary given the president can just veto everything, never mind the Democrat-led Senate across the building.
During simpler times, I actually think Amash being Speaker would have been good if Republicans controlled the levers of power to actually govern. For example, had Amash been in that position instead of Paul Ryan during the first two years of Trump’s tenure, things probably go much better for conservatives.
The problem, though, is that Republicans do not control the levers of power to actually govern right now. So to wipe the slate clean, level the playing field, and return to normal order in the House would be to give up the only real gain secured during the last election. It would also only encourage further Democrat misconduct because they would pay no price.
With all that said, could Amash actually get the votes? I think it’s possible. Democrats have nothing to lose given he’s promising to neuter the majority anyway and absolve them of all their sins. If Jeffries can get his caucus to vote together, all it would take are a few moderate Republicans getting frustrated with the current infighting to make it happen.
I’m not a fan of Kevin McCarthy. I wanted to see him pushed out after the election because I think he didn’t do enough to secure a larger majority. Unfortunately, no one viable stepped forward to challenge him. At this late hour, if McCarthy is to be denied, an alternative candidate that can secure enough votes must be put forward, and that needs to happen immediately. Otherwise, Amash may only be the first of several “unity candidates” to complicate matters.