Rep. Justin Amash isnt afraid to break with the Republican Party on legislation he finds unconstitutional. According to Congressional Quarterly, in votes where majorities of the two parties opposed each other, Amash stuck with the GOP 89 percent of the time in 2011.
Trudging from House office to House office, and sometimes from seat to seat on the House floor, the freshman Republican from Michigan spent his free office hours last fall asking colleagues to support his baby — a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
He visited about 60 Members, tirelessly talking with anyone who would listen as he outlined the reasons his amendment was better than the multitude of other BBA proposals.
But when the time came for the House to vote on a budget amendment in November, the resolution brought to the floor was not Amash's. It belonged to Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a 10-term Virginia Republican.
The situation illustrates the downside of being a freshman in an institution where seniority rules.
But in the massive freshman class, Amash, a mere 31 years old, stands out for his persistence. The tenacious lawyer- turned-lawmaker, who served in the Michigan House, takes extraordinary measures to shine the spotlight on his causes.
Few Members, if any, instruct their staffers to cold-call hundreds of Congressional offices to schedule one-on-one meetings for their boss with other lawmakers. Amash's aides phoned 390 Member offices to set up BBA discussions.
It's not hard to picture him — he's kind of a nerd — talking up his amendment with colleagues. He's like a younger version of a high school civics teacher, spouting wonky language about budgets and economics.
The reaction Amash received was one of surprise. Democrats especially were shocked to see a Republican seeking their support. Others, he said, were curious as to why he took the time to meet them individually.
Despite the kudos he received for his efforts, the "f"-word returned to haunt him: "You don't really think they'll let a freshman Member of Congress amend the Constitution, do you?" one Member smirked to him last year.
"When someone's been here for 20 or 30 years, they are naturally less open to the viewpoints of people who are coming in who are new, who have been here for two years or four years," he said. "They figure, what do we know?"
Unshaken, Amash shrugged off the bully's comment. Now — three months after the BBA vote, even though the topic is somewhat stale — Amash is still advocating for his legislative baby.
Constitutional Wonk and Idealist
Amash harbors no special love for NPR or Planned Parenthood. A libertarian at heart, he abhors the use of government funds to prop up private enterprise. Like most Republicans, he calls himself "pro-life."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.