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The Congressman Who Says ‘No’

How many enemies does Rep. Justin Amash really have?

Dec 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 15 • By MARIA SANTOS
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Ellis sounds the most establishment in his criticism of the government shutdown. Citing his financial background, he calls it “beyond reckless.” But he also stresses positions that could appeal to Tea Party voters, like Amash’s voting “present” on a bill to withhold public funding from Planned Parenthood. Amash says the bill is unconstitutional and didn’t remove any line-item appropriations. Ellis promises that he will never vote “present” on any bill.  

Despite the hype about Ellis’s backers, Amash is not without powerful friends. Doug DeVos, president of Amway and one of the wealthiest businessmen in the state, backs him. Some are frustrated by Amash’s stance on issues like Paul Ryan’s House GOP budget, which he voted against, and his opposition to special tax cuts for small businesses. But key conservative groups like the Club for Growth remain loyal. David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report writes that, because of Amash’s conservative following and support from some in the business community, “in a GOP primary setting, it will be exceedingly difficult for Ellis to effectively flog Amash from the political ‘center.’ ” 

And Amash has begun striking back. Last month he called in to a radio show while Ellis was being interviewed. The congressman’s voice sounded tense and angry as he accused Ellis of supporting earmarks and misrepresenting Amash’s voting record. The exchange ended with terse “we’ll see about that”s from both sides. Amash published an op-ed quoting the Washington Post on his challenger’s backers, who hope Ellis will do things “the old-fashioned way—by working the inside game and playing nice.” Throwing down the gauntlet, Amash declared, “Crony capitalists have found their guy—and it’s not me.”

Maria Santos is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.

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