Republican Congressman Justin Amash says he wants to ensure that people's rights and civil liberties are protected.
Note: The original version of this article has been corrected in the section on health care.
Amash is seeking his third term in the U.S. House. He represents the Third District, which includes both Battle Creek and Grand Rapids. Amash sat down with WMUK's Gordon Evans and Battle Creek Enquirer Executive Editor Mac McCullough. Some highlights:
Meeting Basic Needs
The first question was about a study showing a high percentage of people in Calhoun County who live above the poverty line, but have trouble meeting basic needs. Amash says those issues are best left to the state and local level. He says federal policy on issues of poverty and wages leads to mis-allocation of resources.
Amash says the Obama administration has not made a strong enough case that the group known as the Islamic State (or ISIS or ISIL) is a threat to people in the United States. He says they are certainly a threat overseas. Amash says the U.S. should go after people who commit atrocities, but he says more evidence of a threat to the U.S. is needed to justify broader military action. Amash says President Obama is exceeding his authority. He says the President has the authority to repel imminent threats. Although reluctant to talk about what is said in classified briefings, Amash says evidence of attacks being planned and that a group is interested in attacking in the United States would convince him to back more extensive military action.
Asked what Congress should do about immigration reform, Amash says consensus could be achieved on stronger boarder security, and improving the "legal" immigration system. He says people who want to come here to work and live are more likely to come here illegally if they don't think there is a legitimate way to come to the U.S. Amash says people who have already come to the U.S. illegally can be deported if they commit a crime. But he says there won't be "house to house" searches. Amash says the U.S. needs to allow people who originally came here illegally, who have been law biding citizens to "come out of the shadows" and establish themselves legally, but not necessarily become citizens.
Militarization of Police
Amash was among the people who questioned why police had military grade equipment to handle disturbances in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown. He says police may need some of that equipment for SWAT or hostage situations. But Amash says police should not be pointing those weapons at citizens. He says the current law requires police to use that equipment within a certain period of time or have to return it, thereby encouraging its use in situations where it may not appropriate.
Asked if the federal government should have any role in setting educational standards for the states, Amash says "I don't think so." He says standards should be handled as locally as possible. Amash says a "one size fits all" standard doesn't work. He says the "common core" standards are too board and punish school districts for creativity.
Often called a "libertarian Republican," Amash says, to him, that means he believes in following the Constitution and allowing people to make decisions for their own lives. "Those are the principals I follow everyday as a Congressman."
Discussion of other issues can be heard in the web version of the interview
While he says it's important that everyone have health care coverage, Amash says the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, isn't the way to do it. Amash says it also violates the Constitution, although it was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. He says health care should be handled at the state level. Amash says it's also important for doctors and patients to know the costs of treatment. He says "cheap, catastrophic" coverage should be available. Amash says the government could have some role in that. (Note an earlier version of this article quoted Amash as saying that the federal government could have some role in catastrophic coverage, Amash only said the government could have some role).
Amash was a critic of government assistance for auto companies. He says it's hard to know what would have happened without the assistance. But Amash says "markets are resilient," and he says when companies fail because they aren't run well, competitors have the opportunity to fill the void.
The Grand Rapids Congressman says not allowing "earmarks" is a good policy. Amash says allowing earmarks drives up the debt and government spending. He says the benefit to individual districts is small, compared to the costs.