Tag: Republican Liberty Caucus

Justin Amash Departs House Freedom Caucus

Sanders Jett-Folk | United States

Rep. Justin Amash has officially left the House Freedom Caucus, the House of Representatives’ pro-liberty group of representatives. His departure follows several weeks of controversy after he stated that President Donald Trump has “engaged in impeachable conduct.”

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2018 Has Not Been a Good Year for Libertarian Republicans

By Kenneth Casey | United States

On August 7th, former Libertarian Presidential Candidate Austin Petersen was defeated in his attempt to receive the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Missouri. Establishment Republican-backed Josh Hawley came out victorious as Petersen finished a distant third. Petersen’s defeat added onto what has already been a very tough year for libertarian Republicans.

To start off with incumbents, three out of the thirteen Republicans in the libertarian-leaning House Liberty Caucus chaired by Justin Amash will not be returning to Washington at the end of the 115th Congress. The sole Democrat in the caucus is running for re-election. Idaho’s Raul Labrador decided to give up his seat for an unsuccessful run for governor. Jimmy Duncan of Tennessee has decided to retire at the end of his term. Duncan is the lone remaining Republican to vote against the invasion of Iraq in 2002. Lastly, Mark Sanford of South Carolina lost in a primary to a Trump-endorsed candidate.  for not being “loyal enough” to the president.

For newcomers, Shane Hazel was unsuccessful in his attempt to primary an establishment Republican in Georgia’s 7th congressional district by campaigning on the cause of freedom and limited government. Nick Freitas, the staunch libertarian Republican from Virginia, narrowly lost his primary to become the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate of Virginia to Corey Stewart, a nationalist who happens to be a hard-core Trump supporter.

The one victory I see from a libertarian Republican newcomer is held by Maine’s Eric Brakey, who won his primary to become the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. However, he was uncontested in the primary.

With the departure of a few of the most liberty-leaning incumbents of House and defeat of other liberty-friendly Republicans, 2018 is not looking like it’ll be a good year for the libertarian wing of the Republican Party that went under significant growth after Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. Why is this?

There are a couple things you can point to as reasoning of libertarians not being so successful in the GOP this year. The first one is obvious, that the establishment of the Republican Party is not interested in helping libertarian Republicans get elected. Even when the only two libertarian-leaning members of the Senate, Rand Paul and Mike Lee, were first elected, they faced huge opposition from the establishment and had to rely on grassroots support. But the establishment of the party has always opposed candidates who were more liberty-minded and favored limited government. This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon.

In my mind, the biggest reason as to why libertarian Republicans haven’t succeeded in the Republican Party so far this year is the rising influence of populist and nationalist thought within the GOP which has grown in the age of Trump. Although not all of Trump’s policies have fully embraced represented the growth of those ideas within the party, some policies and some of his rhetoric have helped the rise. Specifically speaking, his calls for protectionism in trade and anti-immigrant rhetoric to go along with the support of spending bills such as the $1.3 Trillion Omnibus Budget has increased popularity for such policies within the party. Because of this, many candidates running under the Republican Party banner this year have embraced Trump’s positions on these issues and those who do not usually find themselves being declared an enemy of the president’s politics to many of his supporters and in many, it ends up hurting their chances of winning within the GOP.

As mentioned above, libertarian ideologues who make the decision to run under the Republican Party are always seen as non-establishment candidates, and usually face challenges from the more mainstream, establishment faction of the Republican Party. In the last four election cycles, candidates labeled as non-establishment within the party usually earned the label by being more libertarian in ideology and by being supportive of limited government and acknowledging the government getting bigger is caused by both Democrats and Republicans.

In this year’s midterms, it seems as if the definition for a non-establishment Republican has shifted – more and more candidates labeled non-establishment are named as such because they rail against the establishment by supporting right-wing populist policies in contrast to the mainstream ideology of the Republican establishment.

This has left libertarians politically homeless within the Republican Party – as both right-wing populists and establishment-friendly Republicans are vastly unlike and don’t represent libertarianism well whatsoever.

Maybe the Republican Party was never interested in liberty when they elected libertarian Republicans such as Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, and Rand Paul. Massie expressed similar beliefs in comments to the Washington Examiner back in March of 2017: “All this time, I thought they were voting for libertarian Republicans. But after some soul searching I realized when they voted for Rand and Ron and me in these primaries, they weren’t voting for libertarian ideas — they were voting for the craziest son of a bitch in the race.”

Massie’s comments seem very true at this point in time, it appears as if Libertarian Republicans have not been successful in this year’s midterms because the “craziest son of a bitches” in Republican primaries this year have not been libertarians in the age of Trump.

Despite this, I am confident the liberty movement will be long-lived even in times of trouble. But this does leave the age-old question open as to whether libertarian ideologues should even bother running in the Republican Party if they can only win when they’re considered the craziest candidates in the race.


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Liberty-Leaning Mike Lee Should Stay in the Senate

By Kenneth Casey | United States

Recently, with the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, there’s been a lot of buzz about who President Trump might nominate to replace the Republican-appointed Justice. The White House released a list of potential replacements for the seat that President Trump is deciding from.

On that list is Utah U.S. Senator Mike Lee. Although appointing legislators to judicial seats is often frowned upon, Lee is a rare exception. Before he decided to enter politics and run for office, he served as a Law Clerk to Judge Dee Benson on Utah’s District Court and future Supreme Court Justice Judge Samuel Alito. At the time, Alito was serving on the United States Court of Appeals. After that, Lee served as Assistant United States Attorney in Salt Lake City.

Lee has a very sharp legal mind and has shown it off many times in the United States Senate. Most recently, Lee spoke in favor of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have protected Americans from detention without trial or charge. Lee, speaking in favor of the amendment on the Senate floor, said:

“The amendment simply says that if you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, you may not be indefinitely detained on U.S. soil without trial, without charge, without access to a jury or to counsel.”

-Mike Lee

Lee’s position on the issue was that enforcing indefinite detention on any U.S. citizen for any reason violates the 5th amendment. Thus, it is not tolerable in the United States.

Lee possesses a trait that is rare for any elected legislator. He has common knowledge of the Constitution, and realizes protecting it is a legislator’s first and most important duty. Hence, Lee would be an amazing addition to the Supreme Court. He would represent liberty on the bench for a long time.

However, is nominating Mike Lee to the Supreme Court really worth losing his voice in the Senate?

Unfortunately, the answer, at least at this time, the answer is no. Lee has consistently been the second-most liberty-leaning member of the Senate, alongside Rand Paul. His loss would leave Paul as the only liberty-leaning senator.

In the past, Lee has championed criminal justice reform. For example, he introduced a bill in the Senate titled Smart Sentencing Act that would reform the criminal justice system. It addressed prison overcrowding by lowering mandatory minimum sentences. Thus, he effectively wanted to limit the number of nonviolent drug offenders sent to prison.

When it comes to surveillance bills, Lee and Paul have been the only two consistent Republican Senators opposing more spying. In 2011, they were the only two Republicans to oppose extending all three provisions of the PATRIOT Act. When the FISA Authorization Act came to the Senate floor earlier this year, Lee was one of just seven Republicans to vote against it. Also, when John McCain put a bill on the Senate floor to expand the FBI’s surveillance powers, Lee was again one of seven Republicans to vote against it.

Moreover, Lee has consistently supported bills that cut spending and shrink our national debt. When Paul introduced a bill that would reduce discretionary spending by $43 billion, Lee was one of a mere five senators to vote for it. Most recently, two days ago, when the Senate voted on the Agricultural and Nutrition Act, a bill the CBO claimed would increase direct spending by $3.2 billion over the 2019-2023 period, Lee and Paul broke alone from their party to vote against it. According to the site SpendingTracker.org, a site that tracks how much money Congressmen vote to spend, Lee voted to spend the 2nd least amount of money in both the 114th and 115th Congresses, behind only Paul.

In addition, Lee has been a proponent of foreign policy realism in Senate. While many Senators praised President Trump’s decision in 2017 to launch missiles into Syria, Lee joined Paul in saying that it was unconstitutional for a president to engage in an act of war without Congressional approval. Lee also teamed up with Bernie Sanders to end U.S. intervention in Yemen earlier this year.

A liberty-leaning Senator like Mike Lee is very rare in today’s political climate. It would be a huge blow to lose him as a Senator.

Many may argue that Lee vacating his Utah seat in the senate is not a big deal. After all, he serves in the Republican stronghold state of Utah. They are right – Lee’s seat is very safe for Republicans. They would have no trouble voting in a new Republican in a special election for his replacement. However, it is quite unlikely we would see another liberty-leaning Republican in his place.

It is important for Donald Trump to nominate somebody like Mike Lee to the Supreme Court. Yet, it would be best if he did not nominate the man himself, as liberty-leaning senators are too critical to lose.


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