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Rep. Justin Amash Supports Keystone XL Pipeline – But Voted “Present” – Find Out Why

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Published on: January 13, 2015

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) is probably the most principled representative in the United States federal government. Without having to be asked, Amash takes to Facebook every time there is a vote and not only tells his constituents what his vote was on a piece of legislation, but why he voted a particular way. In the wake of the House vote on the Keystone XL pipeline, Amash, who supports the pipeline, voted “present.” He then took to Facebook to explain why.

Amash wrote:

I voted present on H R 3, Northern Route Approval Act. The Keystone XL pipeline is a private project owned by TransCanada Corporation. This bill improperly exempts TransCanada Corporation—and no other company—from laws that require pipeline owners and operators to obtain certain government permits and approvals.

I support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and holding it up for over four years (with no end in sight) for political reasons is wrong. It’s improper, however, for Congress to write a bill that names and benefits one private project, while doing nothing to address the underlying problems that allowed such delays to occur. The Constitution gives Congress the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations,” but the Rule of Law requires that legislation be of general, not specific, applicability. A proper bill would address the circumstances that allow *any* such project to be held up for political reasons, not just Keystone XL.

As F.A. Hayek explained in The Constitution of Liberty: “It is because the lawgiver does not know the particular cases to which his rules will apply, and it is because the judge who applies them has no choice in drawing the conclusions that follow from the existing body of rules and the particular facts of the case, that it can be said that laws and not men rule. Because the rule is laid down in ignorance of the particular case and no man’s will decides the coercion used to enforce it, the law is not arbitrary. This, however, is true only if by ‘law’ we mean the general rules that apply equally to everybody. This generality is probably the most important aspect of that attribute of law which we have called its ‘abstractness.’ As a true law should not name any particulars, so it should especially not single out any specific persons or group of persons.”

My commitment to my constituents when I took office was that I may vote present on legislation in three extremely rare circumstances (this is the 12th present vote out of nearly two thousand votes in Congress): (1) when I could otherwise support the legislation, but the legislation uses improper means to achieve its ends, e.g., singling out a specific person or group for special treatment; (2) when Representatives have not been given a reasonable amount of time to consider the legislation; or (3) when I have a conflict of interest, such as a personal or financial interest in the legislation—a circumstance that hasn’t happened yet and I don’t anticipate happening.

H R 3 uses improper means to accomplish its laudable goal by singling out TransCanada Corporation and its Keystone XL pipeline for special treatment.

It passed 241-175-1.

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I always appreciate that Amash provides his reasoning for every vote he takes. This keeps him accountable to those he represents.

Clearly in his reasoning, Rep. Amash sees that there is not only a problem with the legislation itself, but in the very conduct of Congress in dealing with it in the first place.

Back in March 2014, Amash said that though some call him a liberal, he is a Constitutional conservative.

“I’m a Constitutional conservative and some people call that libertarian,” he told Ben Swann. “And look, if you look at my score cards across multiple organizations, I am considered one of the most conservative members of Congress, if not THE most conservative and I’m proud of that.  People at home want me to follow the Constitution.   Whether you are a Republican or Democrat or Independent, I think that’s what people are looking for; someone who will follow the Constitution and I think that scares some people in the Republican establishment because there are times when I will cross over and vote with Democrats to help limit the size of government and if there are instances where Democrats will help to limit the size of government and Republicans aren’t, then that scares the Republican establishment.”

I say, once again, well done Rep. Amash. This is the kind of transparent leader that should have been elected Speaker of the House.

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