Amash quits GOP House conference, resigns from Oversight committee

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., left, joined at right Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, votes with Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee to subpoena presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway for not appearing before the panel after allegations that she repeatedly violated the Hatch Act in this file photo from Wednesday, June 26, 2019.

Washington — Newly independent Michigan U.S. Rep. Justin Amash said Monday he sent a letter to Republican leaders stepping down from the House GOP Conference and giving up his seat on the powerful Oversight committee. 

Amash, a Trump critic who last week quit the Republican Party, had been the sole GOP lawmaker in Congress to conclude that the president's conduct warrants impeachment. He represents the Grand Rapids area in the 3rd Congressional District.

Amash wrote in Monday's letter that he was withdrawing from the GOP caucus for the reasons he outlined July 4 in a Washington Post op-ed, in which he said he's become "disenchanted with party politics and frightened by what I see from it." 

Amash wrote to Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming that he also was resigning his seat on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, consistent with House rules. 

Republicans had speculated the conference could vote as early as Wednesday to remove Amash from the group, which is comprised of all GOP members of the U.S. House.

A two-thirds vote is needed to expel a member under conference rules

"The @HouseGOP never left @justinamash - we simply ran out of space for his ego. However, we should make sure he leaves Conference and his committee," North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker, vice chair of the Republican conference, tweeted last week.

In his Post essay, Amash decried the hyper-partisanship of Washington, urging readers to reject the two-party system and the "partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us."

"Instead of acting as an independent branch of government and serving as a check on the executive branch, congressional leaders of both parties expect the House and Senate to act in obedience or opposition to the president and their colleagues on a partisan basis," he wrote. 

"The founders envisioned Congress as a deliberative body in which outcomes are discovered. We are fast approaching the point, however, where Congress exists as little more than a formality to legitimize outcomes dictated by the president, the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader."

Amash told CNN on Sunday he anticipated that he might get kicked out of the Republican conference as a result of leaving the GOP, but that losing his committee assignment would be of little consequence since leadership has neutered committees. 

"That's OK. I understand the consequences of what I’m doing," he said.

"In today’s politics, the committees have almost no power. I want people at home to understand that. Everything is really run top down. ... The speaker decides what comes out of committee."

Amash said he tried change the Republican Party in Congress from within but came to believe no one could alter the system.

"This term in Congress has shown how bad it can get," Amash said. 

He said Trump thinks people "owe loyalty to him, but people are elected to Congress with an oath to support and defend the Constitution, not an oath to support and defend one person, the president, who happens to be from your own party."

The 39-year-old lawmaker also said high-level officials and Republicans privately have thanked him for speaking out about Trump and impeachment. 

At least four Republicans had filed to challenge Amash in the GOP primary next year, but now the race is shaping up to be a three-way contest with Amash planning to run as an independent candidate. 

He told CNN that he's "very confident" he can win reelection to a sixth term in the House as an independent. 

Amash said "it doesn't scare me" that Trump allies including Donald Trump Jr. have threatened to campaign against him in Michigan. 

"When I go back to my district, people are coming up to me and saying thank you for what you're doing," Amash said, adding that Trump is lowering the level of discourse in the country. 

"People want open, honest representation."