On Saturday, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich) accused his fellow Republican, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, of wanting to take the GOP backward on civil liberties. The congressman made his comments at the International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington, DC, an annual event organized by libertarian youth group Students for Liberty (SFL).
Amash is a fierce critic of the National Security Agency and an advocate for privacy protections. The NSA has used the Patriot Act passed by Congress in 2001 and signed by President George W. Bush, to justify the mass surveillance of U.S. citizens metadata and other private information. Young Americans for Liberty’s (YAL) Executive Director Jeff Frazee, a libertarian student group similar to SFL, asked Amash about Sen. Rubio’s suggestion that the Patriot Act should be reauthorized permanently.
Amash did not mince words.
“I think it’s embarrassing to say things like that,” Amash said. He continued, “It reflects a lack of awareness of what the American people think and what the Constitution says.”
The young, standing room only crowd applauded. The libertarian-leaning congressman continued, “If he thinks that that’s the future of the Republican Party he is very wrong.” “The party is liberty, protecting people’s rights, pushing back against corporate welfare and big government,” Amash added.
Amash concluded, “I think we have a great group of people who are pushing the Republican Party in the right direction, and you’ve got some people like Senator Rubio who want to take us backward and move the party in the wrong direction and make it into a very small party.”
The panel also included libertarian-friendly Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky) a frequent congressional ally for Amash and fellow member of the House Liberty Caucus.
Amash has been a thorn in the side of the Republican establishment for his pro-civil liberties views and particularly GOP hawks who view actions like the NSA’s metadata collection program as necessary national security measures.
In addition to making the Patriot Act permanent, Sen. Rubio has also wanted to make the NSA’s controversial warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens permanent.
Disclaimer: I’m the former Director of Outreach for Young Americans for Liberty.