WASHINGTON — It wasn’t a typical introduction for a member of Congress.
“Most recently, he had the honor of being distinguished as a libertarian ‘wacko bird’ by Sen. John McCain.”
The crowd of young libertarians sipping pints of Guinness at a downtown D.C. Irish pub on Wednesday night burst into applause at what they considered to be a badge of honor for this rising star, seen as part of a new crop of liberty-movement legislators.
The host concluded: “Please join me in welcoming Congressman Justin Amash!”
Amash, the 32-year year old Republican from Michigan who has displayed a knack for getting into it with the establishment of his party, flashed a wide smile. “Thanks so much!”
With Michigan Democratic Sen. Carl Levin recently announcing his retirement from the U.S. Senate, Amash acknowledged during the Wednesday night “Liberty on the Rocks” gathering at the D.C. bar Mackey’s that he is now thinking hard about jumping into the race to replace Levin in 2014.
“The Senate seat in Michigan is an open seat,” Amash explained. “I definitely will take a good look at it. But I have no plans in the immediate future to announce any campaign. So we got a ways to go, and I want to see how thing play out.”
Amash has only been in the House for just over two years, but in his short time in Washington, he has gotten into several much publicized spats with the GOP establishment.
Earlier this year, he lost a coveted spot on the House Budget Committee for apparently not supporting chairman Paul Ryan’s 2013 budget. He later helped organize a failed coup to oust John Boehner as speaker of the House, publicly voting for Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador instead.
He has also sparred with McCain, the Arizona Senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee. He recently accused him of making “racist jokes” on Twitter about the Iranian president.
Reacting to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster of CIA Director John Brennan over drones, McCain last week accused Amash — along with other libertarian-leaning Republicans — of being one of the “wacko birds … that get the media megaphone.”
If he ran for the U.S. Senate, Amash could possibly tap into the network of politically active libertarian supporters who would welcome the idea of electing another senator like Rand Paul.
An ardent proponent for smaller government, Amash is just as enthusiastic about social media, often bragging that he explains every vote he takes on Facebook.
But for now, Amash — who would likely have to give up his House seat to mount a Senate campaign — is signaling that he will only run if he thinks he can really win.
“Michigan is a largely Democratic state, but it’s not like having an open seat in Oklahoma or Nebraska or some place like that,” he explained Wednesday night. “So you have to take it very seriously when you decide to run. It’s not just a primary you have to win. You have to win a general. And you got to win over a lot of people from the other side.”