Justin Amash (//; born April 18, 1980) is an American lawyer and politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Michigan's 3rd congressional district since 2011. Originally a member of the Republican Party, Amash became an independent in July 2019.
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Michigan's 3rd district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2011
|Preceded by||Vern Ehlers|
|Member of the Michigan House of Representatives|
from the 72nd district
January 1, 2009 – January 1, 2011
|Preceded by||Glenn Steil|
|Succeeded by||Ken Yonker|
|Born||April 18, 1980|
Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.
|Political party||Independent (2019–present)|
|Republican (until 2019)|
|Education||University of Michigan (BA, JD)|
A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Amash was born to Arab Christian parents who had immigrated to the United States. After high school, he studied economics at the University of Michigan, then earned a law degree at the University of Michigan Law School and worked as a corporate lawyer before entering politics.
Amash represented the 72nd district in the Michigan House of Representatives for one term before being elected to Congress in 2010. His congressional district includes Amash's home in Cascade Township as well as Grand Rapids; it includes much of the territory represented by former President Gerald Ford. A conservative libertarian, Amash chaired the Liberty Caucus and is regarded as one of the House's most ideologically libertarian members. Amash received national attention when he became the first Republican congressman to call for the impeachment of Donald Trump, a position he maintained after leaving the party.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Pre-Congress work
- 3 Michigan House of Representatives
- 4 U.S. House of Representatives
- 5 Political positions
- 5.1 Abortion
- 5.2 Economy
- 5.3 Energy and environment
- 5.4 Foreign policy
- 5.5 Gerrymandering
- 5.6 Health care
- 5.7 Immigration
- 5.8 Marijuana legalization and forfeiture
- 5.9 Same-sex marriage
- 5.10 Security and surveillance
- 5.11 Suicide prevention hotline
- 5.12 2012 and 2016 presidential endorsements
- 5.13 Criticism of Donald Trump
- 5.14 Republican Party departure
- 6 Committee assignments
- 7 Caucus memberships
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Early life and educationEdit
Justin Amash was born in 1980 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His father, Attallah Amash, is a Palestinian Christian who immigrated to the United States in 1956 through the sponsorship of an American pastor and his family. His mother, Mimi, is a Syrian Christian who met his father through family friends in Damascus; they married in 1974.
Amash grew up in Kentwood, Michigan. He attended Kelloggsville Christian School in Kelloggsville and graduated as class valedictorian from Grand Rapids Christian High School. He then attended the University of Michigan, graduating in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts in economics with high honors. Amash stayed at Michigan to attend the University of Michigan Law School, graduating with a Juris Doctor in 2005.
Amash and his wife, Kara (née Day), attended high school together; they married after he graduated from Michigan and she from Calvin College. They have a son and two daughters. They are Eastern Orthodox Christians.
After graduating from law school, Amash spent less than a year as an attorney at the Grand Rapids law firm Varnum. He then became a consultant to Michigan Industrial Tools Inc. (also known as Tekton Inc.), a company his father founded and owned. He worked as a corporate attorney for his family's business for a year before being elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2008. Amash's two brothers also have positions at Michigan Industrial Tools, and the three share ownership of Dynamic Source International, a Chinese company with offices worldwide that is a supplier to Michigan Industrial Tools.
Michigan House of RepresentativesEdit
Amash ran for the Michigan House of Representatives in 2008 in Michigan's 72nd House District. During this time, he donated to the presidential campaigns of Congressman Ron Paul and Senator John McCain. In the Republican primary, he won a five-way election with 41% of the vote, defeating opponent Ken Yonker by 723 votes, a 6.3% margin. The incumbent Republican, Glenn D. Steil Jr., was unable to run due to term limits. In the general election, Amash defeated Democrat Albert Abbasse, 61–36%.
During his initial tenure in the State House, Amash sponsored five resolutions and 12 bills, but none of them passed. While in the State House, he began using his Twitter and Facebook pages to report his floor votes and explain his reasoning.
U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit
On August 3, 2010, Amash won the five-way Republican primary for the seat vacated by retiring Republican Vern Ehlers with over 40% of the vote. He was endorsed by the Club for Growth, Ron Paul, and FreedomWorks PAC during his primary campaign.
In its October 25, 2010, issue, Time magazine named Amash one of its "40 under 40 – Rising Stars of U.S. Politics". At age 30 Amash was the youngest federal officeholder in the United States on Time's list.
Amash was endorsed by the fiscally conservative Club for Growth PAC, which spent over $500,000 supporting Amash in his Republican primary against former East Grand Rapids School Trustee Brian Ellis, who was endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and spent more than $1 million of his own money on the race.
After Amash defeated Ellis in the August primary, with 57% of the vote to Ellis's 43%, Amash was highly critical of Ellis and former Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who had backed Ellis. Of Hoekstra, Amash said, "You are a disgrace. And I'm glad we could hand you one more loss before you fade into total obscurity and irrelevance." Amash took exception to one of Ellis's television ads that quoted California Republican Congressman Devin Nunes calling Amash "Al Qaeda's best friend in Congress"; he demanded an apology from Ellis for running what he called a "disgusting, despicable smear campaign." As Friedersdorf of The Atlantic notes, "Amash voted against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, favored a measure to repeal indefinite detention, and opposed reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act."
In the general election Amash won reelection with 58% of the vote, defeating Democratic candidate Bob Goodrich (who received 39%) and Green Party candidate Tonya Duncan (3%).
Amash won reelection to the U.S. House in 2018 for his fifth term, defeating Cathy Albro, 54–43%. U.S. Taxpayers party candidate Ted Gerrard finished 3rd with 2.4% of the vote. Amash was unopposed in the Republican primary.
Amash has described himself as a libertarian, dissenting from both Republican and Democratic leaderships more frequently than the vast majority of Republican members of Congress. Amash is regarded as one of the most conservative members of Congress, receiving high scores from conservative interest groups such as the Club for Growth, Heritage Action for America, and Americans for Prosperity, and praise from conservative think tanks and nonprofit organizations. He was a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of hard-line conservative Republicans in the House. In June 2019 Amash left the caucus. On July 4, 2019, he announced that he was leaving the Republican Party to become an independent.
Before leaving the GOP, Amash gained a reputation as a gadfly within the Republican Party; his staunchly libertarian and sometimes contrarian views resulted at times in disagreements with party leadership and other members of the Michigan congressional delegation.
Amash has called economists F. A. Hayek and Frédéric Bastiat his "biggest heroes" and political inspirations, and has described himself as "Hayekian libertarian". When The New York Times asked him to explain his approach to voting on legislation, he replied, "I follow a set of principles. I follow the Constitution. And that's what I base my votes on. Limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty."
Amash opposes abortion and federal funding for abortion. He describes himself as "100 percent pro-life" and in 2017 voted in favor of federal legislation to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Amash voted "present" rather than "yes" or "no" on the 2011 Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act, which provided for the cessation of federal funding to Planned Parenthood. Although he supports eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood, he abstained from defunding legislation, arguing that "legislation that names a specific private organization to defund (rather than all organizations that engage in a particular activity) is improper" and an "arguably unconstitutional" bill of attainder.
Amash opposes government bailouts and tax increases.
He was one of four Republicans who joined 161 Democrats to oppose a Constitutional amendment that would require a yearly balanced budget, due to serious concerns[clarification needed] with that specific proposal. Earlier that year, Amash had introduced H.J. Res. 81, an alternative balanced-budget amendment that addressed those concerns.
Energy and environmentEdit
Amash has criticized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), arguing that many environmental regulations are overreaching. He voted in favor of the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, which would have amended the Clean Air Act of 1963 to prohibit the EPA from regulating specified greenhouse gasses as air pollutants. In a 2017 debate Amash "exaggerated uncertainty around the basics of climate science"—specifically, the scientific consensus that carbon emissions cause climate change. He opposed Obama's decision to sign the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. Amash voted against legislation to block Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement and in favor of legislation "expressing the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy."
Amash was the only representative from Michigan to oppose federal aid in response to the Flint water crisis, arguing that "the U.S. Constitution does not authorize the federal government to intervene in an intrastate matter like this one." Instead Amash contended that "the State of Michigan should provide comprehensive assistance to the people of Flint."
He believes only Congress has the power to declare war, criticizing President Obama's intervention in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant for proceeding without a Congressional declaration of war.
In 2011 Amash was one of six members of Congress who voted against House Resolution 268 reaffirming U.S. commitment to a negotiated settlement of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict through direct Israeli–Palestinian negotiation, which passed with 407 members in support. In 2014 he was one of eight members of Congress who voted against a $225 million package to restock Israel's Iron Dome missile defenses, which passed with 398 members in support. He supports a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
Amash joined 104 Democrats and 16 Republicans in voting against the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which specified the budget and expenditures of the Department of Defense, calling it "one of the most anti-liberty pieces of legislation of our lifetime". Amash co-sponsored an amendment to the NDAA that would ban indefinite military detention and military trials so that all terror suspects arrested in the United States would be tried in civilian courts. He expressed concern that individuals charged with terrorism could be jailed for prolonged periods of time without ever being formally charged or brought to trial.
On March 14, 2016, Amash joined the unanimous vote in the House to approve a resolution declaring the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to be committing genocide against religious minorities in the Middle East (it passed 383–0), but joined Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) in voting against a separate measure creating an international tribunal to try those accused of participating in the alleged atrocities (it passed 392–3).
In 2017 Amash criticized U.S. involvement in Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, arguing that "Al Qaeda in Yemen has emerged as a de facto ally of the Saudi-led militaries with whom [Trump] administration aims to partner more closely."
In July 2017, Amash was one of only three House members to vote against the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, a bill that imposed new economic sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The bill passed the House on a 419–3 vote, with Representatives Thomas Massie (R-KY) and John Duncan Jr. (R-TN) also voting no. Trump initially opposed the bill, saying that relations with Russia were already "at an all-time and dangerous low", but ultimately signed it.
In 2019 Amash signed a letter led by Representative Ro Khanna and Senator Rand Paul to Trump arguing that it is "long past time to rein in the use of force that goes beyond congressional authorization" and that they hoped this would "serve as a model for ending hostilities in the future–in particular, as you and your administration seek a political solution to our involvement in Afghanistan."
Amash opposes political gerrymandering, saying in 2018 that he strongly supported adopting "an independent process for drawing districts" based on geographic considerations, so that districts would be "as compact and contiguous as possible." As of February 2019, Amash was the only Republican member of Michigan's congressional delegation who did not join a federal lawsuit challenging the state's political boundaries.
On May 4, 2017, Amash voted in favor of repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and to pass a revised version of the American Health Care Act. Amash initially opposed the American Health Care Act, describing it as "Swampcare", tweeting that "It didn't take long for the swamp to drain @realDonaldTrump" and criticizing House leadership for attempting to "ram it through." Nevertheless, Amash voted for the updated AHCA plan before the Congressional Budget Office could determine its impact or cost.
In July 2018, House Republicans introduced a resolution supporting the officers and personnel of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Amash was the only Republican in the chamber to vote against the resolution. He tweeted, "The House voted today on an inane resolution regarding ICE. The resolution makes several dubious claims and denounces calls to abolish ICE. I wouldn't abolish ICE without an alternative, but there's no reason to treat a federal agency as though it's beyond reproach and reform."
In December 2018, Amash was one of eight House Republicans to vote against a stopgap government funding bill that included $5.7 billion in border wall funding. Amash tweeted, "This massive, wasteful spending bill–stuffed with unrelated items–passed 217–185. It’s amazing how some wall funding causes my fellow Republicans to embrace big government."
In February 2019, Amash was the only House Republican to co-sponsor a resolution to block Trump's declaration of a national emergency to redirect funds to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border without a congressional appropriation for such a project. He wrote, "A national emergency declaration for a non-emergency is void", and "[Trump] is attempting to circumvent our constitutional system." On February 25, Amash was one of 13 House Republicans to vote to block Trump's declaration.
Marijuana legalization and forfeitureEdit
Amash and fellow U.S. Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) introduced a bill to block the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from financing its Cannabis Eradication Program through civil-asset forfeitures.
Security and surveillanceEdit
In 2013 Amash and 15 other members of Congress filed an amicus brief in Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court supporting the release of the Court's unpublished opinions regarding the "meaning, scope, and constitutionality" of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
Amash opposed President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order to ban citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. Amash said: "Like President Obama's executive actions on immigration, President Trump's executive order overreaches and undermines our constitutional system."
Amash proposed an amendment to the reauthorization bill of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The Amash amendment would have required the government in criminal cases to seek a warrant based on probable cause before searching surveillance data for information about Americans. While the Amash amendment received bipartisan support as well as support from civil liberties groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the amendment ultimately failed by a vote of 183 to 233.
Suicide prevention hotlineEdit
In July 2018, Amash was the only member of the U.S. House to vote against creating a three-digit national suicide prevention hotline. He argued that Congress lacked the constitutional power to pass the legislation.
2012 and 2016 presidential endorsementsEdit
Amash is an ally of Ron Paul, endorsing Paul in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Ron Paul's brother, David Paul, formerly an assistant pastor in Amash's district, introduced the two men. Amash endorsed Paul's son, Senator Rand Paul, for president in 2016. After Paul dropped out of the Republican primary race, Amash endorsed Senator Ted Cruz in his bid for the presidency.
Criticism of Donald TrumpEdit
In 2016 Amash made headlines by joining the list of Republicans who opposed the GOP nominee for President, Donald Trump. After Trump was elected president, the Huffington Post profiled him in an article with the following title, "The One House Republican Who Can't Stop Criticizing Donald Trump". Amash said, "I'm not here to represent a particular political party; I'm here to represent all of my constituents and to follow the Constitution."
After Representative John Lewis (D-GA) said that Trump was not a "legitimate president," Trump sent out a series of tweets on January 14, 2017, criticizing Lewis. Amash responded to Trump's tweets with one of his own: "Dude, just stop." Amash later explained, "The reason I did it is he wouldn’t stop...The way he feels so slighted about everything I think is not healthy for our country." Amash felt that Lewis’s comments were "inappropriate" but said that Trump’s response should have been “dignified and conciliatory to the extent possible” instead of “personal jabs, attacking his district”.
In April 2017, Dan Scavino, a senior White House aide, called for Amash to be defeated in a Republican primary challenge. Amash later called Trump a "childish bully", saying that his attacks would be "constructive in the fifth grade. It may allow a child to get his way, but that's not how our government works."
In May 2017, Trump was accused of pressuring fired FBI director James Comey to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Amash was reported as the first Republican congressman to publicly state that the allegations, if proven true, merited impeachment. This report was contested by the office of Representative Carlos Curbelo, who claimed that he was the first to say that.
In June 2018, the Huffington Post asked House Republicans, "If the president pardoned himself, would they support impeachment?" Amash was the only Republican who said "definitively he would support impeachment". In July 2018, Amash strongly criticized Trump's press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin. He tweeted, "The impression it left on me, a strong supporter of the meeting, is that 'something is not right here.' The president went out of his way to appear subordinate. He spoke more like the head of a vassal state."
When Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee on February 27, 2019, Amash asked him, "What is the truth President Trump is most afraid of people knowing?" Democrat Krystal Ball wrote, "Amash showed how someone actually can exercise oversight responsibility and try to get to the truth, even if the truth might not be in his party’s short-term best interest." CNN editor Chris Cillizza wrote, "The Michigan Republican did something on Wednesday that almost none of his GOP colleagues seemed willing to even try: Ask Cohen questions about his relationship with Trump that might actually shed some new light on not only their relationship but on the President of the United States."
Comments on the Mueller ReportEdit
In May 2019, Amash said that Trump "has engaged in impeachable conduct" based on the obstruction of justice findings of the Mueller Report, which, Amash said, "few members of Congress have read". Amash also said that Attorney General William Barr "deliberately misrepresented" the report's findings and that partisanship was making it hard to maintain checks and balances in the American political system. Amash was the first Republican member of Congress to call for Trump's impeachment. In response, Trump called Amash a "loser", accused him of "getting his name out there through controversy", and falsely stated that the Mueller report had concluded that there was no obstruction of justice. Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, accused Amash of "parroting the Democrats' talking points on Russia." She did not explicitly express support for a primary challenge against Amash, but tweeted, "voters in Amash’s district strongly support this president." House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, claimed that Amash "votes more with Nancy Pelosi than he ever does with me"; PolitiFact evaluated this as false. Republican Senator Mitt Romney described Amash's statement as "courageous", though he disagreed with Amash's conclusions. The New York Times reported that while many Republicans supported Trump in public, they criticized his actions in private. Amash received a standing ovation from the majority of his constituents who attended a town hall meeting shortly after Amash's comments on impeachment. He told the crowd that Trump was setting a bad example for the nation's children.
Two days after Amash's comments, state representative James Lower announced that he will challenge Amash in the 2020 Republican primary, saying he wanted to "make sure people in the community knew there was a pro-Trump conservative ready to take him on." Another challenger in the Republican primary is Army National Guard member Thomas Norton, who announced his candidacy in April. It was reported in August 2019 that here were five Republicans seeking the nomination to oppose Amash.
Republican Party departureEdit
On July 4, 2019, Amash announced in a Washington Post op-ed that he was "declaring his independence" from partisan politics and leaving the Republican Party to become an independent. Citing his extensive differences with both political parties, Amash wrote he felt partisan politics had become so overpowering that Congress no longer functioned as an independent legislative body: "We are fast approaching the point 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." He did not say whether he would continue to caucus with the Republicans. An aide said he would run for reelection in 2020 as an independent. Amash has also been mentioned as a potential candidate for President of the United States in the 2020 election, either as an Independent or as a member of the Libertarian Party.
Amash is the only independent in the House of Representatives. He is the first independent in the House since Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who left the House in 2007 after being elected to the Senate. Amash is one of three independents in the United States Congress, along with Sanders and Maine Senator Angus King.
- Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
- Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
- Joint Economic Committee
- Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
- Joint Economic Committee
- Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
- Joint Economic Committee
- Committee on the Budget
The House Republican Steering Committee removed Amash from the House Budget Committee in late 2012 as part of a larger party leadership-caucus shift. He joined Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) and David Schweikert (R-Arizona) in a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, demanding to know why they had lost their committee positions.
A spokesperson for Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia said that Amash, Huelskamp, and Schweikert had been removed for "their inability to work with other members." Politico said that the three were "the first members pulled off committees as punishment for political or personality reasons in nearly two decades".:p.2
On July 8, 2019, days after announcing that he was leaving the Republican party, Amash formally submitted his resignation to Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Republican Conference Leader Liz Cheney. In the process he resigned his seat on the Committee on Oversight and Reform.
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Representative Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican, is one of the most important civil libertarians in the House of Representatives. He isn't just a staunch opponent of the NSA's mass surveillance of Americans – he actually has a sophisticated understanding of surveillance policy (unlike the vast majority of his congressional colleagues) as well as a record of bringing forth actual reform proposals./Amash voted against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, favored a measure to repeal indefinite detention, and opposed reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act. Little wonder that an ACLU staffer told Mother Jones that he's 'a game changer.'
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Amash, 39, who identifies as a libertarian Republican, is considered among the most conservative members of the House....Conservative groups like the Club for Growth, Heritage Action for America and Americans for Prosperity have awarded him lifetime ratings of more than 85 percent.
- Amber Phillips (May 20, 2019). "Why Justin Amash's impeachment comments probably won't change Nancy Pelosi's mind". The Washington Post.
Amash is one of the most conservative lawmakers in Congress, which gives him street cred when he calls for impeaching a Republican president. But Amash is also a different strain of conservative; he leans libertarian.
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15 were hard-line conservatives who wanted a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They are all members of the House Freedom Caucus, who are among the most conservative members of the House...Justin Amash, MI-3
- Byrd, Haley; Sullivan, Kate (June 11, 2019). "Justin Amash leaves the conservative Freedom Caucus". CNN.
- Amash, Justin (July 4, 2019). "Justin Amash: Our politics is in a partisan death spiral. That's why I'm leaving the GOP". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
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- Glenn Thrush, Impeachment Appeal Pushes Justin Amash From G.O.P. Gadfly to Insurgent, New York Times (May 20, 2019): "Amash ... has made a political career of going it alone. ... a libertarian with a contrarian streak."
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- Scott Waldman, Climate change dogging Republicans at town halls, E&E News (April 17, 2017).
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President Obama faces increasing pressure from lawmakers, foreign-policy experts, constitutional scholars, and anti-war activists to refrain from striking Syria. Opponents of war worry that an insular group of hawkish Washington, D.C., elites will succeed in prompting an intervention the consequences of which they cannot anticipate, despite widespread public opposition to U.S. involvement. The concerns of Syria anti-interventionists vary, but all agree that the president should not unilaterally decide to attack tyrant Bashar al-Assad's regime, even granting that recent chemical weapons attacks on civilians were atrocious.
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- Mark Ram (October 5, 2015). "Civil Forfeiture for Marijuana Businesses". Mark Ram. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
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Norton is one of five Republicans running in a primary to unseat Rep. Justin Amash, I-Cascade, who left the Republican party in July.
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The only other independents in Congress, Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Angus King (Maine), caucus with Democrats in the Senate.
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- Congressman Justin Amash official U.S. House website
- Campaign website
- Justin Amash at Curlie
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
|Michigan House of Representatives|
| Member of the Michigan House of Representatives
from the 72nd district
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 3rd congressional district
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority