Congress Gets Poorer: Paul, Frank, Kucinich, Maybe Amash Out in 2013

Reps. Ron Paul and Barney Frank

No matter what happens in November’s congressional elections, we can be sure of one thing. The next Congress will be a lot less interesting than this one. The 113th congress will carry on without Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX), Barney Frank (D-MA), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), and possibly Justin Amash (R-MI). While not always the best defenders of liberty, they were all the strongest proponents in Congress of a more peaceful foreign policy. Each also took courageous individual stands when few others followed, and they challenged the status quo political correctness. Their absence will make Congress just that much more dull and uninteresting.

Dr. Ron Paul will abandon the congressional seat that he has held, off and on, since the 1970s. Paul obviously will be remembered as the only openly libertarian member of Congress. Arguably no single individual has done more for the philosophy of liberty in several generations than the good doctor. Throughout his career, Paul fought to lower taxes, regulations, and spending, eliminate marijuana prohibition, strengthen civil liberties (including gun rights), and end America’s empire around the world. Perhaps his two favorite bills in Congress were The Industrial Hemp Farming Act to legal hemp farming and The Federal Reserve Transparency Act to audit the Fed.

Barney Frank–who has occupied Congress since 1981, but will retire in January–was probably one of the most economically-illiberal members of Congress. America’s financial system will be burdened with the disastrous Dodd-Frank Act for many years to come. Nonetheless, he has often acted against the tides of political expediency. Frank–the first congressmen ever to come out as gay (voluntarily)–was the foremost champion of gay rights in Congress leading the charge to stop the Defense of Marriage Act in the 1990s and overturn the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy toward homosexuality. He also authored several bills to end marijuana prohibition and helped Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed bill get included in the Dodd-Frank Act. He fought the PATRIOT Act, opposed the Iraq War from its conception, and authored bills to end wars there and in Afghanistan.

Dennis Kucinich who entered Congress in 1997 will be forced out after redistricting by Ohio Republicans that, as of yesterday, has cost him his primary bid for reelection. Kucinich was the most outspoken advocate for peace in Congress. In 2007, he drafted a House Resolution to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney for manipulating military intelligence in the run-up the Iraq War. He has also authored legislation to end the War in Afghanistan, and supports decriminalization of marijuana. He voted against the PATRIOT Act and sued to stop the war in Libya.

Rep. Justin Amash

Justin Amash is a Tea Party freshman congressman from Michigan who might have been redistricted out of his seat by Republicans there. Roll Call has reported:

If redistricting is any indication, Amash doesn’t have many friends left in Lansing. Republicans made the freshman Member and former state Representative’s district more competitive in their redraw. He was the only Republican in the Michigan delegation who received that treatment. Republicans gripe that Amash hasn’t been a team player on Capitol Hill and cite his frequent “present” votes as proof. In his first several months in Congress, Amash has presented himself as more libertarian than Republican.

Amash might just hang on, but a local judge has stepped forward to challenge him in his now less friendly district. Amash has voted against the PATRIOT Act and co-authored legislation to end the war in Afghanistan with Dennis Kucinich. He has also voted against nearly every spending bill Congress has passed.

No matter how much Congress spends next year, there’s no doubt it’ll still be much poorer with these four gone.

Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the founder and editor-at-large of The Skeptical Libertarian. He writes on issues relating to science, skepticism, and economic freedom, focusing on the role of evolution in social and economic development.