Rep. Justin Amash held a town hall meeting in Western Michigan on Monday night
Amash is a Republican who is frequently critical of President Donald Trump
Rep. Justin Amash said Monday the solution for dysfunction in Washington likely boils down to removing House Speaker Paul Ryan and replacing him with someone who is “nonpartisan.”
“We need either a change in direction from this speaker, or we need a new speaker,” Amash said while answering a question about the perpetual gridlock in Washington.
The Michigan Republican also laced into President Donald Trump, hewing close to a strategy of blasting Republican leaders like Ryan and Trump, during a town hall with about 100 residents from his district, which is loosely centered around Grand Rapids.
Amash’s town hall comes one week after the White House director of social media, Dan Scavino, called on the “#Trumptrain” to run over Amash in a Republican primary because of his opposition to the effort to overhaul Obamacare. Amash fired back, saying the attack was proof the “Trumpstablishment” doesn’t support independent thinkers.
If there was any backlash among Trump supporters in Amash’s Western Michigan district, it wasn’t noticeable Monday evening as he took questions from the crowd for more than two hours.
Instead, Amash launched a few zingers. After Amash got some brush-back from the audience for saying that Congress is the branch that is closest to the people, Amash said, “I’m the one holding a town hall here, not Donald Trump.”
He later said he didn’t think Trump could handle a town hall in any district.
Ryan’s office declined to comment on Amash’s remarks. CNN reached out to the White House for comment on the congressman’s remarks about the President but did not receive a response.
Amash also noted that he is one of just a handful of Republicans to sign onto legislation that would mandate Trump release his tax returns – an answer that was roundly applauded from the crowd of mostly left-leaning residents (although nothing like the rowdy crowds of angry progressives that have filled other town halls).
Amash, a member of the far right House Freedom Caucus and leader of the libertarian-leaning House Liberty Caucus, largely avoided the hot buttons that would have inflamed his crowd.
Instead, he trained his fire on Trump and Ryan.
“When we go home for the weekend, they give us a set of talking points. They say ‘here are your talking points’” Amash said, holding up a sheet of paper. “That’s not the way you’re supposed to represent a community.”
So far there have not been widespread public calls for Ryan to step down from other Republican members of Congress, though some conservative pundits have done so following the failure of the Ryan- and Trump-backed bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Even the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, told ABC’s “This Week” after that bill’s failure that there were “no conversations going on” in his caucus about pushing Ryan to step down.
“We’re committed to work with the President, the speaker, the current speaker, and make sure that what we do is get some consensus,” Meadows said on March 26.
Amash has said before that he was unhappy with Ryan’s leadership, saying in the thick of the health care fight last month that Republicans may have been better off under former House Speaker John Boehner – even though Amash is a member of the group that spurred Boehner’s retirement.
Amash is hosting three town halls this week, and touted his openness to the exceedingly polite Western Michigan crowd (which lacked the screaming and chanting that have made other town halls national spectacles.)
Other lawmakers have held closed meetings, avoided town halls or, in one case, been the beneficiary of a busload of Trump supporters, who fought back against angry progressive activists. Ryan’s office as of Monday night has refused to make public any town halls scheduled for Congress’ two-week recess.