Amash talks Dept. of Ed., travel ban, Trump’s tweets

Packed house at City High Middle for representatives's town hall meeting

US Rep. Justin Amash, town hall
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash hosts a town hall meeting in Grand Rapids on Feb. 9, 2017.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — U.S. Rep. Justin Amash addressed supporters and critics Thursday night during a town hall meeting in Grand Rapids.

Amash, a Republican now in his fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, told 24 Hour News 8 that it’s important to hear from the constituents in his district about what issues are important to them.

Speaking one-on-one with 24 Hour News 8 before the town hall, Amash discussed legislation he’s co-sponsoring to eliminate the federal Department of Education — despite showing support for newly-confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The congressman says it’s a piece of legislation he has supported since well before DeVos was nominated and that it just happened to be introduced on the same day of her confirmation. He said he wants to see power given back to the teachers and parents in public schools.

“That doesn’t mean hurting public schools, it means helping public schools. Here in Michigan, we have a Department of Education. This is a state’s responsibility under our Constitution, not the federal government’s. What happens when you have tax dollars sent to the federal government is that they get mixed up in the bureaucracy and then strings are attached and they’re sent back at pennies on the dollar, so you end up with less funding for schools by having a Department of Education,” Amash argued.

He said it’s a longshot that the bill will be passed.

“But it’s important that we stick out a principled position, that we say what we’re about and we identify the problems with our education system,” Amash said.

He said he hasn’t spoken to DeVos about the bill and doesn’t know whether she thinks it’s a good idea, but added he thinks she would agree that more control should be given to local governments.

It was standing-room only at City High Middle School for town hall meeting. The auditorium has a capacity of nearly 600, but that was reached before the event even started. With the venue packed, dozens were turned away.

A sign at City High Middle School in Grand Rapids on Feb. 9, 2017.
A sign at City High Middle School in Grand Rapids on Feb. 9, 2017.

The congressman’s office told 24 Hour News 8 after the town hall they were delighted with the turnout and will plan another because interest in attending is so high.

Amash pointed out that his town hall meetings never had as many people when President Barack Obama was in the White House.

During the town hall, people clapped in support of Amash’s stances on issues like believing President Donald Trump’s immigration order needed to be rewritten to be constitutional.

Amash, who is big on social media, also criticized Trump’s use of Twitter.

“I think he should use it to get the message out about what he believes and give his opinions on various pieces of legislation out there and various policies. But too often he uses it for personal attacks, to put people down, to attack the other institutions of government, and I think that’s a bad idea. It undermines our of system of government, it undermines our constitutional republic — we have a system of checks and balances. I just think he should use it for officials reasons. He can have fun with it, too, but don’t use it to put other people down and attack people personally,” Amash told 24 Hour News 8 before the town hall.

But Amash was met with boos on other issues like wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare.

He was also challenged about the influence of donors — specifically the DeVos family, which has donated thousands over the years — on his decision-making. He said he didn’t know how much particular people had donated to him over the years and denied that donations influenced his vote.