Justin Amash offers to serve as ‘nonpartisan’ Speaker

Former Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.) has offered to serve as a “nonpartisan” Speaker of the House if Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on a candidate from either party to fill the post.

The offer from Amash, a former Republican-turned-Libertarian lawmaker, comes as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) faces opposition from some members of his party, complicating his Speakership bid.

“If neither party has the votes to elect a speaker of the House, I’d be happy to serve as a nonpartisan speaker who ensures the institution works as it’s supposed to—a place where all ideas are welcome and where outcomes are discovered through the process, not dictated from above,” Amash said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Amash was elected as a Republican in the 2010 Tea Party wave, and built a reputation of being staunchly critical of the top-down nature of congressional power. He was the first Republican to call for then-President Trump’s impeachment in 2019 and later that year left the GOP to become an independent. 

In 2020, Amash registered as a Libertarian, becoming the party’s first member of Congress. He considered running for president as a third-party candidate but decided against it, and left the House at the end of his term.

The Speaker is not required to be an elected member of Congress, but every one so far has been.

House Republicans chose McCarthy as their nominee for Speaker in closed-door, secret-ballot elections on Tuesday. But he faced a last-minute protest challenge from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), former chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who has knocked McCarthy’s plans for House rules management and his reluctance to pursue impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

McCarthy easily won the House GOP Speaker nomination over Biggs, 188 to 31. But he will have to win a majority of votes on the House floor — 218 votes, assuming a fully sworn-in House — in order to win the gavel. 

With an expected slim majority for House Republicans, McCarthy will have just a few votes to spare for Republican defections on the House floor — far fewer than 31. McCarthy and his allies project confidence that he will win the floor vote, but it is unclear how many Republicans are set on voting against him.

Not every member of the Freedom Caucus agrees with challenging McCarthy, though. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has thrown her support behind McCarthy, arguing that division among Republicans could lead some moderate defectors to join with Democrats and elect a less conservative Speaker as a compromise.

Election projections as of Wednesday morning put Republicans just one seat away from securing the House majority, with nine seats undecided. Republicans are confident they will win control of the chamber.

There is historical precedent for a fair amount of uncertainty in Speakership elections — it took two months and 133 ballots to elect Speaker Nathaniel P. Banks in 1856, according to the House historian — and the GOP's majority come January is expected to be its narrowest in decades.

A major factor at play for the McCarthy antagonists are proposed House and GOP Conference rules changes. The House Freedom Caucus has proposed rules changes that, on the whole, would chip away at leadership’s power and give more to individual members. That aligns with the argument from Amash, who was a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, but left the group around the time he left the GOP.

The House GOP will start consideration of internal conference rules changes on Wednesday afternoon. In an olive branch to the Freedom Caucus concerns, McCarthy on Tuesday said that the House GOP would consider just half of the rules change requests on Wednesday and the other half after Thanksgiving.