Constitutional conservatives like Raúl Labrador are changing the way Washington does business

Raul Labrador

Michigan Congressman Justin Amash took to Facebook after last year’s vote for Speaker of the House to explain why he picked little-known Idaho sophomore Congressman Raúl Labrador:

I voted for Raúl R. Labrador to be Speaker of the House for the 113th Congress of the United States of America. As I said at the time, Raúl would defend liberty and work honestly with Democrats on debt reduction. He would make a great Speaker.

The vote was one of a dozen “not John Boehner” votes cast by conservative Republicans, likely in protest of a decision to strip a number of them of Committee assignments.

Rep. Labrador abstained from voting for Speaker at the time.

Gracy Olmstead, writing in the American Conservative, details Labrador’s background and appeal as a leader within the conservative ranks of the Republican caucus. Of Labrador and the other recently-elected independent-minded conservatives, she notes:

Today Labrador sees himself as one of a “core group of conservatives” who are bringing change to Congress. He describes them as young and independent, “conservative-leaning-libertarian types,” all willing to defy the establishment in an effort to get things done. One might reasonably assume that Sen. Mike Lee, Congressman Amash, and many from the Liberty Caucus fit within this cohort.

Rep. Labrador believes their efforts in Congress are having an effect on the way Washington does business. In an interview last month with the Associated Press, Rep. Labrador said, ”I think Washington has changed a little bit because I’m there. I want to have the opportunity to complete the mission I went back to perform.”

And though it’s sometimes easy for pundits to attempt to marginalize conservatives like Labrador by calling their ideas “outside the mainstream,” Labrador attempted to bring both parties together on immigration:

As a Latino and former immigration lawyer, an overhaul of America’s broken immigration system is also on Labrador’s docket — though he walked away from a bipartisan group of House members trying to hammer out a compromise measure last year. House Democratic leaders, he says, ”thought they could cram the Senate bill down our throats.”

And he argues against action in 2014 — for unapologetically political reasons: ”Right now I think this is an issue that could divide our conference, and I think our goal should be to get beyond the divisive issue, unite our conference and … focus on the election.” Labrador says Congress should address the issue in 2015, when he hopes his party will have firm control of Congress and can pass a series of bills that address various elements of the issue, as opposed to the comprehensive all-in-one bill Democrats favor.

Labrador has also led on sentencing reform, working across party lines and with other libertarian-leaning Republicans to address mandatory minimum sentencing and its negative impact on predominantly minority communities.

If conservatives and libertarians are looking for a leader in Congress who will carry their mantle and articulately communicate the cause of limited government and liberty while appealing to new constituencies, Rep. Labrador should be high on their list.

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