It's been a quiet few months for libertarian-leaning Republicans in Washington since President Trump took office in January, but last week they struck back.
The House voted unanimously to curb civil asset forfeiture, rebuking Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions for reinstating a program allowing law enforcement to seize private property from people never even charged with a crime, much less convicted of one.
Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., Mark Sanford. R-S.C., and Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, all members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, joined with liberals like Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., to push an amendment stripping funding from civil asset forfeiture.
"I don't like voice votes, but at least this time it was to adopt my amendment to rein in civil asset forfeiture!," exclaimed Amash, a leading libertarian voice in Congress. "Thanks to the cosponsors!'
"This is something that needed to be done badly," a sympathetic Republican congressional aide told the Washington Examiner.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., tried with much less success to sunset the existing authorizations of the use of military force, forcing Congress to vote on the wars that it has allowed the last three presidents to conduct, often under much different circumstances.
Paul, who hails from a state Trump won by nearly 30 points with 62.5 percent of the vote, did not hesitate to portray his message as more consistent with the "America First" foreign policy the president campaigned on than what the administration delivered.
"Candidate Trump repeatedly argued that the Afghan War was a disaster and should end," Paul declared on the Senate floor. "Once in the White House, however, President Trump is escalating the war in Afghanistan just as President Obama did."
The Senate voted to table Paul's amendment, but the Kentucky senator did receive bipartisan support. Republicans supportive of Paul questioned why Democrats denounced Trump as reckless, irresponsible and even racist while wanting to give him unchecked war powers not clearly granted by the Constituion.
In Amash's congressional district, once represented by Gerald Ford, Trump won by less than 10 points. That's why the four-term lawmaker was seen as likely to lead a libertarian resistance to the president once he took office, despite their shared party affiliation.
Paul sought to block the more hawkish candidates for key foreign-policy and national-security jobs said to be in contention after Trump defeated liberal hawk Hillary Clinton: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and neoconservative Reagan and Bush 43 adviser Elliot Abrams.
All these Republicans questioned Trump's criticism of free trade, his reticence to support free-market entitlement reform or cuts to certain social programs, as well his support for the federal war on drugs and the militarization of law enforcement.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., a Paul ally, previously told the Washington Examiner that the criticism of Sessions on marijuana criminalization was overblown. But Massie also said that if the laws on the books were rigorously enforced, they'd be quickly repealed — "within a year."
The biggest disappointment for liberty Republicans and their allies has been foreign policy, where Trump often aligned with their views in 2016. "The president has not kept his campaign promises regarding Afghanistan, and is now increasing our military forces there," said Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., provided to the Washington Examiner. "I, like many military families and taxpayers, am extremely frustrated!"
Near Jones' signature was this handwritten message to Ryan: "Mr. Speaker, how long can you support this failed policy."
It remains to be seen whether this flurry of libertarian-conservative activity can be sustained after their political movement's federal electoral success has been stalled.
"Campaigns are temporary, the movement is forever," said Austin Petersen, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri. "But we need some wins."