Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) has a long history of provoking the ire of his colleagues in Congress. Since his election in 2012 as part of the Tea Party wave, he has consistently voted to uphold constitutional principles and demand accountability from both Democrats and Republicans, even when such votes are wildly unpopular. Today, he is drawing vitriol from no less a figure than the President of the United States over his refusal to unanimously consent to the new coronavirus spending bill. Here’s a breakdown of what’s going on.
Thomas Massie is a Republican Congressman who loves guns and huge corporations and screwing the American people. So I’m just going to watch this fight go down with some popcorn. 🍿
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) March 27, 2020
Over the weekend, President Trump and leaders in the Senate worked together to draft a $2 trillion spending package designed to offset the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 virus and the associated business closures. Even in these days of fiscal excess, $2 trillion is a lot of money, and you can bet that that figure contains plenty of handouts for special interests not directly related to combating the virus. But when both Republicans and Democrats agree to spend a lot of money, it’s pretty certain that that money is going to get spent one way or another.
zero chance Thomas Massie can stop emergency coronavirus fiscal relief bill from passing the House by insisting on in-person roll-call vote
non-zero chance that by doing so he would cause a colleague, Congressional staffer, or some other American to become infected and die
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) March 27, 2020
Before that can happen, though, the House of Representatives has to vote on the bill. Or at least that’s normally how it would work. Instead, Speaker Pelosi is trying to pass the bill via unanimous consent. What that means is that nobody actually votes for anything, and the bill automatically passes unless somebody objects. This is technically legal, as the House is allowed to set its own rules, but it’s also incredibly weaselly in that it prevents Members from going on record to vote for the bill. In years to come, there will be no recorded vote to look at to see who supported the bill and who opposed it. It’s also especially slippery right now due to the fact that many Members are at home or under quarantine, unable to object even if they wanted to. The reason that this is an attractive option to many, especially those who campaigned on promises of fiscal responsibility, is that it deprives their opposition of ammunition to run against them in future elections.
Lots in bill ain't great, but this stupid stunt hurts ppl who he's supposed to represent. There's 535 members of Congress? Does Massie think he's smarter & better than the other 534? He can't stop bill; only delay & cost millions to have members return. Vote yes or just go home! https://t.co/kIMZERcGzV
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) March 27, 2020
You can’t be accused of voting for big spending packages if no vote was actually held, so in a way it allows supposed-deficit hawks to have their cake and eat it too. So when Rep. Massie raised his lone voice to demand an on-the-record vote, everyone immediately freaked out, and President Trump lashed out at him personally on Twitter, accusing him of grandstanding and seeking publicity.
Looks like a third rate Grandstander named @RepThomasMassie, a Congressman from, unfortunately, a truly GREAT State, Kentucky, wants to vote against the new Save Our Workers Bill in Congress. He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay, which is both dangerous……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2020
This is, to say the very least, an overreaction. It seems reasonable, and even constitutionally necessary, for the elected representatives closest to The People to be on the record on what will surely be one of the most consequential legislative acts in a generation. First of all, Massie has a reputation for always demanding on-the-record votes, and it has become something of a trademark for him, so this is hardly a unique situation. Second, Massie is not one of those Never Trumpers who takes every opportunity to obstruct the president’s agenda. In fact, he has been one of the more supportive members in Trump’s own party, so it’s hard not to see Trump’s tweet as petty and childish. Third, Massie’s objection is not going to have any impact on whether the bill passes or not. Critics are reacting as if Massie is single-handedly killing legislation that would help millions of Americans. He’s doing no such thing. He’s just asking that the votes be recorded for posterity, so that Members can be held accountable for their votes in future elections.
Breaking news: Congressman Massie has tested positive for being an asshole. He must be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity. He's given new meaning to the term #Masshole. (Finally, something the president and I can agree on!) https://t.co/N1CNLPsZjc
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) March 27, 2020
It’s hard to see why anyone would have a problem with this. After all, if Congress isn’t going to bother to actually vote on anything, what point is there in even having a legislature? We might as well just send everyone home and let Pelosi dictate new laws all by herself which, judging from her last proffered stimulus bill, would be an unmitigated disaster.
If you want to criticize Members who vote against the bill, that is of course your right, although I personally don’t expect this bloated piece of legislation to help ordinary Americans as much as well-heeled lobbyists and their clients. But it’s incredibly disingenuous to go after the one guy in the House who still thinks the process matters, and who refuses to surrender to panic at a time when we desperately need cool heads to prevail.
(1/11)I swore an oath to uphold the constitution, and I take that oath seriously.
In a few moments I will request a vote on the CARES Act which means members of Congress will vote on it by pushing “yes” or “no” or “present.”
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 27, 2020