Rep. Thomas Massie spoke Friday. (Associated Press photo)
By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News
Thomas Massie, the congressman from Kentucky’s Fourth District, has long been at the limits of elective politics at the national level. He is more Libertarian than Republican, but his strong stands against the tax-and-spend mentality of the federal government harken back to Republicans of old, such as the late Sen. Robert Taft of Cincinnati, just across the Ohio River from the most populous part of his district.
Now that the Republican Party has been taken over by Donald Trump and seems not to care about the nearly $24 trillion national debt and the budget deficits that build it, Massie is even more an outlier. And he made that even more so Friday, by demanding a roll-call vote on the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, forcing his colleagues to attend against public-health advice. Then Trump said he should be thrown out of the party.
Trump said on Twitter, “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.” Trump tweeted early Friday. “Workers [and] small businesses need money now in order to survive. Virus wasn’t their fault. It is ‘HELL’ dealing with the Dems, had to give up some stupid things in order to get the ‘big picture’ done. 90% GREAT! WIN BACK HOUSE, but throw Massie out of Republican Party!”
“Mister Speaker, I came here to make sure our republic doesn’t die by unanimous consent in an empty chamber, and I request a recorded vote,” he said on the floor. “I object on the basis that a quorum is not present and make a point of order that a quorum is present.”
That didn’t seem to bother Massie. “The Constitution requires that a quorum of members be present to conduct business in the House. Right now, millions of essential, working-class Americans are still required to go to work during this pandemic,” he said in a long statement before his request. “Is it too much to ask that the House do its job, just like the Senate did?”
The Times reported, “Massie has never been one of the more beloved members of the House, but on Friday, he became in short order its most reviled representative, bringing together Democrats and Republicans — who had spent days fighting bitterly over the economic aid bill — around shared contempt for one man.”
The Washington Post interviewed Massie and reported that he “disclaimed responsibility for forcing members back to Washington,” arguing that House leaders, including top Republican Kevin McCarthy, “should have adhered to the letter of the Constitution and chamber rules.” He told the paper, “I am wholly rejecting the notion that I am the culpable one because I am insisting on the rules. Why aren’t you indicting Kevin McCarthy for conspiracy to circumvent the Constitution?”
“Only a few fellow lawmakers expressed support for Massie afterward,” the Post reports.
Massie has a June 23 primary foe, Northern Kentucky lawyer Todd McMurtry, who says the incumbent hasn’t voted with Trump enough. He issued a statement accusing Massie of “putting his own selfish agenda before the needs of our healthcare providers, small businesses, and hard working Americans” and called him “an embarrassment to Kentucky and the Republican Party.” The Post reported, “One influential group, the Republican Jewish Coalition, announced Friday it would endorse McMurtry.”