On March 27th, President Donald Trump took to his favorite online medium, Twitter, to call for Republicans to remove stalwart conservative Rep. Thomas Massie (KY) from their party ranks.
In effect, President Trump sided with the fake news media against one of his staunchest supporters in D.C. Massie was making a nuanced, principled point, and it was hardly what caused the delay on the stimulus bill passing.
The blame, of course, should have been placed at the feet of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who wasted time trying to cram through a litany of leftist policies completely unrelated to the crisis at hand, prevented remote electronic voting, and sent Representatives home one week earlier.
Massie’s crime? Demanding a roll call vote (a vote in which each legislator votes “yea” or “nay” as their name’s voting on each side are recorded) on the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill that Trump just signed. How dare a duly elected member of Congress demand accountability and transparency from his colleagues! Remember that the stimulus bill spends more than twice what FDR’s New Deal cost—and yes, that accounts for inflation. It’s the most expensive legislation in American history.
The Constitution is on Massie’s side: not only when it comes to his refusal to support the bailout bill, but also in terms of the political process that Massie exposed.
ARTICLE I, SECTION 5, CLAUSE 1
Quorum requirement: pic.twitter.com/OT65x4vDkD
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 26, 2020
Before Massie stepped in, Congress was set to use “unanimous consent” to pass the bill, without even showing up to the nation’s capital. Unanimous consent is a parliamentary procedure that’s usually reserved for small, non-controversial bills like naming a post office. By using unanimous consent, representatives are spared from having their vote officially recorded.
This is what makes its use, in this case, so insidious. A $2.2 trillion relief package, loaded with pork and legislative riders, is the definition of a bill deserving of having a recorded vote. The American people deserve transparency in government, including their Representative’s voting record.
In the end, Massie’s action proved not to delay any vote, though that wasn’t reported by the mainstream media, which chose instead to hammer on the dubious health risks Massie posed by doing his job.
This latest example of Trump treating his supporters worse than the Never Trumper crowd—and, if he’s not careful, it could impact his 2020 prospects.
LOYALTY SHOULD BE REWARDED
Despite attacks from across the political establishment, mainstream media, and the President himself, the Kentucky congressman is slowly gaining recognition as the heroic underdog he is.
Massie went out of his way during the impeachment debacle to show his loyalty to Trump, distancing himself from fellow libertarian Republican Congressman and personal friend, Justin Amash and declaring himself “180 degrees diametrically opposed” to Amash’s call to oust Trump from office. Speaking to the Washington Post, Massie emphasized, “When you quote me, just make sure people understand I disagree.”
Massie also supported the President on the issue of Afghanistan, standing up to the entire military establishment, and tweeting that the president “deserved the Nobel Peace Prize if he ends this war.”
It's refreshing to see peace being seriously discussed.
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) February 15, 2020
Who is advising Trump to go harder against Massie than the President has ever gone against his adversaries in the Republican Party? Things certainly didn’t go as planned, as Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale found out in the replies to his tweet against Massie.
Bad take. Why is more money going to special interests than the Americans impacted by this? @RepThomasMassie was right to be upset.
— Kaitlin Bennett (@KaitMarieox) March 28, 2020
This one-sided skirmish comes at a fragile time, not just for the economy, but Trump’s reelection campaign as well. Yes, his approval rating is higher since the COVID-19 crisis, but we’re not precisely in post-9/11 George W. Bush territory. Populist sentiment may very well grow this year, but President Trump can’t afford to see it split in the slightest should Massie’s appeal grow.
That’s not to suggest that Massie wouldn’t endorse Trump, but libertarians and independents who admire Massie might vote Libertarian Party or sit out 2020.
BULLYING MASSIE HAS TERRIBLE OPTICS
Massie is not your typical politician. An MIT-educated engineer, He is disciplined, smart, and above all loyal enough to know not to return fire Trump’s way. In response to Trump’s remark that Massie was a “third rate grandstander,” Massie smilingly replied, “I’m at least second rate.”
In fact, Massie spoke with Trump directly prior to the vote and left a message with a secretary after the vote. Massie told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that Trump was “unconvinced” by the concerns he’d raised, but that he also didn’t have a complete understanding of how Massie’s actions were unrelated to any delays to the bill’s passage.
Massie also warned Fox News’ Shannon Bream that the unconstitutional process attempted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) paves the way for bills to pass without a voting record for accountability.
“This is the third coronavirus bill, by the way I voted for the first one,” Massie said. “Nancy Pelosi already has a fourth one planned.”
For principled stands like these, Massie is deemed a failure in the press. According to Politico, “Thomas Massie might be the least popular man in Washington.” Now, our President is using the same language, calling him a “disaster.”
It’s a shame; Trump was elected as a fighter. This year in particular, he should take note of the fighting spirit Massie brings to work every day. And whether or not this Trump-led effort to oust Massie succeeds, the Kentuckian will come out the winner when historians look back at how Trumpian populism lost its moxie—choosing bloated, pork-filled bailouts over the honest voice on the side of the people.