Thomas Massie might be the least popular man in Washington.
The Kentucky congressman attempted unsuccessfully on Friday to require House members to take a recorded vote in order to pass a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. And although Massie’s colleagues were able to foil his parliamentary procedure in a matter of seconds, his efforts nonetheless forced scores of lawmakers to travel to Washington amid a pandemic to stop him.
Led by President Donald Trump, both Republicans and Democrats lined up to whack the GOP lawmaker who tried to derail the bipartisan stimulus bill.
“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 wrote on Twitter.
House Republican leadership had been concerned that Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) would move to demand a recorded tally as opposed to a voice vote on the historic measure, throwing a last-minute hurdle in the legislation’s path to the president’s desk.
Two hours after Trump’s initial post, Massie confirmed that he would do just that, tweeting: “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.’”
Massie ultimately failed on Friday afternoon when the House approved the package. But his threat compelled dozens, if not hundreds, of lawmakers to return to Capitol Hill from their home districts, navigating across interstates and through airports at a time when public health officials have urged Americans to avoid nonessential travel and gathering in large groups.
“He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay, which is both dangerous … & costly,” Trump tweeted of Massie. “Workers & 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!”
Trump also sought to target Massie’s status as chairman of the conservative House Second Amendment Caucus, writing: “By empowering the Radical Left Democrats, do nothing Kentucky politician @RepThomasMassie is making their War on the 2nd Amendment more and more difficult to win (But don’t worry, we will win anyway!). He is a disaster for America, and for the Great State of Kentucky!”
And in a stark signal of his displeasure with Massie’s tactics, the president even shared a tweet from John Kerry. The former secretary of State and frequent Trump critic said the congressman had “tested positive for being an asshole” and “must be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity.”
Trump, himself a pioneer in developing derisive political nicknames, wrote in response: “Never knew John Kerry had such a good sense of humor! Very impressed!”
Massie reached out to Trump, but it is not clear whether they connected, according to two sources.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) joined with the president and Kerry to slam Massie, both before and after the legislation passed.
“Heading to Washington to vote on pandemic legislation. Because of one Member of Congress refusing to allow emergency action entire Congress must be called back to vote in House,” King tweeted on Friday morning. “Risk of infection and risk of legislation being delayed. Disgraceful. Irresponsible.”
Later that afternoon, King heralded the package’s success as a “Victory for America,” but noted that “Large number of Congress Members had to be in House Chamber and risk infection to themselves & others because of 1 arrogant Member.”
“If anyone gets infected, blood is on @RepThomasMassie’s hands!” he wrote.
POLITICO previously reported that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) had been in contact with Massie, and that the White House was aware of the potential obstacle he posed to the package’s final passage.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced on Thursday that the House would vote Friday on the legislation, sending lawmakers scrambling back to the Capitol after they were previously told they would have at least 24 hours’ notice if they needed to return.
Any single member could have complicated the proceedings on Friday by objecting on the grounds that there was not a quorum — in this case, 216 lawmakers — in the chamber, or by demanding a roll-call vote, an option opposed by Democratic and Republican congressional leadership. Regardless of such interference, the package was always expected to pass with broad bipartisan support.
Massie, who drove from Kentucky to be in Washington for the vote, on Thursday tweeted ominously an image of the Constitution’s clause having to do with quorums in chambers of Congress. He also described the package as “not a good deal” and suggested it was the result of dubious legislative maneuvering.
“They’re trying to convince us it should be a voice vote, it shouldn’t be recorded. And I’m struggling with this,” Massie told a Cincinnati radio station. As of late Thursday night, senior aides in both parties said they were unsure what he would do.
By Friday, however, the answer had become apparent, as Massie issued a multi-message screed on social media outlining his qualms with the package.
“It’s pretty clear now, with enough members here to pass the bill, that Pelosi and McCarthy are still working together to block a recorded vote just to insulate members of Congress from ACCOUNTABILITY,” he tweeted. “Biggest spending bill in the history of mankind, and no recorded vote? #SWAMP”
Massie also wrote that he had been told House leaders “don’t even have 1 minute available for me to speak against this bill during the 4 hour debate. The fix is in. If this bill is so great for America, why not allow a vote on it? Why not have a real debate?”
When Massie’s moment finally did arrive just before 1:30 p.m., it lasted less than a minute. “Mr. 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,” the congressman said, going on to object over the absence of a quorum.
Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), presiding in the speaker’s chair, quickly scanned the chamber before bringing down his gavel. “A quorum is present. The motion is adopted,” he said, as loud applause erupted among lawmakers.
Although Massie has broken with Trump on other high-profile votes, the libertarian congressman’s new feud with the president marks a major fracture in his campaign to win Trump’s support in a competitive Republican primary for his House seat in June.
When Trump visited his Mar-a-Lago resort for Super Bowl weekend last month, Massie purchased TV advertising time in South Florida on Fox News to air an attack ad branding his GOP challenger as a “Trump hater.”