During the debate on the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in contemporary history, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) did something appalling.
With the agreement of both Republicans and Democrats in House leadership, the Speaker blocked a recorded vote on the bill. It is an old leadership trick to protect members from controversial votes by not forcing them to take a position.
In retrospect, this is going to be one of the most important votes the sitting members of Congress will ever take, yet they came up with excuses not to have to cast a recorded vote. History seems to be repeating itself. When the House was forced back in 2008 to vote on the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), that vote inspired a rebellion and the creation of Tea Party.
Although the coronavirus economic disruption was caused by government, not bad private-sector mortgage loans, Congress took great liberties to load up this bill with pet projects and inflated appropriations. While every cultural center in America has suffered from the coronavirus economic mess, the Washington, D.C. based Kennedy Center was given a special $25 million bailout, as were the National Endowment for the Arts and other projects that have strong support of congressional insiders.
This is not how Congress is supposed to work. Representatives are actually paid to draft up and vote on legislation without self-dealing. For all the faults of the Senate, they took a recorded vote on the legislation and did their job.
The cancel culture of our day has extended to politics and now targets Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) for political cancellation. Politico reports, “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.” One of the stated objections to a recorded vote is “his efforts nonetheless forced scores of lawmakers to travel to Washington amid a pandemic to stop him.” Notwithstanding the fact that they have to travel to Washington every week when they are in session, for some reason this forced travel was the primary reason used to push back on Massie.
Rep. Massie drew the ire of some on the MAGA right like President Donald J. Trump to liberals like former Democratic candidate for President John Kerry. In the end, the leadership of both the Republican and Democratic parties in the House held hands and denied Massie the right to ask Congress to record the vote. They even prevented him from giving a speech opposing the bill as punishment for daring to request the roll call vote. The Speaker opted for a “voice vote.” The voice vote protects double-speaking politicians so they can later roll out their list of complaints about this legislation and claim they held deep reservations when the vote was quickly held.
Former failed Democratic candidate for president, John Kerry, Tweeted that Massie “tested positive for being an asshole” and he’s given new meaning to the term #Masshole.” I grew up in Massachusetts and think that that term better describes the sanctimonious Kerry than Massie. It should raise alarms in the liberty movement when the Kerry-Clinton wing of the party openly supports this piece of legislation.
The size and scope of this relief bill is unprecedented. The bill is being marketed as a $2 trillion relief package, yet, if you add in the new authority for the Federal Reserve to backstop loans, the bill clocks much higher. The $750 billion TARP program caused a rebellion on the right and left creating the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements respectively. This bill may cause an even bigger rebellion if this appropriation leads to a long-term government intervention in the private sector.
Rep. Thomas Massie was a profile in courage for standing up and demanding a roll call vote. Congress could use more members like him who show courage and are willing to stand up for the Constitution – even in the face of opposition coming from prominent members of his own party. Congress should be able to handle dissent and the possibility of a member not voting for a bill, instead of fake outrage and bullying dissenting members into supporting a bill that everybody agrees is loaded with nonsense.