Opinion

In Defense of Congressman Thomas Massie

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Posted: Mar 30, 2020 12:01 AM
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In Defense of Congressman Thomas Massie

Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

For a while last week, Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) was the most hated man on Capitol Hill. His sin? He tried to prevent a “voice vote” whereby none of his colleagues would have gone on the record. He wanted his fellow members of Congress to have to formally cast their votes for or against the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus stimulus bill, which is the largest spending bill in history. 

Politicians complained that his “stunt” would delay the bill and put the health of members of Congress in danger. 

The bill wasn’t delayed by holding the vote. Massie had warned his colleagues a day before the vote so that enough congressmen had time to get back for the vote. There were enough members present for a quorum and a recorded vote. Votes typically take an entire 15 minutes.

By demanding a quorum, Massie forced more than half of the House of Representatives to be present for the vote. If members were really so concerned for their health, they could have practiced social distancing. It may have taken fifteen minutes longer, but votes could easily have been staggered. The Congressmen could also have worn gloves and facemasks and avoided touching their faces. 

“These people need to do their jobs,” Massie told reporters after the bill passed by voice vote on Friday. “If they are telling people to drive a truck, if they are telling people to bag groceries, and grow their food, then by golly they can be there, and they can vote. . . . The truth, if you are willing to report it, is that they didn’t want a recorded vote.”

For four hours, hundreds of members of Congress made speeches about the bill from the House floor. But they apparently didn’t have time to vote. Either that or the politicians who loaded the bill with wasteful spending weren’t proud to vote for it.

If everyone was so concerned about getting this passed quickly, Democratic leaders sure had a strange way of showing it. There was no similar outcry against Speaker Nancy Pelosi for delaying the House vote until a day-and-a-half after passage in the Senate. Democrats had already slowed down the Senate bill by nearly a week, thanks to demanding items that would further their agenda on carbon emissions, abortion, and voter laws.

Todd McMurtry, Massie’s opponent in the June 23rd congressional primary in Kentucky, wasted no time putting out ads claiming that “Massie has opposed Donald Trump from the start.” The tag line reads, “Support President Trump, Dump Thomas Massie.” Massie has voted with Trump over 80 percent of the time during the current 116th Congress.

But McMurtry has written on Facebook: “Trump would never be my choice,” “I hope that the military disobeys his order to attack and stages a coup,” and “Trump is an idiot.” Back in 2016, McMurtry posted, “I hate to say that Hillary is right, but he is temperamentally unqualified to be President.” 

Before McMurtry declared his candidacy, he scrubbed his social media to remove his negative comments about Trump. Unfortunately for him, the record is still out there.

Massie is a friend of mine, so I am biased. He is chair of the Congressional Second Amendment Caucus, and I have written six opinion pieces with him on topics such as the dangers of gun-free zones and national reciprocity for permitted concealed handguns.

If I was a member of Congress, I don’t know how I would have voted on the massive $2.2 trillion spending bill. People need help, through no fault of their own. If the government closes down businesses, the government has a responsibility to help people out. But it makes no sense to provide unemployment insurance that pays people more for not working than they would have made at work. The huge payments to Democratic Party interest groups also make the bill hard to swallow. 

But a tough vote doesn’t absolve politicians from having to make those difficult decisions. Representatives should have gone on the record. 

The anger against Massie has nothing to do with delaying much-needed help for Americans. It has nothing to do with the safety of congressmen. Those present could have voted. The vitriol directed against Massie tells us that politicians were afraid to vote for this bill. We need leaders like Massie, who had the guts to stand by his principles.

John R. Lott Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author, most recently, of “The War on Guns.”