Rep. Thomas Massie is facing scorching criticism — including from President Donald Trump and just about every Democrat — for forcing members of Congress to travel back to Washington to vote on a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package.
But in a phone interview with POLITICO, the Kentucky Republican said he was just standing up for the Constitution — and that he has no plans to leave the GOP as Trump demanded.
When read a Trump tweet calling him “a third rate grandstander,” Massie chuckled. “I take great offense to that,” he said. “I’m at least second rate.”
“It’s not grandstanding to stand up for the Constitution,” he continued. “And the fact that they brought all of these congressmen here in order to get a quorum shows you that I was right. The Constitution requires a quorum to pass a bill, and they were planning to subvert the Constitution.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) were eager to avoid bringing back more than 400 lawmakers for a roll call vote amid the fast-spreading outbreak. Several members of Congress already have tested positive for coronavirus and most lawmakers were eager to hold a voice vote to allow swift passage and avoid cramming everybody into the Capitol.
Massie said House Republican leadership leaned hard on him to try to get him in line.
“I was offered a lot of things, and I was threatened with some things,” he said, declining to elaborate.
Ultimately, party leaders figured a workaround of sorts in which a quorum — at least 216 members — showed up Friday to rebuff Massie’s demand for a formal roll call vote on the measure, which will boost unemployment insurance, provide some cash to individuals and offer a lifeline to distressed industries.
Despite the attacks from across the political spectrum, he said many of his fellow members secretly supported his move.
“You know what, there are a lot who aren’t mad at me,” he said, declining to name names. “They’re quietly expressing their support to me.”
Massie also pushed back against criticism that he endangered his fellow members of Congress by having many of them travel to D.C. by plane in the middle of the crisis.
“These are people that make $174,000 a year and they expect the person at Kroger’s that bags groceries to go to work, they expect the truck drivers bringing produce to their grocery stores to go to work, they expect all these other people to work,” he said. “But how is it that they’ve decided that people with the best health care in the world, which they all get, that they can’t come to work?”
Massie, a libertarian-leaning conservative who has often clashed with his party’s leadership, said he has no plans to leave the Republican Party, despite Trump calling for him to be thrown out of the GOP.
“No, no, no, no,” he said when asked whether he would become an independent.
“I’m one of the best examples of somebody who follows the principles of the Republican Party,” he added. “Find me one of the planks where I have deviated from the Republican Party. The problem is not the Republican Party. The problem is that the Republicans up here run on the platform and then don’t support it when they get here.”
Massie faces a potentially tough primary challenge, and he’s previously sought to disparage his GOP opponent as a “Trump hater.”
Massie said any potential impact on his reelection bid wasn’t a factor in his decision.
“I’ve never taken a vote with that in the back of my mind,” he said. “I vote based on what I think is best for my constituents and for the Constitution.”
Politico – Massie rejects Trump’s demand he be ousted from GOP
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