GOP Congressman Thomas Massie—A “Mr. No” on More Coronavirus Aid April 15, 2020
Would the coronavirus pandemic in which the U.S. has lost at least 26,033 lives unite the country in a post-Pearl Harbor way? Would this scourge bring quick bipartisan help to our over 609,240 infected and at least 16.8 million unemployed (americanindependent.com, AP, 4/10/20, cnn.com, Maxouris, 4/15/20)? Not with the likes of Demagogue Donald and his GOP foot soldiers in the Senate and House. To them, including Senate Majority “Leader” Mitch McConnell (R-KY), even vitally needed aid to stricken Americans in this time of emergency has to be dealt with through a partisan/ideological lens. As of 4/10/2020, the GOP-run Senate has twisted itself into proverbial knots over Donald’s new coronavirus aid request to boost small businesses. Democrats in both the House and Senate refused to rubber-stamp Trump’s $250 billion request for aid to small businesses with just 48 hours’ notice. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) aptly called this proposal a “stunt.” Democrats are rightly demanding in this legislation an additional $250 billion for health care providers and states, the people and areas bearing the brunt of the coronavirus burden. The distribution of money previously allotted to small businesses has suffered a rocky rollout and has been hampered by many glitches. Yes, Democrats want money to help small businesses but want half of that $250 billion, $125 billion, to be channeled through community-based financial institutions that serve farmers, families, women, veterans, and minorities in rural, urban, and suburban communities. The Trump/McConnell bill has no such safeguards (See AP, americanindependent.com, 4/10/20). McConnell is not concerned with whether this small business assistance program delivers aid to minority communities often underserved by traditional lenders. He also wants to put aid for health care providers in another bill that then could be decreased and badly gutted by the GOP Senate majority. In the GOP’s view, it’s all about getting aid to big banks that are unaccountable to many neighborhoods while health care workers go to the back of the line (See AP, americanindependent.com, 4/10/20).
Negotiations over these issues will continue. With most congressional law makers home for the Easter-Passover break, passing such legislation through quick unanimous consent will not be easy. Congress is supposed to reopen on 4/20/2020, but that date is “optimistic (huffpost.com,4/13/20, Bobic & Delaney).” Even if an agreement is soon reached, GOP Congressman Thomas Massie has promised to block efforts to pass such legislation without House members present and ready to vote (americaninedpenedent.com, 4/10/20, AP). Massie’s threat is serious. On 3/27/2020, when the first coronavirus aid package was being debated, Massie forced the return of House members to D.C. by threatening a quorum call that would have required an in-person vote on that $2.2 trillion aid package. This legislation had just passed the Senate by a 96-0 vote. Massie did not care that Congressmembers were being forced to gather during the pandemic (newsweek.com, Ramsey, T., 3/27/20, Darnell, T., ajc.com, 3/27/20). Here’s Congressman Massie.
Fifth-term GOP Congressman Thomas Harold Massie (49) currently represents Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District, CD. The Blue Grass 4th stretches across northern KY. It shares a portion of KY’s border with Indiana and its entire border with Ohio. The 4th CD consists of a mix of small cities, midsize suburbs, and the Appalachian northeast. The 4th’s cities include Covington, Ashland, and Florence. Transportation, manufacturing, and health care constitute the 4th’s economic pillars. The Cincinnati- Northern Kentucky International Airport is located outside of Covington. Newport, with its view of the Cincinnati skyline, has a popular entertainment district. St. Elizabeth Medical Center is a major health care hub. Boone, Kenton, and Campbell Counties, across the river from Cincinnati, are fast-growing areas. Oldham County, upriver from Louisville, has some of the state’s oldest homes and is KY’s most affluent. In rural Williamstown, a group of Christian fundamentalists opened Ark Encounter in 8/2016, a $100 million replica of Noah’s Ark, including life-like models of some of the animals. Ken Ham, the project’s founder, has devoted his career to debunking biology. He promotes the view that the earth is 6,000 years old and all living things were created just as the Bible says (Stewart, “The Power Worshippers,”2019). Ham has said that the purpose of the ark is to send a “warning” of the peril awaiting society because of its “errant” behavior (Cohen & Cook 2020 & CQ Political Almanacs, 2014). Covington, KY is home to a Catholic boys’ school whose MAGA-hatted students badgered a Native American drummer at a 2019 D.C. March for Life. At their school, these students daily recite an amended version of the Pledge of Allegiance with the words “with liberty and justice for all, born and unborn (nytimes.com, Dias, 1/21/19).”
Politically, the three northern KY counties across the river from Cincinnati cast nearly half of the 4th CD’s votes and are heavily Republican. The entire 4th is “lobster-Red” with a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of R+18. Donald carried the 4th with a 36% margin, 65%-29% (Cohen & Cook 2020).
Raised in Vanceburg, KY, Massie has Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science degrees from MIT in electrical and mechanical engineering respectively. As an MIT senior, Massie was part of a group that invented the Phantom, a device that allowed users to interact with objects in cyberspace through touch. To market the product, Massie and his wife Rhonda, an MIT student, founded the firm SensAble Technologies in 1993. Massie and his wife expanded the company and operated it for a decade, raising $32 million in venture capital. Massie holds 29 technology-related patents (Cohen & Cook 2020). Massie sold his company and returned to KY to run a farm with a timber frame house built on solar energy and powered by a used Tesla car battery. He became politically active after learning about a proposed new tax in his rural Lewis County and objected to it. In 2010, he won a campaign for Lewis County judge executive, equivalent to county mayor. In that post, Massie clashed with other county officials (Barone, 2014 & 2020, CQ 14). In 7/2012, when the 4th CD GOP incumbent resigned, Massie ran for his seat. He was backed by Tea Party activists, free marketeers, and libertarian groups. Massie had strong support from KY GOP Senator Rand Paul whom Massie had backed in his 2010 race. A Rand Paul aide managed Massie’s campaign and Massie easily won the primary and special election. He has since coasted to re-election (CQ & Barone 14, Cohen & Cook 2020). From 2012-2018, anti-regulatory Koch Industries gave Massie at least $21,000 (OpenSecrets.org, sourcewatch.org).
In the House, Cong. Massie combines a wonky scientist image with that of a characteristic schmoozer, telling stories with charm and a KY twang. However, he is no “go-along/get along” politician. As early as 2014, “Politico” aptly dubbed Cong. Massie “Mr. No,” a title he still proudly holds (See reuters.com, 3/28/20). In 2013, Massie voted against GOP, Democratic, and bipartisan bills at least 324 times. Massie has been compared to former libertarian-leaning TX GOP Cong. Ron Paul and his KY Sen. son Rand. Massie voted against strong conservative GOPer John Boehner for House Speaker in both 2013 and 2015 and against similarly conservative GOPer Paul Ryan for Speaker in 10/2015 (CQ & Barone 14, Cohen & Cook 2020).
Massie voted against the Stolen Valor Act which passed the House 390-3. That act makes it a crime to lie for profit about receiving military medals or decorations. He voted against giving a gold medal to golf star Jack Nicklaus that passed 371-10 (USA Today, Shesgreen, 6/15/14, “Roll Call 550,” clerk.house.gov). Massie opposes federal funding of abortions and is for repealing federal gun free school zones (CQ 14, Massie Press Release, 1/04/13). Massie criticized the jail sentence for Russian citizen Maria Butina who had sought to infiltrate the National Rifle Association (NRA) in order to influence a more favorable U.S. policy toward Russia. In 8/2019, Massie said that former FBI Director James Comey, fired by Trump, should be in prison, not Butina (thehill.com, Frazin, 10/25/19). Massie helped start up the House’s anti-gun control Second Amendment Caucus (Cohen & Cook 2020). Massie expressed skepticism over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s 4/ 2017 chemical attack on its citizens for which Trump hit that country (Mueller, cnn.com, 4/05/17). In 11/2016, Cong. Massie was the only House member to vote against extension of U.S. sanctions against Iran (Marcos, 11/15/16, thehill.com). On 5/04/2017 Massie was the only House member to vote against sanctions on N. Korea (foxnews.com, 5/04/17). In 7/2017, Massie was among only 17 members of Congress who voted against a House resolution opposing efforts to boycott Israel under the anti-Semitic influenced Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement (congress.gov/bill, Schneider, 7/23/19). He also opposed funding for Holocaust education (jta.org, 3/31/20). He voted against making lynching a federal hate crime (npr.org, 2/26/20, Grisales).
Cong. Massie sees no constitutional basis for many domestic programs and has suggested eliminating the Depts. Of Education and Energy (CQ14). Massie called the evidence behind scientific consensus on climate change “not compelling.” After French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Congress about having the U.S. rejoin the Paris Climate Accords Trump removed us from, Massie called Macron a “socialist militarist globalist science-alarmist (sciencemag.org, Mervis, 11/21/12, businessinsider.com, Perticone, 1/21/19).” Massie supports repealing Obamacare (massie.house.gov/issues).
After Massie forced House members to come back from their districts during the coronavirus crisis by threatening a quorum call that would have required an in-person vote on the first virus relief $2.2 trillion aid package, Trump stated Massie should be removed from the GOP and called him a “third-rate grandstander.” However, some GOPers, including AZ Reps. Paul Gosar and TX’s Chip Roy defended him (nytimes.com, Edmondson, 3/27/20).
On 6/23/2020, Cong. Massie will be facing Todd McMurtry in the GOP primary for KY’s 4th CD, the first contested primary Massie will have since he was first elected to the House in 2012 (ballotpedia.org). McMurtry is attacking Massie as an “unreliable conservative.” McMurtry has stated that (Massie’s) “simply voting ‘No’ on everything accomplishes nothing (“About Todd”).” However, this contest still remains one between two extremist “Team Red” fellows. Both McMurtry and Massie are arguing at decibel levels who is the “Trumpiest” person for the KY 4th. Despite Trump’s saying he wanted to kick Massie out of the GOP over trying to hold up his first coronavirus relief bill, Massie speaks in ads of being Trump’s “friend in battle.” Massie stated that Trump had spoken to him after his controversial tweet and implied everything was fine (courier-journal.com, Bailey, 4/06/20).
McMurtry is right up there in “wackadoodle” land as well. McMurtry is one of the lawyers who represented Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandman. Sandman recently settled a defamation suit against CNN over the Native American drummer incident in the 2019 D.C. March for Life (Bailey & Sonka, courier-journal.com, 1/10/20). Massie has gone hard after McMurtry for once saying on Facebook that he hoped “the military would defy Trump’s orders and stage a coup d’etat (courier-journal.com, Bailey, 4/06/20).” What we have in the IN 4th is Tea Party/ libertarian wacko Massie v. garden variety GOP wacko McMurtry. Two local Democrats, Alexandra Owensby, a nurse practitioner who lives in Fort Thomas, and businesswoman Shannon Fabert of Burlington will compete in the Democratic primary to challenge the ultimate GOP 4th CD nominee (courier-journal.com, 4/06/20, Bailey). Their chances for victory in this “Dripping Red” CD are slim. Top political analysts rate this race for the Blue Grass 4th Solid or Safe Republican (ballotpedia.org). The key is to keep Massie or McMurtry as irrelevant back benchers left pulling stunts for their MAGA base. We do this by turning out in droves plus to vote in 11/2020 which will keep Democrats in the majority with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in charge.