Why Kentucky's Thomas Massie is the target of bipartisan ire

Rep. Thomas Massie can't defeat the economic rescue bill, but he can delay its passage - for no practical reason.
Image: Thomas Massie
Rep. Thomas Massie walks down the House steps after the final vote of the week on March 22, 2018.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call/ Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

Everything appeared to be on track. The Senate passed a bipartisan economic rescue plan unanimously this week; the White House has enthusiastically endorsed it; and there's ample support for the package in the House.

And yet, there's no shortage of drama.

Democratic and Republican leaders were scrambling members of Congress back to Washington late Thursday because they suddenly believe the $2 trillion economic relief package might not pass by the voice vote planned for Friday and could be delayed if at least 216 members don't show up to vote on the floor.

There was some talk about trying to pass the plan by unanimous consent, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) instead said that the chamber would try to pass the bill by voice vote.

That'd work just fine, but it opens the door to one member taking advantage of a procedural opportunity and demanding a recorded vote. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) has signaled his willingness to do exactly that.

If he follows through, the Kentucky Republican -- perhaps best known for going after John Kerry's undergraduate degree -- wouldn't be able to defeat the legislation, but he would be able to delay it and its benefits.

Or put another way, Massie is putting his own colleagues at risk for a stunt that will serve no practical purpose.

Among those returning to Capitol Hill in anticipation of Massie's procedural move is Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who noted on Twitter this morning that his Kentucky colleague's efforts are "disgraceful" and "irresponsible." Donald Trump went further, tweeting that Massie is a "third-rate grandstander" whom the president wants to "throw out" of the Republican Party.

Not surprisingly, plenty of House Democrats aren't pleased, either.

If Massie demands a roll-call vote, the House will need 216 members to be present, and it's not yet clear if there will be enough lawmakers on hand. Watch this space.