The coronavirus relief plan passed last week, but one congressman tried to stop it.
U.S. Representative Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), an ardent libertarian, nearly forced the entire House of Representatives to return to Washington to vote on the plan.
Massie defied the leadership of both parties on behalf of the Constitution . . . at least in his own mind.
Some conservatives saw him as a hero for standing up against the corruption of the swamp. But his protest was ultimately silly and a lame throwback to the libertarianism over which Donald Trump triumphed in 2016.
Massie outlined on Twitter why he opposed the coronavirus relief plan. His main beef was that the Constitution requires a recorded vote on such a bill.
(1/11)I swore an oath to uphold the constitution, and I take that oath seriously.
In a few moments I will request a vote on the CARES Act which means members of Congress will vote on it by pushing “yes” or “no” or “present.”
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 27, 2020
The Kentucky Republican also complained about the wasteful spending, such as $25 million for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the increase in the national debt. He didn’t offer an alternative to the bill outside of making all of Congress fly back to D.C. to vote on it.
This move inevitably angered Massie’s congressional colleagues and President Trump. Trump even positively retweeted John Kerry calling Massie an “asshole.”
Never knew John Kerry had such a good sense of humor! Very impressed! https://t.co/vCVNMUeY2h
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2020
The congressman was right to oppose the unnecessary pork for undeserving recipients like the Kennedy Center. Most conservatives shared Massie’s disgust that these provisions made it into the final bill. But most conservatives also realized that there was something more important in the fight than Massie’s objections.
The relief plan was never going to be perfect. Congress needed to pass a quick compromise to help out Americans in desperate need. Republicans should have been more discerning in what they allowed into the bill. Massie, however, ignored the major problems in the bill.
He didn’t mention the $350 million set aside for “refugee assistance” in his Twitter thread. This is far more than what was allocated to the Kennedy Center and is more of an insult to struggling Americans. Why is our government spending money on foreign nationals at a time when millions of Americans are out of work? This would’ve been a great question for a Republican lawmaker to ask about and oppose.
One Republican did make a fuss about it—it wasn’t Massie though. It was Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
$350m for “Migration & Refugee Assistance”
This is probably politically incorrect. I don’t care.
We should secure the economic condition of *every American* before spending the first extra dollar on a program that largely supports people here illegally.
No for CBP/ICE, btw pic.twitter.com/gBFjM2xipt
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) March 25, 2020
Additionally, the relief plan prohibits Defense Department funds to be used for the border wall. Coronavirus illustrates the dangers of open borders and globalism; any serious response would insist on stricter immigration controls and stronger borders. The provision limits America’s power to protect itself and prevent future pandemics from getting to our country. Yet, Massie, like all Republicans, ignored this restriction.
It would have been far more productive and relevant for Massie to focus on these concerns instead of reviving arguments from 2010. Nationalists and populists shouldn’t see the Kentuckian’s fight as their own.
Serious Trumpists understand the government has an obligation to help out people in a time of need. The arguments over “big government” and the deficit are relics from the Tea Party era. We’re in a new era where Republicans need to fight to protect the people and defend their interests. The government is no longer the enemy, but a tool to advance the national interest.
There is no libertarian solution to the coronavirus crisis—unless of course, you want millions of Americans to go broke and the economy to crater.
Massie is a valuable lawmaker for his courageous stands on foreign policy and opposition to disastrous interventions. This is why the establishment hates him, not because he wants limited government. The establishment knows the limited government rhetoric is ultimately toothless. The real threat is the national populist agenda Trump ran on, which combined immigration restrictionism, economic nationalism, and noninterventionism.
It would’ve been great if one Republican lawmaker had taken a stand against the relief package on behalf of that viewpoint. Instead, we got a farcical rehash of the Tea Party fights against Barack Obama.
One Republican aide perfectly summarized Massie’s rebellion.
“Massie’s a clown in a tricorn hat pretending like it’s 2010 again,” a Senior Republican aide says to sum up the situation.
The aide adds, “He’s got no plan to improve the bill because there’s no magic bitcoin fix. This isn’t TARP, it’s basically nation-wide hurricane relief.”
— Philip Melanchthon Wegmann (@PhilipWegmann) March 27, 2020
Harsh words, but true. Massie is no national populist champion. He’s acting like a clown in a tricorn hat.