Rep. Thomas Massie says his decision to force lawmakers to return to Washington to vote on a $2 trillion coronavirus bill actually did President Trump a favor — though he hasn’t been able to explain it to the president on the phone.
The Kentucky Republican said Tuesday he made it unlikely that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can ram her priorities through Congress during the crisis.
“I tried calling [Trump] up after the whole thing went down to smooth things over and to point out that, ‘Hey look, I got what I needed [and] I strengthened your hand, because now Pelosi doesn’t have a precedent where everybody stays home and she gets to pass bills in the House,” Massie said in an interview with The Disruption Zone Podcast.
He had to leave a message, which was not returned.
Massie became the most hated man in Washington Friday as colleagues on both sides accused him of jeopardizing their health, and Trump tweeted that Massie should be thrown out of the GOP.
“The tweet is not the end of a relationship with this president,” Massie said, adding that new White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is “one of my best friends.” Meadows was attacked on Twitter by Trump in 2017 for opposing a GOP plan to repeal Obamacare, Massie pointed out.
Massie said on the podcast he thought that Trump was “in a bad mood” after watching TV coverage that suggested he would delay the stimulus and tank the stock market. Trump called him Friday before the vote, but Massie said it was a one-way conversation.
“I was basically in listen-only mode,” Massie said. “I believe he was upset because he had a misunderstanding of the situation.”
The libertarian lawmaker said House leaders won’t allow remote voting for fear of losing the power of “arm-twisting and the threats and the bribes” on the House floor, making his action important to avoid hardly attended votes on huge bills.
Massie said he’s unfairly come under siege from journalists asking him to comment on the Monday diagnosis of Brooklyn Democratic Rep. Nydia Velazquez with a presumed positive case of the coronavirus.
On Friday, Velazquez shared a speaker’s lectern with dozens of colleagues and attended a bill celebration afterward with House leaders including Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). She and many other New Yorkers flouted CDC guidance that they self-quarantine for 14 days.
Massie scoffed at his culpability for Velazquez’s illness.
“Because of the incubation time, I think what they’re trying to say is she already had it and I compelled her to come and give it to other members of Congress,” Massie said. He claimed Pelosi and McCarthy could have allowed staggered roll call voting as an alternative for lawmakers to show up en masse.
Pelosi’s plans for a fourth package is expected to center on a 1,400-page assortment of policy reforms, including environmental and same-day voter registration changes that Republicans say are unrelated to COVID-19. Massie said recent guidance to lawmakers that they will be given notice of a bill vote to travel proves that he was able to hinder a fast-track for the legislation.
“Pelosi’s plan is that this third virus bill was a down payment and that she has a fourth bill that’s practically already written that has all of the stuff she couldn’t get in this bill,” Massie said.
“If somebody stands and objects to the fourth bill if nobody had objected to the third bill, they would say, ‘You don’t have a leg to stand on. We’ve already done this. We set a precedent. We’ve already agreed that it’s okay for people to stay home and violate the Constitution and Nancy Pelosi can pass the bill without us here.’”
Massie added that Trump and the Senate would face public pressure to comply. “Pelosi, if she’s the first mover and she puts a bill out there and passes it in the House, and the Senate and the president haven’t done anything, it looks like they’re holding it up,” he said.
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