This Friday, Kentucky Republican Congressman Thomas Massie threatened to temporarily derail plans to pass a huge relief package to help offset the economic havoc wrought by attempts to stem the spread of the Coronavirus. Businesses across the country have closed, and the latest relief package includes financial support for small businesses, individual Americans, and more. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) kept Massie from seeing through his plan to delay the package’s passage via speaking long enough to allow a quorum of House members time to file into the chamber. Once arrived, they overruled Massie’s plan to force a recorded, roll-call vote.
As Axios reporter Alayna Treene explained at the time:
‘Pelosi is now speaking on the floor, and will continue to speak until there’s at least 216 members (quorum) to block Thomas Massie from delaying House passage of the stimulus bill.’
Pelosi is now speaking on the floor, and will continue to speak until there's at least 216 members (quorum) to block Thomas Massie from delaying House passage of the stimulus bill
— Alayna Treene (@alaynatreene) March 27, 2020
In her remarks on the House floor, Pelosi commented — to applause — in reference to prior negotiations over the relief package in the Senate:
‘They transformed a Republican corporate-focused bill into a Democratic workers-first focus.’
The legislation includes specific provisions like dramatically expanded unemployment benefits and direct payments for some individual Americans. The unemployment benefit addition works out to an additional $600 or so a week across the country, and direct payments for lower income Americans total some $1,200 a person.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "They transformed a Republican corporate-focused bill into a Democratic workers-first focus." pic.twitter.com/iPnlZnZ4Y6
— The Hill (@thehill) March 27, 2020
Pelosi eventually revealed private commentary that she apparently offered to Massie directly amidst the turmoil. As she explained it, she told him:
‘We have to have this today. Why don’t you back off, it’s not going to work. You’re not going to be effective. Go to the floor, make your best speech in opposition to process or policy or whatever it is, but don’t make it take any longer to get [done].’
Pelosi on what she told Massie: “We have to have this today.Why don’t you back off, it’s not going to work. You’re not going to be effective.Go to the floor, make your best speech in opposition to process or policy or whatever it is but don’t make it take any longer to get” done
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) March 27, 2020
After he got overruled and the relief package passed via what technically was unanimous consent, Massie decried what he described as a “cover-up” on the part of House leaders, who he claimed wanted to protect members of the House from having to go on the record.
As he angrily alleged:
‘There’s a big cover up in there… They’re trying to cover up their votes. They had enough people there to pass the bill, but they still refuse to have a recorded vote, and they told me they were trying to protect members.’
Massie after the vote: “There’s a big cover up in there..They're trying to cover up their votes. They had enough people there to pass the bill but they still refuse to have a recorded vote, and they told me they were trying to protect members,” he said of Pelosi and McCarthy
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) March 27, 2020
Maybe, Thomas, that’s because now is not the time for partisan grandstanding. In a rare moment of bipartisan solidarity in D.C., Massie attracted condemnation from both sides of the aisle for his stunt. Even President Donald Trump apparently took Massie’s threatened delay as an act of some kind of grave insolence, and on Twitter, he asserted that the Kentucky Congressman should be thrown out of the Republican Party entirely. A couple of Massie’s Republican colleagues, including Arizona’s Paul Gosar and Texas’s Chip Roy, came to his defense, but a whole slew of others joined in with the criticism.
The U.S. has been struggling to assemble enough resources to combat the spread of the Coronavirus. Besides the economic tolls, personal protective equipment, ventilators, and even hospital space have all ended up in short supply in many locales.