House Leaders Thwart GOP Lawmaker’s Attempt to Delay Stimulus

Billy House and Erik Wasson
House Leaders Thwart GOP Lawmaker’s Attempt to Delay Stimulus

(Bloomberg) -- House leaders thwarted a Kentucky Republican’s attempt to force a roll-call vote on the $2 trillion virus relief package that risked delaying final passage.

Representative Thomas Massie drew whithering criticism from President Donald Trump and some House members for trying to require a recorded vote, which meant hundreds of lawmakers had to travel to Washington as most of the nation stays home to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

Democratic leaders ultimately got around Massie’s request by ruling it out of order with enough bipartisan support to make their maneuver stick. But more than 216 members still had to come to the Capitol to defeat his maneuver.

In the end, approval of the legislation by a voice vote went as planned, and it was to be sent it to Trump’s desk for his signature on Friday afternoon.

Massie had announced in a series of tweets Friday that he would request each member present to go on the record with their vote, rather than allowing the House to pass the bill with a voice vote.

Massie previously said he was troubled by the legislation and the abbreviated process proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican leader Kevin McCarthy for quick passage that would require only a few lawmakers to be present.

Massie followed through with his objection on the House floor after Representative Anthony Brown of Maryland, presiding in the chamber, declared that a voice voice had carried the motion to pass the bill.

”Mr. Speaker, I came here to make sure our republic doesn’t die by unanimous consent and empty chamber and I request a recorded vote,” said Massie said.

“A recorded vote is requested. Those favoring a recorded vote will rise and remain standing until counted,” Brown responded. Then, almost instantly, he declared, “An insufficient number has risen. A recorded vote is refused.”

Massie objected “on the basis a quorum is not present.” Brown announced a count -- 216 House members were required -- and almost immediately said: “Counted for a quorum, a quorum is present. The motion is adopted without objection.”

Democratic officials said that Hoyer plotted this script for the drama the night before and had vetted that it would work under House rules. The snag was that it required a quorum of House members to be on hand.

Because of possible travel difficulties and restrictions on the number of lawmakers on the floor at any one time, requiring a roll-call vote risked delaying the bill. The Senate passed the bill on a 96-0 vote, illustrating the bipartisan urgency for getting the stimulus flowing into a hobbled economy.

Earlier in the day Trump ripped Massie on Twitter Friday, criticizing him as a “third rate Grandstander,” calling his move “dangerous and costly” and saying he should be thrown out of the Republican party.

Representative Peter King was among those who weren’t happy with the situation.

“Heading to Washington to vote on pandemic legislation,” the New York Republican wrote on Twitter. “Because of one member of Congress refusing to allow emergency action entire Congress must be called back to vote in House. Risk of infection and risk of legislation being delayed. Disgraceful. Irresponsible.”

On Thursday evening, Minnesota Democrat Dean Phillips urged Massie on Twitter to spell out what he planned to do.

“Dear @RepThomasMassie: If you intend to delay passage of the #coronavirus relief bill tomorrow morning, please advise your 428 colleagues RIGHT NOW so we can book flights and expend ~$200,000 in taxpayer money to counter your principled but terribly misguided stunt,” Phillips wrote.

Lawmakers ended up debating more than three hours on the floor Friday.

“People who can see the chamber now will see that we are keeping a distance from one another,” said second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland, during the debate. “Not out of hostility, but out of love for one another that we may keep one another healthy and safe.”

Two House members have tested positive for covid-19 and others are in self-quarantine after possible exposure.

Separately, Arizona Democrat Ruben Gallego reported on some heroics by Arizona Republican Paul Gosar on their flight to Washington.

Gallego wrote on Twitter: “I am now an fully awake on my red eye to DC! But thank you to @repgosar answering the call when the flight attendants asked for anyone with medical background! He answered when a young man passed out suddenly on this flight!” Gosar is a dentist.

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