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GOP congressman defends demand for House vote on $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill

Trump signs largest relief bill in history
Trump signs largest relief bill in history 02:37

Washington — Republican Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky defended his demand for an in-person vote on the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill signed into law by President Trump last week, arguing that the Constitution required a majority of lawmakers to be present to pass a bill. By calling for a recorded vote on the bill, the Kentucky congressman forced dozens of lawmakers to return to Washington last week to ensure a quorum was present.

"You know, I wasn't really trying to shake things up. I was just trying to get things to work like normal," Massie said in an interview with Colorado radio station KHOW on Tuesday.

House leaders hoped to pass the package by a voice vote, in which a quorum would be assumed. However, once Massie said he would call for a recorded vote, that meant that 216 lawmakers needed to be present. Massie's opponents argued that his call for a recorded vote was a stalling tactic and threatened the health of lawmakers by forcing them to board airplanes to return to Washington, increasing the possibility they would be exposed to the virus.

Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who demanded an in-person vote for the $2.2 trillion coronavirus response bill
Representative Thomas Massie talks to reporters before leaving Capitol Hill on Friday, March 27, 2020. Susan Walsh / AP

The bill did ultimately pass by voice vote after a quorum was established, and Massie's suggestion for a recorded vote didn't garner enough support to be successful.

Massie criticized House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for going along with Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plan for a voice vote.

"Nancy Pelosi called me a dangerous nuisance. Really, I think, most Republicans should seek to be a dangerous nuisance to Nancy Pelosi's agenda. The problem is they don't even want to be a nuisance to Nancy Pelosi. I didn't see anybody being a nuisance," Massie told the station.

Massie also argued he was not the one to delay the vote, as there was several hours of debate from both sides of the aisle preceding final passage.

After Massie made his intentions clear, Mr. Trump was among those who criticized him, calling him a "third-rate Grandstander" and suggesting on Twitter that he should be expelled from the Republican Party. Massie said Tuesday that he spoke to Mr. Trump the morning of Friday's vote, and thought the president misunderstood what he was trying to accomplish.

"He thought I would be, you know, that I could somehow single-handedly stop the bill. No, I can't do that, I'm one member of Congress, but what I can do is I can force people to show up to work, and I can make my best effort to get people on the record, and that's what I did, without ever delaying the bill," Massie said.

"I told our leadership what I was going to do more than 24 hours in advance, that they had time to get people there. I could have done this totally differently. I could have had more objections," Massie continued. "I could have thrown sand in the gears in places where I didn't. I could have done a sneak attack. No, that's not what this was about this was about. I just trying to get people to do their job and follow the Constitution."

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