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I won the general election and went after waste, fraud, and abuse. Then our Republican congressman, Geoff Davis, decided not to run again, and set off a seven-way primary race. I knew many of the Tea Party leaders in the district from helping Rand and as judge-executive. I’d speak at various Tea Party and 9/12 groups, about waste in local government and how to find it and fight it. These people recruited me to get into the race for representative.
reason: You won a special election to fill out the rest of your predecessor’s term when he resigned early, so you are in Congress ahead of your fellow freshmen. How’s that going?
Massie: I’m excited to be on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That’s what I did at the local level, looking for waste, fraud, and abuse, and I hope to do that on this committee as well. I think I can help not just my constituents but the whole country. I’m also on the Transportation Committee. I have a very transportation-intensive district; 280 miles of the Ohio River is contained within it, with all the locks and dams. Approximately 20 bridges go from my district into other states. Cincinnati airport is actually in Kentucky in my district. I look at it from a constitutional basis: I did not want to be on a committee where the constitutionality of the spending was tenuous; for instance, I did not want to be on Agriculture. I would love to see us go back to spending [only] on projects that constitute legitimate infrastructure with a legitimate interstate [nexus].
reason: Any interesting surprises, good or bad, on becoming a congressman?
Massie: I’ve been pleasantly surprised there [are more than] just one or two good small-government Republicans here in Congress. There are probably at least two dozen. These aren’t the guys on Fox News every night, not running for president, [they’re] just trying to do a good job reducing the size and scope of the federal government. That was surprising to me and very encouraging. Some of them are liberty-minded and some are just small-government conservatives.
Another surprise was the lack of planning and advance notice on the legislative calendar. You might think these things are planned out a couple of months, maybe three months in advance, maybe two weeks at least. In reality you find out about bills to vote on with less than a week’s notice. It seems like everything is a surprise. It leaves no time for hearing from your constituents, no time for them to give feedback or for you to solicit their feedback.
Another thing that surprised me was learning there is no assigned seating in Congress. Like a high school cafeteria, you can look at where people sit and see the structure. Unfortunately I sat next to four guys taken off committees! I’ve not been here long enough to read into all the things going on [with the committee-removal of Amash and others], but unless the intention of stripping them of committee assignments was to make them minor folk heroes in their district, then it hasn’t had the intended effect.
reason: Do you have a goal of making yourself a national leader for a liberty movement in the Republican Party?
Massie: This is as high as I want to go in government. I’m not looking for a national constituency or following. There are some issues that will appeal nationally that I’m interested in. Like food freedom, which comes from raising my own beef cattle. We are also missing opportunities as conservatives to show we care about the environment. Some people refer to this as being a “crunchy con.” The government shouldn’t be dictating our behavior, but there is no reason we should be against solar panels. We can be against subsidies for them, but there is no reason to hate solar panels. My house is off grid, powered by solar panels. I reserved an electric car two years ago, a Tesla, and it’s about to show up in two months. There is no reason to hate electric cars; we can despise the fact that they are subsidized but at this point all [transportation is] subsidized. I also like to point out about pollution, that it is a very unlibertarian notion to think you’re allowed to do something that harms another’s property—that’s just wrong without permission.
reason: Do you intend to be much of a bill writer? Do you have particular legislative priorities?
Massie: I’ve started with co-sponsoring two bills. One is an industrial hemp bill. In Kentucky the only elected Republican in the state capital is the agriculture commissioner, and he’s a proponent of industrial hemp. I co-sponsored a bill that would take hemp off the list of drugs in the Controlled Substances Act and leave it up to states to regulate hemp. Another I co-sponsored is something I’ve been interested in for a decade. [The Veterans Heritage Firearms Act gives] amnesty for vets who brought back firearms from World War II and Korea. There was an amnesty in 1968 that hardly anyone knew about, no Internet back then. For those who took their war trophies back, it would allow them to register them.
reason: When I asked Ron Paul if he had any advice for incoming congressmen he liked, he said making sure staff saw things your way was the most important thing.
Massie: I’ve hired one of Rand Paul’s staff and three of Ron Paul’s staff so I can be sure things are heading in the right direction even if I’m not in the office.
reason: I dinged you on reason’s Hit & Run blog in November for saying you thought spending cuts “should be more distributed toward the domestic spending…instead of military spending.”
Massie: A lot of domestic programs I cannot find a constitutional basis for, whereas there is a constitutional basis for military spending. But ultimately I am for the sequester, and the people against cuts to the military would point out the percentage cuts to military are greater than the percentage to domestic and I’m OK with that because it was a bipartisan effort already agreed to.