Rep. Thomas Massie thinks the congressional leadership has turned America into a banana republic. In a long, aggrieved interview with Conservative Review, the libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican stresses the absurdity of requiring representatives to vote on something they had no chance of understanding.
Massie insists he learned more about the mess of a spending bill from reporters' tweets than from the party leadership. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), he notes, straight-up refused to answer specific questions from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) about elements of the omnibus.
This disempowerment is deliberate and explicit, Massie says:
before we vote on every bill in the House, there's an early procedural vote that precedes the vote on the bill. It's called "the rule vote." Now it's ironic they call it "the rule vote." What the rule vote does is it suspends our rights as members that are preserved in the rule book that we have—Jefferson's manual, if you will.
The rule vote says, "We're going to limit debate, we're going to limit amendments, we're going to do this to you, we're going to do that to you, we're going to suspend all points of order that you could otherwise make." And it just shocks me that most of my Republican colleagues will vote to subvert their own power by voting for that rule vote….
[A]s soon as you're sworn in to Congress, they take you over to the corner and say, "Listen. There's one rule here. Never vote against the rule that comes out of the Rules Committee."
And of course, they will try to take away [National Republican Congressional Committee] funding for your race, if you have a close race. In fact, after this rule vote happened, you could see our leadership with a print-out of the 25 Republican members who dared to vote to have some say in this bill. And they were scouring it, they were sitting over there at the leadership table just going through the list. I'm sure they have lots of nasty stuff planned for us.
Massie finds it interesting that many members felt free to vote for an omnibus that violates various GOP promises after the deadline for possible primary challenges has passed. He thinks the bill will likely function as, quoting an unnamed colleague, "the GOP voter suppression act of 2018."
"It's going to depress enthusiasm" of any small-government minded Republicans out there, Massie says, adding that "my enthusiasm is diminished for supporting my colleagues who come back and vote for this kind of crap." Massie notes with pride that he never voted for Ryan for leadership, and he says people should "start paying attention to how their congressmen voted on these procedural votes." He knew all along, Massie insists, that Ryan was lying when he promised to be more punctilious about letting congressmen understand what they had to vote on.
That doesn't mean you can fix the problem just by booting Ryan. "The speaker of the House does what he does, not just because people allow him to do it, the rank and file members, they literally vote every week to be abused by the rules," Massie laments. "It's like Stockholm syndrome. So, you could change the speaker, and he may not run again. But until you have congressmen who don't just blindly hand the leadership their voting card on every rule vote, you're not going to get any changes. It doesn't matter who the speaker is."
"Anybody that voted for the omnibus committed an appalling act," Massie says. And when it comes to a Republican-controlled federal government, "Absolutely nothing good will happen between now and the election. And the most that you can hope for is that nothing will happen."