Reason Roundup

Massie, and That Pesky Constitution, Hold Up COVID-19 Bailout Bill

Plus: civic dynamism on display, Justice Department embraces home detainment of federal prisoners, and more...


Massie's big move? The House of Representatives is poised to vote on the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that the Senate passed yesterday. But there's a snag: Rep. Thomas Massie. The Kentucky Republican reportedly wants colleagues back in D.C. for a regular, recorded vote this morning instead of the voice vote that was expected to take place today.

"Members are advised that it is possible this measure will not pass by voice vote," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office wrote in a Thursday advisory memo to members.

Massie tweeted out a link last night to Article I, Section 5, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which dictates the rules of engagement in the House of Representatives.

A quorum requires 216 members of the House be present for the vote.

"The senate did some voodoo just like with Obamacare," Massie added. "Took a House Bill (HR 748) dealing with taxes, stripped every word, and put their bill in it. The House is just as responsible for killing the origination clause as the Senate. It's the House's job to reject the process." 

Some members of Congress have been lashing out at Massie on Twitter. 

Rep. Pete King (R–N.Y.) called Massie's move to make House members respect the Constitution "disgraceful" and "irresponsible."

"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," tweeted Rep. Dean Phillips (D–Minn.). 

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D–Ariz.) declared that he was "jumping on the red eye tonight" back to D.C., adding a (presumably sarcastic) "thanks Massie."

Despite some theatrical reactions, "passage isn't in jeopardy," NBC News notes. The vote could "be delayed for as long as it takes for 216 members to arrive in Washington." 

"Pelosi called him selfish," writes the left-populist pundit Matt Stoller, research director for the American Economic Liberties Project. "Reality is more complex. She just doesn't want to lose power and do remote voting." 

"Pelosi has kept the entire House in their districts, and is hoping to get the bill through without any formal debate or any hearings at all," Stoller suggested

Trump's cynical calculation? As the U.S. surpasses Italy and China to have the most confirmed cases of COVID-19, the Trump administration is still dragging its fee on ventilators and promising America will be open for business again by Easter (April 12).  Meanwhile, more and more state leaders are telling residents to stay home and ordering "non-essential" businesses closed.

Politically speaking, the president might be making a brilliant move: Allow other people to make the difficult decisions, then point to the inevitable-either-way economic devastation as something that could have been prevented if only we had gone to work sooner. 

Or maybe that's just the best-case scenario. President Donald Trump could try to interfere with states' ability to impose social distancing rules. No, he's not going to send the military to reopen bars and movie theaters. But financial aid to state governments gives Washington all sorts of carrots and sticks. 

For now, though, that doesn't seem to be on the horizon. In a letter to state leaders yesterday, Trump announced that "new guidelines for State and local policymakers to use in making decisions about maintaining, increasing, or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures" would be coming soon. Using "data-driven criteria, we will suggest guidelines categorizing counties as high-risk, medium-risk, or low-risk," he said. 

That might not be a bad idea. As J.D. Tuccille wrote this week in Reason, we need to recognize that different areas of this country have very different risk profiles. 

COVID-19 and criminal justice. Another Trump-admin move that is heartening to see: embracing home detainment for nonviolent offenders in federal prisons. 

"I am confident in our ability to keep inmates in our prisons as safe as possible from the pandemic currently sweeping across the globe," Attorney General Bill Barr wrote in a Thursday memo to the federal Bureau of Prisons. "At the same time, there are some at-risk inmates who are non-violent and pose a minimal likelihood of recidivism and who might be safer serving their sentences in home confinement rather than in BOP facilities." 

New coronavirus cases expand around U.S. As Washington obsesses over which of the two ruling parties deserves more blame for the crisis, cases of the new coronavirus in the U.S. are starting to grow rapidly outside such hotbeds as New York and Washington state. 

For state-by-state breakdowns of cases, recoveries, and deaths, check out this tracker from Johns Hopkins University


Beneficence on display. Airbnbs and hotels are offering free housing to COVID-19 first respondents—yet another example of private enterprises stepping up to fill public health voids in this time of crisis. "We shouldn't lose sight of the exceptional vitality that the private sector is demonstrating during this mess," as Veronique de Rugy writes.

At USA Today, Alexandra Hudson rounds up more examples of private enterprise stepping in to help ease COVID-19 related hardships. "Adam Smith distinguished between justice and beneficence," she writes: 

Justice is the bare minimum we owe to others, an obligation to do no harm. Today, this means staying home during the quarantine and not potentially infecting others. But justice is about mere survival. To flourish, we need beneficence—the obligation we have to do good for others. It is a tumultuous time, but we should recognize and celebrate our vibrant ecosystem of civic dynamism that is dedicated to promoting the common good.


Coronavirus news from around the world: 


  • "We need every doctor and researcher we can get right now," writes Shikha Dalmia. "It's time to cut H-B1 Visa red tape."
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is relaxing some rules in the face of COVID-19.
  • New York City outbreak update: