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Thomas Massie broke the one House rule you're not supposed to break — and he wants your rep to do it too

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., is fiercely independent. He likes to remind us how he was the only Republican in the House of Representatives who did not vote for Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., for speaker of the House. When most of the GOP conference was pushing an Obamacare replacement bill that did not fully repeal Obamacare, Massie changed his vote to “Hell No.” A constitutional conservative with a libertarian disposition, he refuses to join the House Freedom Caucus because after their two-hour meeting, they’ll end up voting the right way right along with him. And if they don’t vote with him? Well, he’s not afraid to tell fellow conservatives when he thinks they’re dead wrong.

Massie believes passing last week’s $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill was dead wrong. On Saturday, March 24, Massie delivered the keynote address at a Young Americans for Liberty summit in Charlotte, N.C. Before he gave his speech, Massie spoke with Conservative Review, describing the process leading up to the 2,232-page bill’s passage as reminiscent of a “banana republic.”

Speaking with Massie, it is clear that he is morally outraged by what he calls a “complete betrayal” of the American electorate. He blames Republican leadership for breaking Republican promises to voters. But he also blames his rank-and-file colleagues, whom he says “succumbed to the swamp” by voting for procedural rules that surrender their power as lawmakers to leadership.

Massie says leadership has "one rule" in Congress: "Never vote against the rule that comes out of the Rules Committee." He was one of 25 Republicans to break this rule by voting against the procedural rule to advance the omnibus. In this interview, he explains why other conservatives need to buck the rules before Congress can change.

You can listen to the full, unabridged interview here:

Congressman Massie, how are you doing?

How am I doing ... Well, I've had better days. You know, the president signed the omnibus yesterday. Not the best day for our country. In fact, I think I tweeted “a more complete betrayal of the American electorate I have not witnessed.”

Okay. And over your terms in Congress, you've seen quite a few of these betrayals, haven't you?

Yes. In fact, I thought we were improving things when we got rid of [Speaker] John Boehner; he was pretty good at turning things around on the base. But things have gotten progressively worse. And I'm dissatisfied with the outcome, I'm dissatisfied with the policies. But what I'm really dissatisfied with is the process. If I believed we had followed some kind of orderly process that represents a republic that our Founding Fathers envisioned, and then had come to this outcome, I would be more accepting of it. But the fact that it more resembles a Banana Republic than a real republic deeply saddens me.

You say, "It represents a Banana Republic." … In what ways does this process not reflect how this republic is supposed to work?

Well, there are 435 members of Congress. I joked last week that the membership of the mushroom caucus had swelled to 420 members, maybe 425. I call it the "mushroom caucus," because most of Congress wasn't just not involved in the drafting of this omnibus, they had no clue what was in this omnibus until just hours before they had to vote for it.

You were tweeting about how you yourself didn't know what was in it. You were actually Googling for leaks from reporters.

Yes, I was trying to follow the tweets of reporters who were scouring the halls for any leaky staffers who might know something. And honestly, I get more information that way than I did from our GOP conference. At one point at the beginning of the week, [Rep.] Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, stood up and asked Paul Ryan six questions, "Is ‘Fix NICS’ in this, is the internet tax in this, is the tunnel in this?" And he got not a single answer for any of the six questions.

Whose fault is that, that [members of] Congress [were] not informed of what was in the bill?

Well, it's our leadership's fault, most definitely. But it's Congress' fault for accepting this leadership, and for voting for these leaders, and then letting them betray their promise to us so blatantly. In fact, 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.

Just to be clear, voting for this procedural rule prevented members from offering amendments to the bill to try and improve it?

That's correct. So the bill was introduced at 8:00 p.m. roughly on Wednesday. By 10:00 p.m. we had to have our amendments. If we wanted to amend this bill, we had to have our amendments offered, and 30 copies delivered to the Rules Committee, within two hours. Imagine that, Chris. Okay, a 2,232-page bill. You've got to read it, digest it, and offer and craft your amendments in a form that is germane and legal and have them all done within two hours of seeing the bill for the first time.

So, I offered an amendment, for instance, that I pre-wrote, but I had a bunch of blanks in it that I had to fill in by hand. There wasn't even time to put it back in the word processor. I assumed there would be the “Fix NICS” gun control language in this bill; I heard a rumor from one of those tweets from a reporter who got a leak from a staffer that it was going to be in there.

So I wrote an amendment. I couldn't possibly know what page or line it would show up on, so I left those blank. As soon as the bill came out, I did a word search, I found it on page 1,982, the Fix NICS language, filled in the blanks, I got 30 copies, ran into the Rules Committee, by 10:00 p.m. About a half a dozen other members had managed to submit amendments, for instance, to defund sanctuary cities or to defund Planned Parenthood, these things we promised our electorate, which were not in the bill. And mind you, I was trying to take something out of the bill that we promised our electorate we wouldn't do, which is gun control. Okay, the Rules Committee met, they came up with their rule, their resolution, that said that not just one of our amendments would be disallowed, but all amendments would be disallowed.

They didn't allow a single member of either party to even get a vote on an amendment. And that was contained in that rule package that they put on the floor a couple hours before the omnibus. So this is just the thing that's hard for me to wrap my head around, most Republican members voted to let the leadership cram us down, voted to subvert our voice in Congress.

And given that members of Congress represent the American people, is what you're saying that these representatives who voted for this rule surrendered the power of representation?

Yeah, absolutely. They succumbed to the Swamp by voting for the rule. Now don't get me wrong, there are punishments if you don't vote for the rule. You know, as 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 NRCC 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.

Now, you mentioned earlier that the amendments that you were going to offer were going to keep promises the Republicans had made to the American people, not just on the campaign trail but in the Republican party platform. What message is the Republican party sending to voters leading up to the 2018 midterms about how they treat their platform?

Well, you know what's interesting about the timing of this omnibus. There are some primaries out there, some primary races, but a lot of the filing dates have already passed for people to file to primary the sitting Republican. As you well know, most of these districts are either red or blue. And most of the betrayal came not from the purple districts, but from the Republican congressmen who are in safe red districts, districts that Donald Trump won by 10, 20, maybe 50 points.

Okay, that's where the betrayal came from, that's where the primaries could originate, but you see the Texas primaries have already happened, okay? That's the largest Republican delegation. And you're going to see a lot of betrayal when you look through the roll call from a lot of red districts there in Texas. Well, they were comfortable in betraying the electorate, because not only had the filing date closed, but also the primaries had happened.

And in a lot of other states, for instance, my state of Kentucky, the filing date has already passed. So if a credible challenger wanted to get in the race on the basis of this betrayal, it's too late. And it's a very similar situation in many other states.

In a lot of these special elections we've seen recently, we're witnessing 20-point swings from deep red districts going over to the Democratic candidates winning. Lots of pundits are saying that the momentum is on the Democratic side, is on the leftist base side. They're the ones animated to vote. Do you think that Congress' behavior, the behavior of the Republican majority, is demoralizing to the base?

Without a doubt, without a doubt. I mean, I can see it in my Twitter responses, I can see it on my Facebook page, I'm very active on social media. So, I see these things happen within hours of it starting to develop. I've talked to other congressmen. One congressman whose name I will protect jokingly said that "we should rename this the GOP voter suppression act of 2018, the omnibus bill, that is." Because that's what it does, it's going to depress enthusiasm.

And frankly, my enthusiasm is diminished for supporting my colleagues who come back and vote for this kind of crap.

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