Massie named to powerful House rules committee

Mark Payne
Mark Payne
Mark Payne is the government and politics reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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Known for his “no” votes on legislation, Thomas Massie, who represents the fourth congressional district that includes Northern Kentucky, has recently been named to two powerful committees in the new Republican majority U.S. House.

After Republicans gained control of the House in the 2022 midterms, they spent the early part of the year negotiating for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as the new Speaker of the House.

Rep. McCarthy named Massie to the powerful Rules Committee and the new Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.

Massie assuming roles in both committees, particularly the Rules Committee, signals a maturing in his office and gaining respect amongst his peers as a congressman, according to Northern Kentucky University Political Professor Ryan Salzman.

“It’s definitely a big step for the congressman, who has positioned himself as an outsider even at times sort of rejecting the opportunity to get onto these important committees,” Salzman said.

The Weaponization Committee is a move by Republicans to examine whether government entities and social media companies have led an effort to silence Republicans at all levels of government.

Chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who also chairs the judiciary and is a member of the Freedom Caucus, the new committee has broad authority to go just about anywhere, Massie said.

The charter for the group “is to look for acts of the government that suppress the civil liberties of Americans,” Massie said, “and we’re not limited to any one, three-letter agency.”

Massie elaborated that they might start with the FBI or the Department of Justice communicating with social media companies and suggesting which accounts need to be canceled or squelched.

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“Private companies aren’t bound by the first amendment, but the government is, and when the government uses their influence at private companies to effectively curtail the first amendment or first amendment rights, or any civil liberties, then I believe that’s a violation of the Constitution and of the law,” Massie said.

The Lewis County native has also been outspoken about his desire to end COVID-19 mandates — including saying at one point that he wouldn’t take meetings with companies or other organizations that have mandates or rules on their employees.

Asked if the committee would look into anything COVID-related, Massie said he is just one voice on the committee.

“Well, I have evidence of the CDC lying to me, and there are areas where religious freedoms were infringed upon, and the federal government in the name of COVID vaccine mandates,” Massie said. “We could certainly go there.”

An important distinction to make is that the committee isn’t looking for incompetence, but malfeasance, according to Massie. He’s not interested in looking into why the DOJ didn’t look into why President Joe Biden was found with documents, for example. 

“That’s not weaponization of the federal government against the people,” Massie said, elaborating that is his opinion of what the committee will be doing, but other members might be interested in looking into it.

“I’m more concerned about infringement of civil liberties — that’s civilians, not politicians,” Massie said.

While the new Weaponizations committee can examine governmental overreach, it’s Massie’s assignment to the “very powerful” House Rules Committee where he could exude influence on how bills are presented to Congress.

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Every bill that comes out of the committee goes through the Rules committee before it heads to the House floor for a vote. The committee determines the rules of debate, the timing of the vote, and whether amendments will be allowed and which ones.

“It’s a very powerful committee,” Massie said. “For the last 60 years, control of it’s been tightly held by the speaker.”

Massie also said that until the new Congress, being named to the committee meant a “rubber stamp” vote for whatever the speaker wanted for a bill.

Massie said he’ll be voting on bills to pass the Rules committee, even if he votes “no” on the bill on the floor.

“What’s not in my mission is to imprint my ideology on a bill when it goes through the Rules Committee,” Massie said.

While he has gained notoriety for voting no, he typically provides reasons for how he votes on legislation — and his explanations usually are down to excessive spending, time to read bills before voting on them, and multiple bills being combined.

For example, he voted no against the 2021 Infrastructure Bill that’s set to provide $1.6 billion for the companion Brent Spence Bridge without tolls — a signature infrastructure project in his congressional district.

“I did not vote for Biden’s mislabeled Infrastructure Bill because it wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on high-speed internet for prison inmates, electric car charging stations, and economically crippling ‘Green New Deal’ initiatives,” Massie said ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

He came under criticism for the vote from NKY leaders.

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But, Massie will be able to influence how bills, like the infrastructure bill, are voted on in the new House and one thing he wants to do is allow legislators more time to read bills.

“The Rules Committee is the arbiter of whether members of Congress get time to read the bills,” Massie said. “The Rules Committee is the arbiter of whether five bills are going to get combined into one vote or whether we get separate votes on those distinct topics.”

These things are Massie’s chief grievances since taking office in 2012, and he’s excited to be in a position to make the process work better.

Salzman also thinks being named to the Rules committee will allow Massie to imprint his philosophy of the process on legislation.

“Congressman Massie has always been about process,” Salzman said. “A lot of his no votes that have gotten a lot of attention have really been votes based on process and the institution and the rules of the institution and actually less on politics.”

Corrections: This article incorrectly stated that Rep. Massie is part of the House’s Freedom Caucus. He is not. It also stated he was not invited to President Biden’s visit involving infrastructure funding for the Brent Spence Bridge. Rep. Massie was invited but was unable to attend due to the speaker vote in Washington. LINK nky regrets the errors and both have been updated to reflect the changes.

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