Thomas Massie
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 4th district
Assumed office
November 13, 2012[1]
Preceded byGeoff Davis
Judge-Executive of Lewis County
In office
January 3, 2011 – June 30, 2012
DeputyJohn Patrick Collins
Preceded bySteve Applegate
Succeeded byJohn Patrick Collins
Personal details
Born
Thomas Harold Massie

(1971-01-13) January 13, 1971 (age 50)
Huntington, West Virginia, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Rhonda Howard
Children4
EducationMassachusetts Institute of Technology (BS, MS)
WebsiteHouse website

Thomas Harold Massie (born January 13, 1971) is an American Republican Party politician. He has been the United States Representative for Kentucky's 4th congressional district since 2012, when he defeated Bill Adkins in the special and general elections. Before joining Congress, Massie was Judge-Executive of Lewis County, Kentucky from 2011 to 2012. He also ran a start-up company based in Massachusetts, where he previously studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).[2]

Massie has been described as a libertarian Republican,[3] and is associated with the House Liberty Caucus of Tea Party Republicans.

Early life, education, and business career

Thomas Massie was born in Huntington, West Virginia.[4] He grew up in Vanceburg, Kentucky.[4] He met his wife Rhonda at Lewis County High School in Vanceburg.[4][5] His father was a beer distributor.[4]

Massie earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering and a master of science degree in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).[6] He participated in the MIT Solar Car Club, which took second place behind a Swiss team in the Solar and Electric 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway in 1991. At the time, the team set several world records including a lap speed in excess of 62 mph (99 km/h), and straight-away speeds in excess of 70 mph (112 km/h).[7]

In 1992, Massie won MIT's then-named 2.70 ("Introduction to Design and Manufacturing", now named 2.007) Design Competition.[8] MIT professor Woodie Flowers, who pioneered the 2.70 contest, mentioned that Massie watched this contest on television in seventh grade and wanted to come to MIT to win it.[9]

In 1993, at MIT, Massie and his wife started a company called SensAble Devices Inc.[10] He completed his bachelor's degree the same year and wrote his thesis, Design of a three-degree of Freedom force-reflecting haptic interface.[11][12] In 1995 Massie won the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for inventors[6] and the $10,000 David and Lindsay Morgenthaler Grand Prize in the sixth annual MIT $10K Entrepreneurial Business Plan Competition.[13] In 1996 his company was reincorporated as SensAble Technologies, Inc., after partner Bill Aulet joined.[10] It raised $32 million of venture capital, had 24 patents, and 70 other employees.[14]

Also in 1996, Massie completed his Master's degree (SM) with the thesis Initial haptic explorations with the phantom: virtual touch through point interaction.[15]

Massie sold the company, and he and his wife returned to their hometown in Lewis County.

Lewis County Judge Executive

In 2010, Massie ran for Judge Executive of Lewis County.[11][16] He won the primary election, defeating the incumbent by a large margin,[11] and then beat the Democratic nominee by nearly 40 points.[17] Massie also campaigned for then-U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul, speaking to various Tea Party groups on his behalf.[11]

Massie resigned as Lewis County Judge-Executive effective July 1, 2012.[18]

U.S. House of Representatives

Elections

2012

Main article: 2012 United States House of Representatives elections in Kentucky § District 4

Results of the primary by county. Red indicates a county won by Massie, green by Webb-Edgington. Gray indicates a county that is not within the 4th congressional district.
Results of the primary by county. Red indicates a county won by Massie, green by Webb-Edgington. Gray indicates a county that is not within the 4th congressional district.

In December 2011, Congressman Geoff Davis announced his decision to retire from his seat in Kentucky's 4th congressional district. Massie announced his candidacy on January 10, 2012.[19] He was endorsed by Senator Paul[20][21] and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.[22][23] He was also endorsed by FreedomWorks,[24] Club for Growth,[25][26] Gun Owners of America,[27] and Young Americans for Liberty.[28]

On May 22, 2012, Massie won the Republican nomination, beating his closest opponents, State Representative Alecia Webb-Edgington and Boone County Judge Executive Gary Moore, by a double-digit margin.[29][30] In his victory speech, Massie thanked "the Tea Party, the liberty movement, and grassroots Ronald Reagan Republicans".[31] He faced Democratic nominee Bill Adkins in the general election, and was expected to win the election by a wide margin.[29][32] Massie resigned as Lewis County Judge-Executive effective July 1, 2012, to focus on his campaign for Congress and allow an election to be immediately held in order to replace him.[18] He was succeeded by Deputy Lewis County Judge-Executive John Patrick Collins, who was appointed temporarily by Governor Steve Beshear.[33] On July 31, 2012, Congressman Geoff Davis resigned from office, citing a family health issue for his abrupt departure.[34] On August 1, 2012, the Republican Party committee for Kentucky's 4th Congressional district voted unanimously to endorse Massie as the party's nominee once a special election was called.[35] Beshear called a special election to take place on the same day as the general election, November 6.[36] This meant that Massie was running in two separate elections on the same day – one for the right to serve the final two months of Davis's fourth term, another for a full two-year term.[37]

On November 6, Massie won both elections by a wide margin.[38]

Tenure

Massie being sworn into office by Speaker of the House John Boehner on November 13, 2012.
Massie being sworn into office by Speaker of the House John Boehner on November 13, 2012.
Massie speaking at the 2013 Liberty Political Action Conference (LPAC)
Massie speaking at the 2013 Liberty Political Action Conference (LPAC)

Massie was sworn into office to serve out the balance of Davis's term on November 13, 2012.[1] He served on three committees, including the committees on Transportation and Infrastructure, Oversight and Government Reform and Science, Space and Technology.[39] He became Chairman of the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, replacing outgoing Chairman Ben Quayle.[40]

Massie broke from the majority of his party by opposing the reelection of Speaker of the House John Boehner, instead casting his vote for Justin Amash of Michigan.[41] In May 2013, he voted against the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, which passed 390–3.[42] In December 2013, he was the only congressman to vote against the Undetectable Firearms Act.[43]

In March 2014, Massie voted against a bill to name Israel an American strategic partner. Massie voted no because the bill would have subsidized green energy companies in Israel. He said he would not support subsidies for American green energy companies, let alone foreign ones.[42] The bill passed by a margin of 410–1.[44]

In May 2014, Massie objected to a voice vote to award golf star Jack Nicklaus a gold medal recognizing his "service to the nation", and demanded a roll call vote.[42] The vote passed easily, 371–10.[42] Through mid-June 2014, Massie had voted "no" at least 324 times in the 113th Congress – opposing one of every three measures that came to the House floor. Politico named him "Mr. No".[42]

In 2015, Massie was the sole member of the House to vote "present" on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of Iran's nuclear agreement, citing constitutional concerns that the treaties are not ratified by the House of Representatives and that he had no authority to vote for or against the nuclear deal.[45][46] In November 2016, he voted against an extension of U.S. sanctions against Iran, the only member of the House to do so.[47]

In 2017, Massie introduced a one-page bill that would abolish the United States Department of Education,[48] and cosponsored a bill that would abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.[49]

In April 2017, Massie expressed skepticism over the role of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in the 2017 Khan Shaykhun chemical attack.[50]

On May 4, 2017, Massie was the sole House member to vote against sanctions on North Korea.[51]

In July 2017, Massie joined Representatives Amash and John Duncan Jr., and Senators Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders in opposing a bill to impose new economic sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea. President Donald Trump opposed the bill, arguing that relations with Russia were already "at an all-time and dangerous low". He did, however, sign the bill.[52]

On December 29, 2017, Massie voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.[53] Before voting, he said he would support the bill to cut taxes, but that he would oppose "new government spending," despite the $1.5 trillion estimated to be added to the national debt according to the Congressional Budget Office in wake of the bill being passed.[54][55]

As of January 2019, Massie was ranked number 1 in Conservative Review Top 25 Conservatives list.[56]

On March 26, 2019, Massie was one of 14 Republicans to vote with all House Democrats to override Trump's veto of a measure unwinding Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the southern border.[57]

In 2019, Massie signed a letter to Trump led by Representative Ro Khanna and Senator Rand Paul asserting that it was "long past time to rein in the use of force that goes beyond congressional authorization" and that they hoped this would "serve as a model for ending hostilities in the future – in particular, as you and your administration seek a political solution to our involvement in Afghanistan."[58][59] Massie was also one of nine lawmakers to sign a letter to Trump requesting a meeting with him and urging him to sign "Senate Joint Resolution 7, which invokes the War Powers Act of 1973 to end unauthorized US military participation in the Saudi-led coalition's armed conflict against Yemen's Houthi forces, initiated in 2015 by the Obama administration". They asserted that the "Saudi-led coalition's imposition of an air-land-and-sea blockade as part of its war against Yemen's Houthis has continued to prevent the unimpeded distribution of these vital commodities, contributing to the suffering and death of vast numbers of civilians throughout the country" and that Trump's approval of the resolution through his signing would give a "powerful signal to the Saudi-led coalition to bring the four-year-old war to a close".[60]

Massie speaking at the Young Americans for Liberty convention in April 2019.
Massie speaking at the Young Americans for Liberty convention in April 2019.

On April 10, 2019, Massie got in a tense exchange with former United States Secretary of State John Kerry during Kerry's testimony to the House Oversight and Reform Committee when Massie called Kerry's political science degree from Yale University a "pseudoscience degree" and called Kerry's position on climate change "pseudoscience." Kerry responded, "Are you serious? I mean this is really a serious happening here?"[61][a]

In July 2019, Massie was the only Republican among 17 members of Congress to vote against a House resolution opposing efforts to boycott Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.[62][63]

On November 20, 2019, Massie was the sole "no" vote in Congress on the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, which he called an "escalation" with the People's Republic of China.[64][65][66]

COVID-19 pandemic response

On March 27, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Massie forced the return to Washington of members of the House who were sheltering in place in their districts by threatening a quorum call that would have required an in-person vote on the $2.2 trillion aid package that had passed the Senate by a 96–0 vote.[67] On the House floor, Massie said he was trying to "make sure our republic doesn't die by unanimous consent in an empty chamber." His actions caused widespread concern about endangering members of Congress by requiring them to gather amid a pandemic.[68][69][70]

Following Massie's unsuccessful push, Trump said Massie should be removed from the Republican Party, calling him a "third rate [g]randstander"; John Kerry quipped that he "tested positive for being an asshole"; Representative Sean Patrick Maloney tweeted, "@RepThomasMassie is indeed a dumbass"; Representative Dean Phillips called his actions a "principled but terribly misguided stunt". Some Republicans defended Massie: Paul Gosar called him a "good man and a solid conservative" and Chip Roy said Massie was "defending the Constitution today by requiring a quorum".[71]

In an interview with Politico, Massie said that "the fact that they brought all of these congressmen here in order to get a quorum shows you that I was right. The Constitution requires a quorum to pass a bill, and they were planning to subvert the Constitution".[69]

On April 23, 2020, Massie was one of five House members to vote against the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which added $320 billion of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program.[72][73] Trump signed the bill into law the next day.[74]

In July 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Massie argued against face mask mandates and compulsory vaccinations.[75]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Political positions

Environment

Massie rejects the scientific consensus on climate change.[76] He has said, "there's a conflict of interest for some of the people doing the research. I think some people are trying to integrate backwards, starting with the answer and working the other way. I think the jury is still out on the contribution of our activities to the change in the earth's climate".[76] In 2013, he implied that cold weather undercut the argument for climate change, tweeting, "Today's Science Committee Hearing on Global Warming canceled due to snow".[77] During a 2019 House Oversight Committee hearing on the impact of climate change, Massie suggested that concerns over rising carbon dioxide levels were exaggerated, and asked Kerry why carbon dioxide levels millions of years ago were higher despite humans' absence.[78][79] CNN and The Washington Post described Massie's exchange with Kerry as "surreal" and "bizarre".[78][79]

Massie supports dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency.[80] He voted to block the Department of Defense from spending on climate adaptation.[81] He voted to repeal the Stream Protection Rule, which imposed stricter requirements on coal mining to prevent coal debris from getting into waterways.[82]

In 2018, after French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Congress and mentioned his desire that the United States rejoin the Paris Climate Accords to curb climate change, Massie said Macron was "a socialist militarist globalist science-alarmist. The dark future of the American Democratic Party".[83]

Foreign policy

A non-interventionist,[84] Massie has supported various efforts to scale back the use of the U.S. military abroad. He supported legislation in 2019 to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2001, arguing that it is too broad and that Congress should reclaim its constitutional right to declare war.[85] He also supported efforts to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan,[86][87] and introduced a bill in 2019 to clarify that no authority exists for military action against Iran.[88] Massie introduced legislation to stop unauthorized military operations in Egypt and Syria,[89] as well as legislation blocking unauthorized military aid from being sent to Syrian rebels.[90]

Massie voted "present" on the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, the only member of the House to do so and the only Republican not to vote against it.[91] Massie was the only member of the House to vote against extending sanctions on Iran in 2016.[92] He was also one of only three House members to vote against a 2017 bill to impose new sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea.[93]

In 2019, Massie was the only Republican House member to vote against condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.[94] Among other reasons that he cited for voting against the resolution, Massie stated that he does not support "federal efforts to condemn any type of private boycott, regardless of whether or not a boycott is based upon bad motives" and that "these are matters that Congress should properly leave to the States and to the people to decide".[94]

In 2021, Massie was one of 14 House Republicans to vote against a measure condemning the Myanmar coup d'état that overwhelmingly passed, for reasons reported to be unclear.[95]

In June 2021, Massie was one of forty-nine House Republicans who voted in favor of the repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.[96][97]

Government surveillance

Massie is a critic of the PATRIOT Act and warrantless surveillance of Americans.[98][99] In 2014 he sponsored an amendment to stop warrantless "backdoor" searches of U.S. citizens' online data; it passed the House 293–123.[100][101] The amendment also contained a provision prohibiting the NSA or CIA from requesting companies to install surveillance backdoors in their products.[102]

In 2015 Massie introduced the Surveillance State Repeal Act, a bill that sought to repeal the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act.[103][104] Also in 2015, he joined with Representative Justin Amash in an effort to ensure the expiration of certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act.[105]

Massie has called for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to be pardoned[106] and for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to be prosecuted for lying about the phone metadata program that Snowden exposed.[107]

Food regulation

Massie and Rep. Jared Polis promote "food freedom" legislation by sharing a meal that includes hemp scones, raw milk, kombucha, and beef raised by Massie (August 2015)
Massie and Rep. Jared Polis promote "food freedom" legislation by sharing a meal that includes hemp scones, raw milk, kombucha, and beef raised by Massie (August 2015)

In 2014 Massie introduced the Milk Freedom Act and the Interstate Milk Freedom Act, a pair of bills that would allow the transportation of raw milk across state borders.[108][109] Massie explained: "It's legal to drink raw milk in 50 states. It is legal to sell raw milk in 28 states. The Feds need to quit arresting farmers for taking raw milk from one raw milk state to another raw milk state".[110]

In 2015 Massie introduced the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption (PRIME) Act to ease federal regulations regarding the sale of meat within state borders.[111][112] Massie says that under current federal regulations "farmers and ranchers are increasingly forced to ship their animals to far-off slaughterhouses for processing" which "presents financial burdens, threatens the quality of meat sold, and ultimately makes it difficult for consumers to purchase fresh, local meat".[113]

Criminal justice reform

In 2013 Massie introduced the Justice Safety Valve Act to provide judges with greater sentencing flexibility.[114] He stated: "The one size fits all approach of federally mandated minimums does not give local judges the latitude they need to ensure that punishments fit the crimes. As a result, nonviolent offenders are sometimes given excessive sentences. Furthermore, public safety can be compromised because violent offenders are released from our nation's overcrowded prisons to make room for nonviolent offenders."[115]

Massie has criticized civil asset forfeiture laws, calling them "legal robbery" and "completely unconstitutional".[116] In 2019 he helped introduce the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act to reform federal asset forfeiture policies.[117]

Human rights

In November 2019, Massie was the sole member of the United States Congress to vote against the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act[118] and in December 2019 was the sole member of the House of Representatives to vote against a condemnation of the treatment of Uyghurs in China.[119][120] Massie clarified on Twitter that his reasoning was that it is not the role of the United States to intervene in other nations' internal affairs.[121] Massie also cast the sole "no" vote on the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act.[122]

Massie opposes the death penalty, and voted against a bill to expand the list of federal capital crimes to include the murder of first-responders.[123]

On February 26, 2020, Massie voted against making lynching a federal hate crime.[124]

Government transparency

In 2014, Massie joined Representatives Walter B. Jones and Stephen Lynch at a press conference to call for release of the 28 redacted pages of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.[125] In 2016 Massie joined both representatives in writing to President Obama urging him to declassify the pages.[126]

In 2015, Massie introduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act to "require the Comptroller General to conduct a full examination of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Reserve banks".[127] Said Massie: "It is time to force the Federal Reserve to operate by the same standards of transparency and accountability to the taxpayers that we should demand of all government agencies."[128]

Health care

Massie supports repealing the Affordable Care Act.[129] In 2017, he criticized the Republican-led efforts to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, saying the efforts fell "far short of our promise to repeal Obamacare".[130]

Massie does not support compulsory vaccination. He stated on Twitter, "There is no authority in the Constitution that authorizes the government to stick a needle in you."[131]

Cannabis

Massie has supported efforts to legalize industrial hemp cultivation,[132][133] introducing the Industrial Hemp Farming Act in 2013[134][135] as well as hemp-related amendments in 2013,[136] 2014,[137] and 2015[138] that were approved by the House. In 2013 he testified before the Kentucky Senate regarding the matter.[139]

Massie has stated that medical cannabis patients should be able to legally purchase firearms and that he would introduce legislation allowing them to do so.[140] Massie has endorsed legislation in Kentucky to legalize the medical use of cannabis.[141]

Other

In October 2019, Massie criticized the jail sentence for Maria Butina, a Russian citizen who pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as a foreign agent in the United States. Butina had sought to infiltrate the National Rifle Association in order to influence a more favorable U.S. foreign policy towards Russia. Massie described her jail sentence as Russophobia. In August 2019, Massie said that former FBI Director James Comey should be put in prison instead of Butina.[142][143]

In September 2020, on the topic of the Kyle Rittenhouse incident following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Massie said he believed Rittenhouse had acted in self-defense.[144][145]

Massie describes himself as a constitutional conservative. He believes in intellectual property and thinks it is necessary for incentivizing innovation. Massie has remarked that this is one of the areas where he is not a libertarian.[146]

Massie is a part of a small group of Republicans that voted against a House resolution reaffirming commitment to the orderly and peaceful transfer of power in the United States under democratic principles.[147][148] However, he was also one of seven Republicans who did not support their colleagues' efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election on January 6, 2021; these seven signed a letter that, whilst giving credence to election fraud allegations made by President Donald Trump, said Congress did not have the authority to influence the election's outcome.[149]

In June 2021, Massie was one of 21 House Republicans to vote against a resolution to give the Congressional Gold Medal to police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on January 6.[150] Also in June 2021, he was one of 14 House Republicans to vote against legislation to establish June 19, or Juneteenth, as a federal holiday.[151]

Electoral history

Kentucky's 4th Congressional district election (2012)[152]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Thomas Massie 186,036 62.13
Democratic William Adkins 104,734 34.98
Independent David Lewis 8,674 2.90
Total votes 299,444 100.00
Republican hold
Kentucky's 4th Congressional district election (2014)[153]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Thomas Massie 150,464 67.73
Democratic Peter Newberry 71,694 32.27
Total votes 222,158 100.00
Republican hold
Kentucky's 4th Congressional district election (2016)[154]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Thomas Massie 233,922 71.32
Democratic Calvin Sidle 94,065 28.68
Total votes 327,987 100.00
Republican hold
Kentucky's 4th Congressional district election (2018)[155]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Thomas Massie 162,946 62.24
Democratic Seth Hall 90,536 34.58
Independent Mike Moffett 8,318 3.18
Write-in David Goodwin 12 0.005
Total votes 261,812 100.00
Republican hold
Kentucky's 4th congressional district, 2020[156]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Thomas Massie (incumbent) 256,613 67.1
Democratic Alexandra Owensby 125,896 32.9
Total votes 382,509 100.0
Republican hold

Personal life

Massie operates a cattle farm in Garrison, Kentucky, with his wife, Rhonda, and their four children.[157][158] They live in a solar-powered home that Massie built himself.[159][160] He is a Methodist.[161]

Notes

  1. ^ Kerry is misquoted in the linked source, but the text here is derived from the video.

References

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Political offices
Preceded by
Steve Applegate
Judge-Executive of Lewis County
2011–2012
Succeeded by
John Patrick Collins
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Geoff Davis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 4th congressional district

2012–present
Incumbent
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Suzan DelBene
United States representatives by seniority
158th
Succeeded by
Donald Payne