US Rep. who sought to stall virus aid touts fundraising haul

Thomas Massie

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., talks to reporters before leaving Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 27, 2020. The nation’s fiercest fiscal conservatives are largely embracing the massive economic rescue package moving through Congress. In many cases, those conservatives who support the $2 trillion coronavirus spending bill are the very same who raged against the $800 billion economic stimulus package backed by the Obama administration after the 2008 financial crisis. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — He drew the president’s wrath for seeking to slow congressional approval of a $2.2 trillion coronavirus-relief package, and now U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie is boasting of his tactic and hauling in campaign cash for his reelection bid.

Massie’s campaign said Monday it had raised more than $110,000 over a three-day period when the Kentucky Republican was in the spotlight for his failed bid to force a roll call vote on the relief on Capitol Hill. He emerged as the only member of Congress willing to stall, if not block, the recently approved package.

The congressman said he was just trying to hold up what he considers to be an unconstitutional vote for a wasteful bill. But the stalling tactic prompted President Donald Trump to denounce Massie as a “third rate Grandstander.”

Now in his fourth term, Massey faces a spirited 2020 primary challenge from Todd McMurtry in the northern Kentucky district. On Monday, Massie touted his three-day fundraising haul from more than 1,600 donors while defending his actions. The average donation was $65.33, his campaign said of the three-day period ending Sunday.

“I’m humbled by the hundreds of hard-working Americans who have supported my campaign over the last few days,” Massie said in a news release. “If Congress expects Americans to go to work, bagging groceries, delivering packages and growing food, then congressmen making a $174,000 a year should do their job and show up to vote on the biggest spending bill in the history of mankind.”

While his stalling tactic failed, Massie’s action last week forced hundreds of lawmakers to return to the Capitol after a nearly two-week recess — potentially raising their risks of exposure to the coronavirus at a time when public health experts were advising Americans to adopt safe social distancing.

In a series of tweets Friday, Trump called Massie “a disaster for America, and for the Great State of Kentucky!” and urged GOP leaders to “throw Massie out of Republican Party!”

His challenger immediately sought to capitalize on Trump’s condemnation of Massie.

As his opponent sees it, by bragging about his fundraising performance, Massie only reinforced Trump’s portrayal of the congressman as a grandstander.

“For Massie, it’s all about him — not what’s going to best serve Kentuckians,” McMurtry said in a release. “While we’re battling an unprecedented national crisis, Massie’s main concern is how much money he raised off the senseless stunt he pulled trying to block the Coronavirus Relief bill.”

Frustrated House lawmakers from both parties also lashed out at Massie last week.

McMurtry portrays himself as a staunch Trump supporter and says Massie’s moves against the coronavirus-relief package showed the president can’t count on Massie. The two are running in a district where the president remains highly popular.

McMurtry is an attorney who represented a Kentucky student who became engaged in media lawsuits after a viral encounter with a Native American activist in Washington, D.C., in early 2019. He didn’t immediately respond to a question about his own fundraising after Friday.

Kentucky’s primary election, usually in late May, was pushed back to June 23 because of the pandemic.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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