(Michael Esch) Recently, Congressman Thomas Massie came to speak at the University of Cincinnati. He was the keynote speaker for the Young American for Liberty’s Ohio State conference. Massie gave an eye opening speech on how the House of Representatives works. One of his most revealing stories centered around his 500-yard run that he frequently makes from his office to the House floor.
For those that are not aware, Congress passes a lot of bills! In the 112th Congress, there were 561 bills that passed in one year. If we do some basic math, Congress is in session for 132 days and in that time they pass 561 bills, meaning they are passing roughly 4 bills a day. An example of one of these bills is the 600-page Highway Flood Student Loan bill that was given to the Senate the day of the vote. On top of that the bill had 23 additional amendments.
Congressman Massie explained that voice votes are frequently used to pass motions, amendments, and resolutions. There are several problems with taking voice votes on important issues. First, the voice vote does not hold politicians accountable for their votes. Many of our congressmen that we send to Washington are voting against what they ran on, but we do not have a record of all of these votes. The second problem with this method of voting is that it is solely at the discretion of the House Chair. Under normal circumstances, this would be Speaker of the House John Boehner. He is the only one that is allowed to interpret the vote.
The House is supposed to have something called a “quorum” to have a vote. A quorum is defined by at least 218 congressmen. The way that Boehner decides if there is a quorum is by squinting his eyes and declaring he thinks he sees 218 people. Congressman Massie said sometimes there will only be ten congressmen present.
There are about 500 yards in between Massie’s office and the house floor. When the speaker starts to do voice votes when no one is in the house, Congressman Massie will sprint from his office to the House floor and demand a recorded vote. When Congress has a recorded vote, it forces there to be a quorum and politicians to be held accountable for their votes. Massie said that he had done this a lot since he was elected in 2012.
One of the most memorable votes was in December of 2014. The speaker indicated that the Congress was over, so all the congressmen left. It just so happened that Massie’s flight had been canceled, when he went back to his office he saw that the house was passing bills with no one present. He made the 500-yard dash, and when he got onto the house floor they were conducting a voice vote on whether or not to allow President Obama to arm Ukraine’s military. They recessed before he could make a point that a quorum was not present. The next day, after he left, they passed more bills by voice before adjourning the 113th congress.
This is clearly something that Congress should debate since the results could lead to a global conflict. We have seen how joining into global conflicts has unintended consequences. For example, Hillary’s War in Libya, and the McCain/Graham’s support for arming ISIS in Syria. These should be heavily debated and open to the public.
President Barack Obama has not yet publically sent arms to Ukraine. On March 24, 2015 the House tried to do another vocal vote to pass a resolution that encouraged Obama to send the arms. Congressman Massie demanded that this be a recorded vote. The resolution passed 348-48. Now we have on record which congressmen voted to send American tax dollars to Ukraine.
Whether you agree with the vote or not, the point is that Congressman Massie is making a difference. Every election year we hear politicians say Washington is broken and how they are going to fix it. Then we elect them, and they make the problem worse. Congressman Massie ran on saying that the system is broken, but unlike his peers, he is actually defending our rights and working to fix Washington.