Massie’s war on bipartisanship advances to new front as he vows to fight ‘uniparty’ Skip to content

Massie’s war on bipartisanship advances to new front as he vows to fight ‘uniparty’

He is working with Marjorie Taylor Green (!) to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson, because Johnson dared to actually work across the aisle to get things done.

5 min read

Almost 50 years ago, believe it or not, when punk rock was in its prime, the genre’s primary pervaders, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, happened to cross paths.

Johnny Rotten, the front man for the Britain-based Sex Pistols, told his American counterparts that his band was out to destroy rock ‘n roll.

Johnny Ramone, lead guitarist for the eponymous quartet, responded that his band was out to make money.

That makes Rep. Thomas Massie, our Whiz Kid, the Johnny Rotten of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Massie (R-SomewhereOrOtherLewisCounty) is a neo-nihilist who has been collecting paychecks for almost 14 years from a United States government that he doesn’t, from all outward appearances, really much care for or believe in. And it seems he won’t be satisfied until its walls come tumbling down.

Next week, Massie, hand-in-hand with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), making them the new Mutt and Jeff of Congress, intend to offer a motion to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson from his position. It will mark the third time during his seven terms on Capitol Hill that Massie has sought to remove a member of his own party from the chamber’s top job.

As you may have discerned, Wonder Boy has developed a well-earned reputation among his colleagues and others for not playing well with others. This go-round he’s portraying his effort as a blow against what he has dubbed the “uniparty,” claiming that Johnson’s continued presence as the chief cook-and-bottlewasher is akin to having an evil Democrat in the well.

In a Wednesday press conference with Greene on the Capitol grounds, Massie asserted that Johnson has gotten too buddy-buddy with minority Democrats. The cock, he intimated, has crowed three times, noting that since becoming presiding officer in October, Johnson has gotten behind “FISA without warrants, an omnibus with a new building for the FBI, and $100 billion for foreign aid with no border security in it.’’

“This was our last chance for leverage and the speaker gave it all up,’’ Massie said.

Johnson became speaker after a different band of right-wing Republican kooks put the kibosh on his predecessor, former Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a leader Massie supported, for being insufficiently observant of the conservative faith.

“To be honest, we have Mike Johnson because no one hated Mike Johnson,’’ Massie said. “There was nothing in his prior life, political or private, that qualified him for this job. He is a lost ball in tall weeds.’’

But Massie made clear that Johnson is really only a proxy for the real reason behind his wrath – Johnson’s reluctant willingness to work with Democrats like Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, to do what needs to be done.

This is called bipartisanship, which once was the preferred method of governing. It’s now evidence, to Massie’s way of thinking, that there is little, if any, difference in the philosophy between House and Senate Democrats.

“We will fight the uniparty,’’ Massie declared.

The uniparty, as you have likely discerned, is the newest boogeyman of the reactionary right, settling in beside such tried-and-true standards like open borders and abortion on demand.

Massie isn’t the only member of Congress damning the uniparty. As you might have heard, and expected, Massie’s partner in crime, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Bowling Green) is constantly railing against the governing methodology – using it, in fact, to condemn Johnson.

The American form of government has always been a messy sort of business, filled with denouncements and gnashing of teeth until both sides, Democrats and Republicans, reached some sort of resolution which, though not completely satisfactory to one party or the other, kept things humming until the next debate commenced.

No more. Bipartisanship is clearly a thing of the past. Republicans in particular have turned governing into a zero-sum game and working things out across the aisle has become a near impossibility.

Bipartisanship became a dirty word in the early 1990s when a conservative Republican faction in the House led by Newt Gingrich imposed a win-at-all-costs ethic. When Rep. Bob Michel (R-IL) retired as House Republican Leader in 1995, replaced by Gingrich, negotiations and compromise became little more than a mirage.

The antipathy toward bipartisanship essentially became formalized in November 2004. After a chaotic imbroglio that saw Gingrich step down and his anointed successor, Rep. Robert Livingston (R-LA), resign because of some sexual peccadillo, the job shifted to Rep. Denny Hastert of Illinois, who pledged to work in a bipartisan manner.

Instead, he instituted what has become known as the Hastert Rule – permitting floor votes only on bills that carried the support of a majority of the Republican caucus. It was, in other words, running the joint by a majority of the majority, granting increased influence to the farthest reaches of the party. As a result, for example, Congress hasn’t proved able to pass all 12 appropriations bills on time since 1997.

Johnson has, on occasion, been forced to detour from that rule. Last month the House voted to send $61 billion in military aid to a besieged Ukraine as it continues its fight against the Russian invasion. A majority of House Republicans opposed the measure. Regardless, it became law and the money is in the pipeline. The same is true for the $1.2 trillion omnibus bill to fund the federal government through Nov. 1.

He had little choice. Democrats control the Senate, albeit by the slimmest of margins, and any measure sent to the upper chamber would have to pass muster not only with Schumer but President Biden, who wields a veto pen when it suits him. Johnson has a tiny Republican majority in the House to work with, currently 217-213, leaving him with little wiggle room. So he decided to keep the government running and, despite early doubts, help Ukraine by allowing votes.

That is what has fueled Massie’s bile and his desire to give Johnson the heave-ho, calling the speaker’s actions a “total capitulation’’ and a “humiliation.’’ Yet, at this point at least, it appears House Democrats, along with scores of Republicans, are willing, in an interesting twist, to come to Johnson’s aid if the attempted bloodless coup is forthcoming. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, of New York, has indicated his party will likely seek to table the motion if it is brought up.

Jeffries is most probably acting based on the knowledge that any GOP replacement for Johnson will likely revert to the old partisan methods. And there is always the question whether any Republican can garner the support necessary to win the job – it took three weeks for the GOP to settle on Johnson as McCarthy’s replacement.

Truth be told, as Massie noted, ousting Johnson wouldn’t be any great loss. But at this stage, with elections looming and more issues – like the next budget – that need to be addressed, sticking with Johnson is the safe play.

“You may say this is lovely bipartisanship,’’ Massie said. “Look, reality is this isn’t policy. This isn’t like criminal justice reform where the left and the right can agree. This is about who holds that gavel. Right now they are both (Johnson and Jeffries) holding that gavel. They are sharing power about procedures, about what bills will come to the floor, about how long we will debate these bills and which committees are composed with which members.”

It’s called bipartisanship and, despite Massie’s objections, it seems to carry the support of an American public that prefers moderation. Just remember there was never much moderation with Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols.


Written by Bill Straub, a member of the KY Journalism Hall of Fame. Cross-posted from the Northern Kentucky Tribune.

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