Thomas Massie is getting very good at saying “no.”
In less than three months on Capitol Hill, the Kentucky congressman has voted no on the fiscal cliff deal, no on the rule for Republicans’ thwarted Plan B, voted no on the National Defense Authorization Act, voted no on all of the disaster relief for states affected by Hurricane Sandy and voted against John Boehner for speaker.
And he’s not getting tired of it.
The 42-year-old Republican with a deep libertarian streak says he’s here to be a “consistent conservative voice.” And while that might mean more headaches for the Republican leadership, Massie says he’s just doing what his supporters want him to do. After all, he won his special election in November with the backing of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), tea party groups and the fiscally conservative Club for Growth.
Those who are cheering Massie on are more than happy with the results they’ve seen from him so far, and already a few of them are hoping that he’ll be the guy to primary Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014.
“The door is not closed on him running against Mitch McConnell in 2014, and he’s the only candidate that could beat him,” said Preston Bates, co-founder of the super PAC Liberty for All, a group that spent $700,000 in Massie’s House race. “He’s already building a legacy in the House with his votes against Boehner and NDAA.”
Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller called Massie a “rock star for years to come.”
But a potential Senate run is something else Massie is saying no to, at least at the moment.
“Absolutely, positively not. Not in the cards. Mitch McConnell will be fine in the primary, and I look forward to doing the job that I have right now,” Massie said in an interview. “We get along. Occasionally, I introduce him at functions, and I’ve been to his fundraisers. Of course, I agree with Sen. Rand Paul on issues more than I do Mitch McConnell.”
But Massie, an MIT graduate who is rarely without a smile in the Capitol, doesn’t see himself as a rabble-rouser and gets along with pretty much everyone.
“I like Thomas a lot. He’s a very engaging guy and we have some very serious policy difference, but we have some things we’re working together on: legalization of hemp, he’s a supporter of alternative energies,” said Rep. John Yarmuth, the Kentucky delegation’s lone Democrat. “I don’t think Thomas is a real partisan Republican in the sense that he doesn’t have much allegiance to the party. You know when he’s taking a position he’s taking it honestly and thoughtfully.”
So thoughtfully in fact, Massie said he has the “opposite of attention deficit disorder.” He reads each piece of legislation, carefully weighing the pros and cons of each bill.
“I can focus on what seems to be the most boring things for days at a time,” Massie said.
Massie’s work as an engineer and inventor could help explain his obsessive attention to detail: He holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from MIT in engineering.
He grew up in a conservative community but didn’t become political until arriving in Cambridge, even once taking a macroeconomics class from liberal economist Paul Krugman.
“It was a very frustrating class. Although he used equations to describe his solutions, he never really solved his equations. We were asked to believe certain fundamental principles that couldn’t be proven,” he said. “It was more of a religion class than a science class.”
At MIT, Massie developed technology he eventually turned into a successful company, developing two dozen patents. He sold the company and returned to Kentucky with his wife — his high school sweetheart, Rhonda, who also attended MIT — to become a cattle farmer.
It was there that Massie began what he called his “slippery slope” into local politics, writing a letter to the editor of his local paper to protest a local tax increase. He organized others, and they stopped the tax from happening. He was eventually encouraged to run for Lewis County Judge Executive — a position similar to a mayor — and won.
Massie then realized his engineering background and ability to focus on seemingly small details were very relevant to work in government.
“I went through all my electric bills, the water bills, the phone bills, elevator contracts and I found enough wasteful spending without reducing any programs anywhere, without reducing any services, I found enough wasteful spending to pay my entire salary for three years,” he said. “I kept a spreadsheet of it, and every week I would add to the spreadsheet by going after some other aspect of the bills.”
His vote against John Boehner for speaker was equally methodical. As he considered who he would support — he ended up voting for Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) — he kept track of five “courage” votes “as kind of a bellwether or a litmus test” so he could see how other members of Congress matched up with his philosophies. Amash and Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) — both outspoken critics of Boehner — matched every vote.
“I don’t feel like I did it with a lack of information because I had been here throughout the entire fiscal cliff negotiations, and I felt like we needed to change direction,” he said. “In business, sometimes you have to change the CEO in order to change the direction of the company.”
But now that the vote’s over, Massie says he’s OK with the speaker.
“I like Speaker Boehner, and I consider it kind of like a primary vote. I didn’t vote for him in the primary, but now he’s our speaker and I will support him going forward.”
And while conventional wisdom suggests that the votes against Boehner worked to weaken the speaker, Massie says that Boehner should instead use hard-liners like himself to pressure President Barack Obama in future negotiations.
“Those votes could end up giving him more leverage,” Massie said. “If I were negotiating with the president, I would point at [the fact] that I represent a lot of conservatives and that in order to bring my conference along, we are not going to be able to increase spending.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/0...#ixzz2IEym4lGR