In rare move, Republican Jewish Coalition targets a GOP congressman in primary
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In rare move, Republican Jewish Coalition targets a GOP congressman in primary

Group advocates for Kentucky rival after Thomas Massie tried to delay $2 trillion US House stimulus package to help economy fight pandemic

US Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, stops to speak with reporters as he leaves the Capitol after the coronavirus stimulus was passed in the House, March 27, 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images via JTA)
US Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, stops to speak with reporters as he leaves the Capitol after the coronavirus stimulus was passed in the House, March 27, 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images via JTA)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) — specifically its political action committee — has had it with Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky. And he’s a Republican.

Massie infuriated both his own party and US Democrats last week by exercising a procedural motion that might have delayed the vote on the $2 trillion stimulus in the wake of the economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. US President Donald Trump, a Republican, called Massie a “third-rate grandstander.”

Now the RJC said it will be backing Massie’s opponent in the Republican primary, which is scheduled for June 23, coronavirus willing. It’s a rare foray for a group that usually focuses on Democrats, plus partisan Jewish groups rarely get involved in primaries.

“After Rep. Massie recklessly decided to hold up the stimulus bill designed to help Americans who are struggling because of the coronavirus, the RJC PAC has decided to endorse and fund-raise for his GOP primary opponent, Todd McMurtry, and the RJC will be activating its nationwide team of volunteers to contact voters in the 4th congressional district of Kentucky to explain why it is so important to support McMurtry,” the group said in a news release last week.

Massie insisted that Congress adhere to a rule that a majority of House members are present to do business. Most members had returned home in order to avoid contracting or spreading the coronavirus.

US President Donald Trump signs the coronavirus stimulus relief package at the White House in Washington, DC, March 27, 2020. From left: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, House Minority Kevin McCarthy of California, and Vice President Mike Pence. (AP/Evan Vucci)

The RJC had already said in January that it would not back Massie and three other Republicans who voted against the Holocaust education act. Massie at the time said he opposed funding for the Department of Education, which at one point was to have administered the money for Holocaust education. In its final version, however, the bill funds the education through the US Holocaust and Memorial Museum.

In its release, the RJC cited that vote and others, including Massie’s vote last year against a resolution condemning Israel boycotters.

In an exception to steer clear of primaries, the RJC in 2014 campaigned against Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, who at the time had agreed to accept the endorsement of the political action committee of J Street, a liberal Jewish Middle East policy group. Jones, who has since died, won but declined thereafter to take J Street’s endorsement.

This cycle, the Democratic Majority for Israel, a centrist pro-Israel group, has run adds targeting the primary campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

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