Conservative lawmakers tell Trump to 'back off' attacks on GOP colleague

Two conservative lawmakers are coming to the defense of a GOP colleague after President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE launched into a fiery attack against Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieHouse holds first-ever proxy votes during pandemic House GOP lawmaker breaks with party to back proxy voting House adopts historic rules changes to allow remote voting MORE (R-Ky.) for suggesting he might delay passage of the $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package.

Reps. Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyHouse passes bill to grant flexibility for small business aid program The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter House Republicans to file lawsuit to halt proxy voting MORE (R-Texas) and Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarConservative lawmakers press Trump to suspend guest worker programs for a year Impeachment figure among those chosen for Facebook's new oversight board Cruz rebukes San Antonio City Council for denouncing 'Chinese virus' as hate speech MORE (R-Ariz.), both members of the House Freedom Caucus, pushed back on Trump after he called for Massie to be kicked out of the Republican Party if he objects to the bill. Such an objection would then require House members to travel to D.C. in the midst of the pandemic for a roll-call vote.

Roy, who has quickly built a reputation as a firebrand, had a straightforward message for Trump: "Back off."

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"@RepThomasMassie is one of the most principled men in Congress & loves his country. He is defending the Constitution today by requiring a quorum. There’s nothing 3rd rate about that, @realDonaldTrump. I may miss vote if he forces roll call (flights) but it will pass. Back off," Roy tweeted.

The economic relief package, the largest in U.S. history, is expected to pass with broad bipartisan support, like it did in the Senate, but it will be delayed if Massie opposes it during a unanimous-consent vote.

Roy and Massie have in the past faced ire from members of their own party. Last year, the two Republicans held up a long-delayed $19.1 billion emergency aid package that aimed to provide relief for communities and others who were recovering from natural disasters, hurricanes and wildfires, drawing condemnation from other GOP lawmakers.

Gosar tweeted shortly after Roy, defending Massie from what he suggested was an unfair attack from the president.

"@realDonaldTrump Mr. President. @RepThomasMassie is a good man and a solid conservative. He believes in the Constitution strongly. We won’t always agree on strategy or policy. But he doesn’t warrant this dressing down. Thomas—Hang tough brother. #CoronavirusOutbreak," Gosar tweeted.

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Their public pushback comes after Trump lambasted Massie on Twitter as a "third rate Grandstander" from Kentucky who is seeking "publicity" if he votes against the Save Our Workers Bill.

"WIN BACK HOUSE, but throw Massie out of Republican Party!" the president wrote in a subsequent tweet.

Public sparring between Trump and GOP lawmakers has become increasingly rare as the president seeks to ridicule critics who speak out against him or his policies, often by going on the attack and sometimes even endorsing a primary opponent to hurt their reelection prospects.

Still, Trump was joined by Democrats in blasting Massie.

"Breaking news: Congressman Massie has tested positive for being an asshole. He must be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity. He's given new meaning to the term #Masshole. (Finally, something the president and I can agree on!)" tweeted former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe continuous whipsawing of climate change policy Budowsky: United Democrats and Biden's New Deal Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil MORE.

The attacks put Massie in a difficult political position. Trump could seek to further punish him if he follows through with his "no" vote, or he could back down after taking such a public stand.

The vote in the House comes after the White House and Senate leadership scrambled to reach a bipartisan agreement that would provide financial relief to individuals, businesses and major industries impacted by the coronavirus. While neither side is happy with all aspects of the bill, the legislation aims to protect companies and industries such as airlines, hotels and restaurants that have seen their business suddenly slow amid guidance from the federal government to self-isolate and social-distance from other people.