Pelosi extends House proxy voting despite pandemic decline

Pelosi extends House proxy voting despite pandemic decline

While tourists can now roam the halls of the Capitol and members of Congress can mingle mask-free, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has once again extended the COVID-imposed policy of proxy, or remote voting.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced on Monday that she would not require members to be physically present for votes until mid-May at the earliest, extending the order she put in place at the start of the 117th Congress in January 2021.

Pelosi cited a Monday letter from House Sergeant-at-Arms William J. Walker stating that the public health emergency “remains in effect”

“I am hereby extending the ‘covered period’ designated on January 4, 2021 … until May 14, 2022,” Pelosi wrote in a Dear Colleague letter.

Instead of being physically present on the floor, members can continue to submit their votes on legislation and other matters through designated members.

The Senate has not implemented such a rule despite the pandemic, requiring all 100 members to be present for their votes.

Members of the House on both sides of the aisle have repeatedly used the order since it was first implemented.

While it’s intent was to allow for social distancing and caution during the early days of the pandemic, many members have taken advantage of the order in order to cross other items off their personal agenda.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and GOP members previously sued House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for authorizing proxy voting.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In one instance, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) requested to vote by proxy in order to file paperwork in Los Angeles to run for mayor, according to the LA Times. Bass submitted her intent to vote by proxy two days before.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who has frequently voted by proxy, reportedly used the practice in order to conduct a video interview in his car with the Philadelphia Inquirer, according to the same outlet.

“We have a long vote series today, so I got to step out of the Capital and I’m excited about having this conversation,” he said in the interview.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) reportedly also used the practice last month in order to campaign for Senate.

Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Fla
Rep. Bill Johnson argued coronavirus isn’t a valid excuse to continue proxy voting.
House Television via AP

Even House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) voted via proxy earlier this year, on the same day she appeared with former President Donald Trump for a fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago home.

Currently, there are 43 active letters of intent to use proxy voting among the House. The oldest one was submitted by Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), who submitted it on December 2nd of last year.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) blasted the extension Tuesday, calling it the “show-up-if-convenient policy,” in a statement to The Federalist.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy responds to a question from the news media during a press conference outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, USA, 27 May 2020.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy accused Democrats of being obsessed with “control.”

“This has nothing to do with science, but everything to do with Democrats insatiable obsession with control,” he said.

McCarthy challenged the order as unconstitutional soon after it took effect in May 2020, taking the matter all the way to the Supreme Court, which rejected it in January.

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) echoed the minority leader’s criticism on Twitter, saying Democrats were “abusing” the practice.

“Nancy Pelosi can do what she wants- she’s the Speaker. But let’s no longer pretend that Covid is the reason for continued proxy voting. Democrats are abusing it, and it should end…and it will next year,” he wrote.

If Republicans do take back the House in this fall’s midterm elections, McCarthy has vowed to eliminate proxy voting.

“Our very first day is rules,” he recently told Punchbowl News. “We’re no longer going to do proxy voting. People are going to be here.”

While Pelosi holds up the pandemic regulation, state and local governments have lifted most COVID-19 restrictions, including mask mandates and vaccine requirements.

More than 80% of US citizens have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, with hospitalizations and deaths continuing to drop.

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