House allows first ever proxy votes amid GOP objections

by WorldTribune Staff, May 28, 2020

The U.S. House of Representatives on May 27, for the first time in its 231-year history, allowed vote by proxy.

A rules change adopted earlier this month, along partisan lines, allows proxy voting in the House. /

“For 231 years, never have we seen a proxy vote on the floor of the House,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican said said. “We look at the history of America through the Yellow Fever of 1793, the Civil War, the burning of this Capitol during the War of 1812, the Spanish Flu of 1918, and even 9/11. Congress has never flinched from its constitutional duty to uphold and assemble inside this body.”

A rules change in the House adopted earlier this month, along partisan lines, allows virtual committee work by videoconference and proxy voting, meaning they authorized colleagues physically present in the House chamber to cast votes on their behalf.

Currently, there are 431 members in House and 74 Democrats were to vote by proxy. That means 17 percent of all members were voting remotely on Wednesday.

The vote was held a day after Republicans filed a lawsuit in the D.C. District Court challenging the constitutionality of proxy voting.

Democrats dismissed the lawsuit, pointing to legal precedent finding that each chamber of Congress has the authority to determine its own rules for proceedings.

“The House’s position that remote voting by proxy during a pandemic is fully consistent with the Constitution is supported by expert legal analyses,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

McCarthy said he thought any legislation passed with proxy votes would be unconstitutional.

“The Constitution is very clear about this. The founders believed we should assemble,” McCarthy said at a press conference on Wednesday.

It is unclear whether legislation passed with proxy votes, even bipartisan legislation, will be taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate or signed by President Donald Trump.

Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Brendan Boyle was the first House member ever to announce a vote by proxy on the House floor. Thirteen-term Representative Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, designated the three-term Pennsylvania congressman as her proxy.

The House’s remote voting plan allows for absent members to cast votes by proxy for 45 days. One member can vote proxy on behalf of up to 10 colleagues. The special provisions can be renewed for the remainder of the congressional term that ends in January.

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