There was plenty at stake in a bill that proponents are calling “historic,” and yet 158 House members — more than a third of the body — didn’t even bother showing up for the vote. Rather, they were content to take advantage of proxy voting rules that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi controversially ushered in during the pandemic and still clings to like microchip stocks.
To use proxy voting, House members must submit a signed statement to the House clerk declaring they are “unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency.” In reality, members are using the scheme to take early recesses, schmooze donors and campaign for office.
“When those people go up, and they vote by proxy, they’re LYING.”
— Rep. Chip Roy Press Office (@RepChipRoy) August 17, 2022
Despite the fact that only a few hardcore Branch Covidians still think Covid-19 presents a “public health emergency,” Pelosi on Aug. 9 extended proxy voting rules until Sept 26. Serving as an accomplice in the farce, House Sergeant at Arms William Walker continues to certify that a public health emergency exists.
Even The New York Times has spotlighted the ulterior motives:
Perhaps no one has benefited more from the arrangement than Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who recently informed lawmakers that proxy voting would be in effect for the remainder of the summer. It has allowed Ms. Pelosi, whose majority is so slim that she can afford to lose no more than four Democrats if every member is present and voting, to all but ensure that absences alone do not cost her pivotal support.
Central Texas House Republican Chip Roy decried the state of affairs in a colorful text to the Austin American-Statesman:
“It’s bullshit the Democrats can just call a last-minute vote knowing half their caucus are free to vote by proxy. And it’s perhaps even higher level bullshit that many Republicans (even ones who signed litigation challenging it) similarly proxy vote and stay on vacation while those of us trying to defend any semblance of fidelity to the Constitution and respect of the institution to look each other in the eye and treat our offices with respect — and it’s exquisite next level bullshit that the Supreme Court hid behind speech and debate to avoid the plain text, obvious unconstitutionality of not being present to do our jobs.”
In January, the Supreme Court chose not to hear an appeal by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who’d argued proxy voting is unconstitutional. Earlier, in a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said courts had no jurisdiction to rule on House procedures, which are adopted under the Constitution’s speech or debate clause. The court didn’t rule on whether proxies count toward a quorum.
That lawsuit originally had more than 150 Republican House members listed as plaintiffs. In the end, there were just two: McCarthy and Roy. While others still supported the suit, many removed their names after they’d used proxy voting themselves and reasoned it wouldn’t help the case to keep plaintiffs who’d taken advantage of the very rule they were challenging.
Austin Republican representative Michael McCaul told the Statesman that proxy voting is having an insidious effect:
“The broader concern is that it encourages disengagement by members — hearings and markups are nearly empty with little attendance. There is no reason to extend remote voting. It’s time we return to regular order — members should be here in D.C. working for their constituents.”
While this tweet doesn’t actually show proxy voting, it does illustrate the disengaged culture that McCaul spoke of, as an Arizona Democrat casually registers a committee vote from some leisurely setting far from DC:
This is one example of what proxy voting (the fancy congressional term for “working from home”) has looked like over the past two years. Phoning it in from a boat. pic.twitter.com/agmfXbVd26
— Rachel Bovard (@rachelbovard) August 12, 2022
The Senate hasn’t adopted a proxy voting provision. The House rule does not allow a “general proxy.” Absent members must provide exact instruction on each vote. Present members can vote on behalf of up to 10 others.
In the military, Democratic New Jersey Rep. Albio Sires would be derisively called “retired on active duty.” Cruising through his final term, the 71-year-old voted entirely by proxy from January through April.
As mentioned earlier, many Republicans are indulging in the rule, too. For example, several GOP members declared they were unable to physically attend proceedings because of the purported health emergency, only to instead attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Pelosi may not have the power to extend proxy voting much longer. “If Republicans earn back the majority, proxy voting will be eliminated on Day One,” a spokesman for McCarthy said in January.
“Proxy voting” in Congress was supposedly created for those who had COVID or feared contracting COVID and therefore couldn’t come to work. Now it’s being abused by members who are campaigning for other offices or raising money. Number of times I’ve voted by proxy? ZERO. https://t.co/Oe6rUxcZPj
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) July 18, 2022
Fri, 08/19/2022 – 21:20
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Author: Tyler Durden