Friday, October 7, 2022

Pelosi Prolongs Proxy Voting as COVID Cases Trend Downward

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House members will be able to vote by proxy until the end of September, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) announced today, citing the COVID-19 pandemic even as cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to trend downward.

Proxy voting, which means that one member of the House can cast a vote on behalf on an absent member, started in May 2020, and Pelosi has extended it multiple times, citing “the public health emergency due to the novel coronavirus.” The proxy-voting period would have ended Aug. 12 had Pelosi not extended it to Sept. 26.

The pandemic did not stop Democratic users of the proxy-voting system from racking up travel expenses for their reelection campaigns. Pelosi’s fellow California Democrat, Rep. Eric Swalwell, last year voted by proxy 141 times while spending $45,000 at luxury hotels. Hawaii Democratic representative Kai Kahele voted in-person only 5 times between January and April, proxy-voting 120 times. Kansas Democratic representative Sharice Davids  cited “the ongoing public health emergency” to justify skipping in-person voting as she stayed in $1,000-per-night hotels for fundraisers.

The Senate has required in-person voting throughout the pandemic. Senate Democrats last week threw out COVID safety protocols to ensure the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) has promised to end proxy voting if Republicans win control of the House in November. McCarthy said in a statement last year that proxy voting is unconstitutional.

“Although the Constitution allows Congress to write its own rules, those rules cannot violate the Constitution itself, including the requirement to actually assemble in person,” McCarthy said.

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