House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has, once again, extended the pandemic-related proxy voting policy for members of the House of Representatives, which will allow lawmakers to continue voting on legislation without physically showing up to the Capitol building if they pick another lawmaker to vote on their behalf and notify the House clerk in a letter.
The proxy voting policy, which prompted Republican lawmakers to unsuccessfully sue Pelosi the first time she unveiled it, has been extended repeatedly since the pandemic began, and its current iteration was supposed to expire on May 19, 2021. But despite a record-high number of Americans who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, record-low COVID-19 deaths across the country, and changes to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDCs) masking guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals, Pelosi has decided to extend the policy into the summer.
“In light of the attached notification by the Acting Sergeant-at-Arms, in consultation with the Office of Attending Physician, that a public health emergency is in effect due to a novel coronavirus, I am hereby extending the ‘covered period” designated on January 4, 2021, pursuant to section 3(s) of House Resolution 8, until July 3, 2021,” said Pelosi in a statement.
According to The Hill, about 75% of lawmakers in the House have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Republican lawmakers have been critical of the proxy voting policy, which allows a member to ask another member to vote on their behalf so long as the member provides instructions for how to cast their vote. When the policy was first announced last year, more than a dozen Republicans, including members of the Republican leadership, filed a lawsuit.
“It is simply impossible to read the constitution and overlook its repeated and emphatic requirement that Members of Congress actually assemble in their respective chambers when they vote, whether on matters as weighty as declaring war or as ordinary as naming a bridge….That requirement is no less mandatory in the midst of a pandemic…as the House’s forebears amply demonstrated when facing a far more deadly pandemic a little more than a century ago,” read the text of the lawsuit against Pelosi.
A federal judge dismissed the suit several months later, arguing that the court did not have the necessary standing to review the case because of the Speech and Debate Clause in the U.S. Congress.
More recently, two GOP lawmakers called out other Republicans lawmakers for relying on the policy for non-pandemic-related outings, including to attend CPAC in Orlando.
“Democrats in particular are destroying the institution by doing this — we don’t meet, we don’t debate, we don’t amend,” Congressmen Chip Roy, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, said in a statement back in March 2021. “But even a number of my GOP colleagues are now complicit and have given in to the Democrats’ recklessness.”
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) expressed similar sentiments. “They sign a paper saying, ‘Due to the pandemic or the health emergency, I am unable to vote in person.’ But we know that they’re then going to other events,” he said. “We had a bunch of Republicans go to CPAC on Friday. Democrats have been abusing this. The numbers go up on fly-out days.”
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