Like other workplaces around the world, Congress is trying to adapt amid the pandemic. House Democrats have proposed what is a major – temporary – change to Congress’ rarely changed rules: Vote-by-proxy.
The change allows one member in Washington to vote on behalf of up to 10 other lawmakers who are not, allowing them to work remotely. So far, the option has proved popular among Democrats: More than 70 members have expressed interest with the House clerk as of Wednesday afternoon.
But most Republicans are not on board. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and others filed a lawsuit arguing that each individual member will have their vote unconstitutionally diluted by the proxy vote rules change and that constituents will have their representation in Congress diluted by the rules change.
This opposition is rooted in a couple key factors.
For starters: Many of these members represent districts in states that have led the charge to reopen – and returning to Washington allows them to practice what they preach to their constituents.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn tweeted his criticism of proxy voting Tuesday night: “Mailing it in while the rest of America is safely reopening and going back to work.” The Senate, with 100 members compared to the House’s 435, returned to Washington earlier this month with social distancing in place.
Another component: The Constitution. This method of remote voting means voting power is consolidated in the hands of that proxy, which Republicans argue is unconstitutional. Democrats disagree: “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 Tuesday.
And not for nothing: This is a big change! Congress, stuffed to its gills with tradition, rarely changes its rules – And this is significant, even if it is temporary!
To be fair, not every House Republican is opposed. Florida Rep. Francis Rooney tweeted recently that “proxy/remote voting allows for distancing/following of proper health procedures,” adding, “We have important work to do over the coming months & it cannot be delayed; however, it isn’t necessary to put people at risk in the process.”
The Point: There’s a bit more to the Republican opposition to proxy voting than simply opposing Democrats.