House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday criticized remote voting in the House as unconstitutional and vowed to push ahead with the lawsuit that House GOP leaders have filed in an effort to block the new rules change put in place by House Democrats during the pandemic.
“This is unconstitutional what the Democrats are doing,” McCarthy said. “It is essential that Congress continues to meet and that’s why we’ll move forward with the lawsuit.”
The House GOP leader went on to argue that any legislation passed under remote voting by proxy would be unconstitutional as well. “Whatever the Democrats propose to bring up cannot become law because it’s unconstitutional,” he said.
House Republican leaders are suing in an effort to stop the remote voting rule change, which was used in the House for the first time on Wednesday, underscoring the divide between the two parties over whether it’s safe to return to work amid the coronavirus pandemic and how to conduct legislative business during the crisis.
Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania made history on Wednesday afternoon when he became the first House member to cast a vote on the floor for an absent member. He voted on behalf of Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, who instructed him to vote for a measure imposing sanctions on China for its treatment of religious minorities. It was allowed under the new House proxy voting rules.
Republicans have questioned the constitutionality of the rules change and argued that the change is an unnecessary upending of institutional tradition, while Democrats have defended the change as constitutional and necessary to continue legislating safely and effectively.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed the lawsuit in a statement on Tuesday, calling it a “sad stunt.” “House Republicans’ sad stunt shows that their only focus is to delay and obstruct urgently-needed action to meet the needs of American workers and families during the coronavirus crisis,” she said.
Republican Rep. Chip Roy told CNN that the House GOP has been waiting for weeks to file a lawsuit against proxy voting
Shortly after Democrats unveiled their idea of proxy voting amid coronavirus, Roy, a Republican from Texas and a former federal prosecutor, began calling some of Washington’s conservative legal minds. What did they think? Was this Constitutional? Roy, who previously worked for Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. John Cornyn and on the Judiciary Committee, said it was “nearly unanimous” that none of them believed it was.
After a series of conversations, Roy said he began talking with McCarthy about his concern and about whether taking legal action might be an appropriate course of action. Without disclosing internal deliberations, Roy said that House Republicans have been ready for weeks to file this lawsuit, but were waiting until it was “ripe” and Democratic leaders announced an actual vote where members could vote by proxy.
“There were a number of us including the leader who were thinking about how this was something worth defending,” Roy told CNN on Tuesday. “We would have been ready to file awhile back. Once the speaker took action to trigger the rules, which was last week … that is when it really became ripe. We were ready to file.”
Roy said that some of his earliest conversations about the House’s proxy vote plan were had with Charles Cooper, a longtime conservative lawyer in Washington and friend who represented former national security adviser John Bolton last year in another lawsuit against the House that involved whether or not Bolton would testify before Congress. Cooper is representing House Republicans in this case.
“I believe we have a very strong case. … You cannot look at the text and structure of the constitution and say that a member can hand their vote to another,” Roy said. “You cannot set aside the Constitution for expediency.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.
CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.