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House members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes

House lawmakers are bustling to prepare for the chamber’s historic first remote votes this week, with a race on for members to secure proxies, who are limited to representing 10 colleagues each.

Some Democrats who represent districts near the nation's capital are suddenly experiencing a surge in popularity among representatives who can't travel to Washington as easily. 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 | Lawmakers see better prospects for COVID deal after election Overnight Health Care: House Dem report blasts Trump coronavirus response | Regeneron halts trial of antibody drug in sickest hospitalized patients | McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday officially invoked a 45-day period for remote voting and committee work, which can be renewed as necessary as a way to reduce the risk of coronavirus contagion for lawmakers and anyone they come into contact with while the pandemic persists.

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Within 48 hours, Rep. Don Beyer, a Northern Virginia Democrat whose commute to the Capitol is only about a 15-minute drive, had already received nearly the maximum number of requests from colleagues asking if he could serve as their proxy.

Beyer said Friday that he had already agreed to serve as a proxy for nine others, leaving him only one slot to spare.

“It's too bad that we have to have this, but it’s my pleasure to be able to do it for my friends. I know they really want to participate. They want to be on the record,” Beyer told The Hill. “It seems a lot better than just not being able to do the people's work or putting a bunch of people at grave risk.”

Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinCongress must repeal tax breaks for the wealthy passed in CARES Act COVID-19 and the problem of presidential succession Warren, Porter to headline progressive fundraiser supporting seven swing state candidates MORE, who similarly has a short commute from Takoma Park, Md., is also serving as a proxy for at least three other Democratic lawmakers: Reps. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Ocasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair MORE (Wash.), Mark PocanMark William PocanCutting defense spending by 10 percent would debilitate America's military Progressive lawmakers call for United Nations probe into DHS 'human rights abuses' The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Barrett touts independence to sidestep confirmation questions MORE (Wis.) and Andy LevinAndrew (Andy) LevinInslee calls Biden climate plan 'perfect for the moment' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: 20 states sue over Trump rule limiting states from blocking pipeline projects | House Democrats add 'forever chemicals' provisions to defense bill after spiking big amendment | Lawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money House Democrats add some 'forever chemicals' provisions to defense bill after spiking major amendment MORE (Mich.).

The House is scheduled to meet for two days after Memorial Day to vote on bills to extend government surveillance powers and give small businesses more flexibility while using the loans offered through the Paycheck Protection Program due to the pandemic.

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But the session will also serve the first test for the rules changes that House Democrats adopted earlier this month to create an alternative to their usual gathering closely in the Capitol.

The House clerk’s website has a running list of more than a dozen Democrats already confirmed as planning to vote by proxy: Reps. Gil CisnerosGilbert (Gil) Ray CisnerosMORE (Calif.), Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenDe Blasio mum on whether he'll block sale of Mets to controversial investor Two ethics groups call on House to begin impeachment inquiry against Barr Jewish lawmakers targeted by anti-Semitic tweets ahead of election: ADL MORE (Tenn.), Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchShakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Matt Gaetz, Roger Stone back far-right activist Laura Loomer in congressional bid MORE (Fla.), Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterWorking together to effectively address patient identification during COVID-19 Britain to infect healthy individuals with coronavirus for vaccine trials Pelosi, Mnuchin continue COVID-19 talks amid dwindling odds for deal MORE (Ill.), Lois FrankelLois Jane FrankelShakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Hillicon Valley: Democrats demand answers over Russian interference bulletin | Google Cloud wins defense contract for cancer research | Cyberattack disrupts virtual classes MORE (Fla.), Vicente Gonzalez (Texas), Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill | Poll: Two-thirds of voters support Biden climate plan | Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill OVERNIGHT ENERGY:  House passes sweeping clean energy bill | Pebble Mine CEO resigns over secretly recorded comments about government officials  | Corporations roll out climate goals amid growing pressure to deliver MORE (Calif.), Jayapal, Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonHillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll House passes legislation to boost election security research Hillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump campaign tweet of Biden clip as manipulated media | Democrats demand in-person election security briefings resume | Proposed rules to protect power grid raise concerns MORE (Texas), Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaReestablishing American prosperity by investing in the 'Badger Belt' House Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Biden says he opposes Supreme Court term limits MORE (Calif.), Levin, Alan LowenthalAlan Stuart LowenthalProgressive lawmakers call for United Nations probe into DHS 'human rights abuses' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill | Poll: Two-thirds of voters support Biden climate plan | Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill MORE (Calif.), Pocan, Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderHouse members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes The 14 Democrats who broke with their party on coronavirus relief vote House votes to condemn Trump Medicaid block grant policy MORE (Ore.), Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Long-shot Espy campaign sees national boost in weeks before election House chairman asks Secret Service for briefing on COVID-19 safeguards for agents MORE (Miss.), Marc VeaseyMarc Allison VeaseyJoaquin Castro questions whether postal workers broke federal law by hiding mail Chinese tech giants caught up in rising US-China tensions House members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes MORE (Texas), Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaHispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden builds big lead in battleground Florida Texas Democrat proposes COVID-19 victims' compensation fund MORE (Texas) and Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanDemocrats smell blood with new DHS whistleblower complaint New Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman wins Democratic primary MORE (N.J.).

A number of the designated proxies don’t represent districts in the Washington, D.C., region, or even within a few hours driving distance. Schrader and Vela, for instance, have designated Arizona Reps. Tom O’Halleran and Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoMark Kelly releases Spanish ad featuring Rep. Gallego Legal marijuana backers tout potential money for states Leadership matters: President's words and actions show he is unfit to lead our nation MORE as their proxies, respectively.

And so far the number of lawmakers making public their plans to vote by proxy are a fraction of the 233-member Democratic caucus — an indication that a majority are still planning to show up to the Capitol despite the risks and logistical difficulties posed by extensive travel.

“It seems like many members are going to try and get back for next week. I think some folks are worried about how it would look to miss the vote,” a Democratic aide said.

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Republicans, meanwhile, remain adamant that lawmakers should be voting in person during the crisis as a way to show solidarity with essential workers who can’t telework.

With the exception of retiring Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Environmentalists sound alarm over Barrett's climate change comments |  Energy regulators signal support for carbon pricing in electricity markets| Methane emissions up in 2020 amid turbulent year for oil and gas Calls for COVID-19 tests at Capitol grow after Trump tests positive The Hill's Convention Report: Democrats gear up for Day Two of convention MORE (R-Fla.), who supports the rules changes and has indicated he plans to use proxy voting, most Republicans are expected to eschew the option.

The rules changes, which were adopted along party lines, state that any lawmakers who vote by proxy are counted toward a quorum.

But Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTop Senate GOP super PAC makes final .6M investment in Michigan Senate race On The Money: McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 | Lawmakers see better prospects for COVID deal after election Overnight Health Care: House Dem report blasts Trump coronavirus response | Regeneron halts trial of antibody drug in sickest hospitalized patients | McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 MORE (Ky.), who has made a point of convening the upper chamber over the last few weeks, argue that only in-person presence should count toward a quorum and warn that anything otherwise could run counter to the Constitution.

“I would doubt seriously if [Democrats] brought a major piece of legislation onto the floor without 218 people in the Capitol complex,” House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOvernight Health Care: House Dem report blasts Trump coronavirus response | Regeneron halts trial of antibody drug in sickest hospitalized patients | McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 Democrats call Trump's COVID-19 response 'among the worst failures of leadership in American history' House Republicans slated to hold leadership election on Nov. 17 MORE (R-La.) told The Hill. “It’s more concern for Pelosi because it does raise the question of credibility of a bill passing if there are fewer than a majority of members there.”

Democrats reject that argument and point to legal precedent determining that each chamber of Congress has discretion over how to conduct its proceedings.

“Remote voting by proxy is fully consistent with the Constitution and more than a century of legal precedent, including Supreme Court cases, that make clear that the House can determine its own rules,” Pelosi said in a statement. 

Furthermore, there is historical precedent for proxy voting in House and Senate committees. Proxy voting in House committees was used until Republicans under then-Speaker Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE (R-Ga.) ended it in the 1990s, but the practice is still allowed in Senate committees.

The House is setting a new precedent, however, in allowing proxy voting on the floor. 

Under the new rules, members voting by proxy must provide exact written instructions for each vote, including any unexpected procedural votes. The votes of lawmakers voting by proxy will also be announced from the floor during each vote. 

“Perhaps if in the next hundred years there's another crisis, we'll have precedent and know how to go forward,” Beyer said.

Juliegrace Brufke contributed.