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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 PelosiIncreasingly active younger voters liberalize US electorate Sunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans The Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez 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 RaskinWatchdog finds Architect of the Capitol was sidelined from security planning ahead of Jan. 6 Six House Democrats ask Garland to review case of lawyer placed under house arrest over Chevron suit Democrats seek to keep spotlight on Capitol siege 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 JayapalBiden spending plans hit speed bumps Overnight Health Care: CDC approves Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12-15 | House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill | Panel blasts COVID-19 response House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill MORE (Wash.), Mark PocanMark William PocanProgressives divided over efforts to repeal SALT cap Left feels empowered after Biden backtracks on refugees NIH reverses Trump administration's ban on fetal tissue research MORE (Wis.) and Andy LevinAndrew (Andy) LevinSenate Democrats offer bill to scrap tax break for investment managers Overnight Energy: Update on Biden administration conservation goals | GOP sees opportunity to knock Biden amid rising gas prices | Push for nationwide electric vehicle charging stations Ocasio-Cortez, Levin introduce revised bill to provide nationwide electric vehicle charging network 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 CohenLobbying world Buttigieg charms Washington with his accessibility Chris Christie joins board of New York Mets MORE (Tenn.), Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchPelosi: Greene's 'verbal assault' of Ocasio-Cortez could be a matter for Ethics Committee Democrats fume over silence from DeSantis on Florida election Republican, Democratic lawmakers urge fully funding US assistance to Israel MORE (Fla.), Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterLawmakers demand justice for Adam Toledo: 'His hands were up. He was unarmed' Lawmakers say manufacturers are in better position to handle future pandemics Lawmakers grill NSA on years-old breach in the wake of massive Russian hack MORE (Ill.), Lois FrankelLois Jane FrankelDemocrats fume over silence from DeSantis on Florida election Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings dies at 84 Bill introduced to create RBG monument on Capitol Hill MORE (Fla.), Vicente Gonzalez (Texas), Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanLawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Race debate grips Congress Democrats ask Biden to reverse employee policy on past marijuana use MORE (Calif.), Jayapal, Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonWhy does Rep. Johnson oppose NASA's commercial human landing system? OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dakota Access pipeline to remain in operation despite calls for shutdown | Biden hopes to boost climate spending by B | White House budget proposes .4B for environmental justice Congressional proclamation prioritizes a critical societal issue: Lack of women of color in tech MORE (Texas), Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaSenate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech GOP downplays Jan. 6 violence: Like a 'normal tourist visit' House conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill MORE (Calif.), Levin, Alan LowenthalAlan Stuart LowenthalFace mask PPE is everywhere now — including the ocean Native Americans urge Deb Haaland to help tackle pollution in communities of color Bipartisan bill seeks to raise fees for public lands drilling MORE (Calif.), Pocan, Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderHouse moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill Blue Dogs push House leadership to allow more member input Democratic majority shrinks, but finds unity MORE (Ore.), Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonLawmakers roll out legislation to defend pipelines against cyber threats Lawmakers reach agreement on bipartisan Jan. 6 commission House lawmakers roll out bill to invest 0 million in state and local cybersecurity MORE (Miss.), Marc VeaseyMarc Allison VeaseyHouse fails to pass drug bill amid Jan. 6 tensions New signs of progress emerge on police reform OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Native groups hope Haaland's historic confirmation comes with tribal wins | EPA asks court to nix Trump rule limiting GHG regs | Green group asks regulators to block use of utility customers' money for lobbying  MORE (Texas), Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaDemocrats confront difficult prospects for midterms The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's next act: Massive infrastructure plan with tax hikes These House lawmakers aren't seeking reelection in 2022 MORE (Texas) and Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanLawmakers roll out legislation to defend pipelines against cyber threats Biden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package Senate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote 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 GallegoHispanic Democrats slam four Republicans over Jan. 6 vote in new ads Democrats want Arizona to reject mapping firm's application to redraw districts GOP lawmaker barricaded himself in bathroom with sword during Capitol riot 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 RooneyAllies of GOP leader vow to oust Liz Cheney Republican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC A party of ideas, not a cult of personality 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 McConnellWashington showing signs of normalcy after year of restrictions Former OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden Lawmakers reach agreement on bipartisan Jan. 6 commission 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 ScaliseMcCarthy dings Biden after meeting: Doesn't have 'energy of Donald Trump' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - What the CDC's updated mask guidance means Roy to challenge Stefanik for Cheney's old position 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.