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House Republicans to file lawsuit to halt proxy voting

House Republicans to file lawsuit to halt proxy voting
© Bonnie Cash

House Republicans are preparing to file a lawsuit against Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Trump says stimulus deal will happen after election | Holiday spending estimates lowest in four years | Domestic workers saw jobs, hours plummet due to COVID Hoyer lays out ambitious Democratic agenda for 2021, with health care at top CNN won't run pro-Trump ad warning Biden will raise taxes on middle class MORE (D-Calif.) in an attempt to thwart the use of proxy voting, GOP staffers familiar with the legal action confirmed on Tuesday. 

The rules change allowing proxy voting was approved along party lines earlier this month and the first such vote is slated to take place Wednesday.

The Wall Street Journal first reported lawsuit would be filed.  

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyRocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire Trump is out of touch with Republican voters on climate change The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Iran, Russia election bombshell; final Prez debate tonight MORE (R-Calif.) is expected to spearhead the legal action with the support of 20 members of his conference including Rep. Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyBiden pushes into Trump territory In partisan slugfest, can Chip Roy overcome Trump troubles? McCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments MORE (R-Texas), House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats Cedric Richmond's next move: 'Sky's the limit' if Biden wins MORE (R-La.) and GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Steve King defends past comments on white supremacy, blasts NYT and GOP leaders in fiery floor speech GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power MORE (R-Wyo.), along with four constituents from different regions. The suit is expected to be filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.  

Republicans have been vocal in their disapproval of the rules change, which allows members to designate one of their colleagues to cast a vote on their behalf in the event they are unable to make it to Washington amid the pandemic. They allege it is unconstitutional, that it bucks precedent and that it places too much power in the hands of certain members.

"Our read is that this is unconstitutional and we think that ideally that Article I could have solved this on our own, but the majority passed rule that we believe is unconstitutional and so the remedy there is for us to go to the courts and ask for them to confirm our reading of the Constitution, and that will take a little bit of time,” one leadership aide told reporters, adding they believe it raises “significant constitutional questions if any law were to actually become effective as a result of these votes.”

Democrats argue the move was necessary to keep members and staff safe during the health crisis, noting that no member can cast votes by proxy for more than 10 members and lawmakers intended votes are put in writing ahead of being cast.

Earlier in the day, House Minority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHoyer lays out ambitious Democratic agenda for 2021, with health care at top Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate Trump orders aides to halt talks on COVID-19 relief MORE (D-Md.) had defended the Democrats' shift to proxy voting, characterizing it as a common-sense device for keeping the House functioning and empowering all lawmakers to participate in the process — even those who have health concerns that might keep them from Washington.

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"We believe proxy voting is not only consistent with the Constitution but consistent with the responsibility a member has to express the views of their constituents, whether or not they can get to Washington, D.C.," Hoyer said on a press call.

Hoyer also dismissed the GOP attacks on proxy voting as "disingenuous" and "ludicrous," noting that Senate Republican leaders routinely move legislation through the upper chamber by unanimous consent, allowing bills to pass with just a handful of senators in the Capitol.

"They call it unanimous consent, but what that means is two people are voting for the hundred," Hoyer said. "I see it as a political posture without merit." 

In addition to Pelosi, the House clerk and the sergeant-at-ams are expected to be named in the suit. 

Republicans could face difficulties in their legal efforts to stop proxy voting as the Constitution allows for the body to set its own rules. 

Updated at 6:15 p.m.