House Republicans to file lawsuit to halt proxy voting

Bonnie Cash

House Republicans are preparing to file a lawsuit against Speaker Nancy Pelosi (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.  

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is expected to spearhead the legal action with the support of 20 members of his conference including Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (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 Hoyer (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.

“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.

Tags Chip Roy Coronavirus COVID-19 Kevin McCarthy Liz Cheney Nancy Pelosi Proxy voting Steny Hoyer Steve Scalise
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