Pelosi blasts House Republicans over lawsuit to halt proxy voting: ‘Sad stunt’

Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) late Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit from House Republicans seeking to block the chamber from holding proxy voting, in which members vote for colleagues remotely on the House floor.

Pelosi issued a statement calling the lawsuit a “sad stunt” aimed at distracting from new efforts for an additional relief bill amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The House made its will clear two weeks ago when it voted to implement remote voting by proxy and other necessary measures to ensure that Congress can continue to protect lives and livelihoods,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“The House’s position that remote voting by proxy during a pandemic is fully consistent with the Constitution is supported by expert legal analyses. Further, the Supreme Court made clear over a century ago that the Constitution empowers each chamber of Congress to set its own procedural rules,” she added.

House Republicans filed a lawsuit earlier Tuesday seeking to thwart the use of proxy voting. A rules change allowing the remote voting was approved along party lines earlier this month.

Republicans have for weeks fiercely criticized the effort, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) dubbing it an “unconstitutional proxy voting scheme.”

“It could allow as few as 20 Representatives to control the votes of 220. This is NOT the representative democracy our Founders envisioned or what our Constitution allows,” he tweeted Tuesday night.

McCarthy and 20 other GOP members, along with four constituents, are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

The GOP leader noted in a statement that nearly 60 Democrats plan to vote remotely this week amid health concerns about traveling to the nation’s capital. D.C. remains under a stay-at-home order.

“This is not simply arcane parliamentary procedure. It is a brazen violation of the Constitution, a dereliction of our duty as elected officials, and would silence the American people’s voice during a crisis,” McCarthy said.

Republicans have argued that the rules change is unconstitutional and bucks precedent while also placing too much power in the hands of a select number of members.

Democrats, meanwhile, say that the change was necessary to limit the number of people on the House floor during the pandemic.

Lawmakers’ intended votes must be put in writing ahead of them being cast, and no member can cast proxy votes for more than 10 colleagues.

“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.,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on a press call earlier Tuesday.

The House is slated to hold its first remote votes on Wednesday afternoon.

“As our nation approaches the heartbreaking milestone of 100,000 lives lost to COVID-19, House Republicans must stop their dangerous obstruction and join Democrats to save lives, defeat the virus and grow the economy,” Pelosi said in her statement.

Tags Constitution Coronavirus Kevin McCarthy Nancy Pelosi Proxy voting Steny Hoyer
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