Cheney says she remains open to remote voting, blasts proxy voting system

Greg Nash

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) asserted she’s open to the idea of remote voting during the coronavirus pandemic but slammed Democrats for moving forward with a new system for proxy voting for their first votes on Wednesday afternoon.

Cheney — the No. 3 GOP lawmaker in the House — alleged that Democrats are using the pandemic for political gain, arguing that the recent rule changes to allow for proxy voting “infringes on the rights of the minority party.”

The House passed the rule change along party lines on May 15, allowing members to designate one of their congressional colleagues to vote on their behalf on the House floor.

Dozens of lawmakers plan to vote by proxy this week, with members required to provide specific written instructions for each vote. Those acting as proxies can also cast no more than 10 votes on behalf of their colleagues who aren’t in Washington, D.C.

Democrats have argued that the rule change was necessary to keep lawmakers safe by limiting the number of them gathered on the House floor during the pandemic, though Republicans have blasted the move and have filed a lawsuit against the new system.

“We’ve all tried to reach across the aisle and work with our counterparts on the Democratic side to help to come up with ways that Congress can operate, to help to come up with ways that we can fulfill the constitutional requirement that we’d be present,” Cheney said at a press conference Wednesday with other GOP leaders.

“Now, in my own view, being present doesn’t necessarily require physical presence. I think that remote operations are possible, but that is not the path that Democrats have gone down. What the Democrats have done, instead of working with us, is using this crisis to try to gain partisan benefit.” 

Cheney said she believes lawmakers need to come together to find a bipartisan solution for members to be able to legislate during a time of crisis, accusing Democratic leadership of failing to negotiate in good faith on a plan that both parties could support. 

“You know, a number of us, including ranking member of the Rules Committee, Mr. [Tom] Cole, and the leader and the whip, a number of us have worked closely with the Democrats to try to say, listen, let’s come up with ways as we did after 9/11 that we can operate in the middle of the pandemic and let’s also look for ways to protect us in the future,” she continued, referring to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

“We know there will be future crises and we know that we’ve got to come up with ways that we can operate in the future. There may be certain circumstances when we cannot assemble at the Capitol,” Cheney said, adding “it may be that we need to look at things like voting remotely” but blasting House Democrats’ handling of the issue.

The Wyoming Republican pointed to the Democratic report on voting options released in March, noting it included language stating the change could face constitutional challenges, but said there were suggestions made that Republicans could potentially get behind. 

“She then commissioned a report, the report came up with some interesting suggestions. There were some good suggestions in the report,” Cheney said, referring to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“The report also noted the proxy voting was likely unconstitutional, the Democrats’ own report. So instead of going down the path of saying how can we do together, the Democrats have adopted a completely partisan scheme. And they have done it in a way that absolutely infringes on the rights of the minority, and infringes on the Constitution.”

Her criticisms of proxy voting come shortly after House Republicans filed a lawsuit against Pelosi, the House clerk and the sergeant at arms in an attempt to prevent its use. 

While GOP lawmakers have been highly critical of the change, blasting it for bucking precedent and alleging it places too much power in the hands of certain lawmakers, Democrats assert its a necessary step in keeping members and staff safe during the pandemic.

GOP lawmakers argue they should be treated as essential workers and have gone as far as questioning the validity of legislation passed using proxy votes, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hinting that he doesn’t plan to take up House legislation passed using the new system.

“It’s a sad day that we have got to be to the position where we’re bringing suit against the Speaker,” Cheney said. “We’re bringing suit against the Democrats, in order to prevent them from pushing this proxy vote through.”

Tags Kevin McCarthy Liz Cheney Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Proxy voting remote voting Steve Scalise

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