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Pelosi extends proxy voting into mid-August

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Schumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi: White House made 'unacceptable changes' to testing language during negotiations on coronavirus stimulus MORE (D-Calif.) on Monday said House lawmakers who wish to vote remotely due to the pandemic can do so through mid-August, extending a deadline that was set to expire Saturday.

Pelosi first allowed proxy voting May 20. The new period for remote voting will last through Aug. 18.

Under the rules changes that House Democrats adopted in May, lawmakers who are unable to travel to Washington during the pandemic can authorize colleagues physically present in the Capitol to cast proxy votes on their behalf. Proxy voting is only allowed for 45 days at a time unless Pelosi, following confirmation from the House sergeant-at-arms and Capitol physician that there is a public health emergency due to the coronavirus, authorizes an extension.

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House Republicans, who have been calling for lawmakers to vote and attend committee meetings in person, widely opposed the rules changes and filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of proxy voting. GOP leaders have urged their members to come to the Capitol to vote in person and discouraged anyone from voting by proxy.

Monday's extension comes as the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. has spiked in recent days.

Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues that she was “hereby designating a ‘covered period’” and attached a notice from House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving stating that "the public health emergency due to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 remains in effect."

The House has now passed four bills with votes that were cast by proxy. About 70 Democrats voted by proxy in late May while the House considered bills to sanction Chinese officials over human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority and provide flexibility for small businesses using loans issued through the the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

But only around 30 Democrats voted by proxy last week on bills to reform police practices in response to the nationwide protests over racial injustice and to make Washington, D.C., the 51st state.

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Most of the lawmakers opting to vote by proxy have been from districts on the West Coast, particularly California, and those with health issues that make them more at risk of complications from the coronavirus.

A single lawmaker can serve as a proxy for up to 10 colleagues, meaning dozens still have to attend proceedings in person even if the maximum number of members wanted to vote from afar.

Proxy voting has precedent in both House and Senate committees in votes to advance bills to the floor. Republicans under then-Speaker Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE (R-Ga.) banned proxy voting in committees in the 1990s, but proxy voting is still permitted in Senate committees.

One GOP lawmaker — retiring Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Environmentalists sound alarm over Barrett's climate change comments |  Energy regulators signal support for carbon pricing in electricity markets| Methane emissions up in 2020 amid turbulent year for oil and gas Calls for COVID-19 tests at Capitol grow after Trump tests positive The Hill's Convention Report: Democrats gear up for Day Two of convention MORE (Fla.) — was absent when the House adopted the rules changes along party lines. But he later tweeted that "the House was right" to adopt the rules changes. A spokesman initially said at the time that Rooney would have voted for the rules changes if he had been present and that he intended to use the proxy voting system. But Rooney has continued to be absent for subsequent roll call votes and has not voted by proxy at any point.

Trump has signed into law two of the bills that the House passed with proxy votes: the PPP measure and sanctions over the treatment of the Uighurs.

The GOP-controlled Senate has been convening in person since May with some additional safety measures, such as enabling "hybrid" committee hearings with some senators and witnesses participating via videoconference and holding meetings in larger rooms to ensure everyone is keeping at least six feet apart in accordance with public health guidelines.