Rooney becomes first House Republican to use proxy voting system

Rooney becomes first House Republican to use proxy voting system
© Greg Nash

Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Gohmert tests positive; safety fears escalate on Capitol Hill Pelosi to require masks on House floor Rooney becomes first House Republican to use proxy voting system MORE (Fla.) became the first GOP lawmaker to vote by proxy Wednesday, bucking House Republican leaders’ calls for members to vote in person during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rooney, who is retiring at the end of the Congress and has not been at the Capitol in more than four months, selected Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) to vote in his place while he remained in his Florida district. 

Rooney previously designated Beyer to be his proxy in May, but was urged against moving forward with the remote vote by House Republican leadership, who argue it is unconstitutional and that lawmakers should be treated as essential workers. 

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After the House passed a temporary rule change to allow members to designate a colleague to vote in their place during the course of the pandemic along party lines in May, Rooney voiced his support for the change. 

Top Republicans have repeatedly railed against the rule change, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief A trillion stimulus, but Kevin McCarthy for renewable energy — leading businesses want to change that When will telling the truth in politics matter again? MORE (R-Calif.) and roughly 20 GOP lawmakers filing a lawsuit in May in an attempt to thwart the use of the system.

Rooney represents a state that is now an epicenter for the coronavirus. And earlier Wednesday, Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump order aims to curb US agencies' use of foreign workers after TVA outrage | EPA transition back to the office alarms employees | Hundreds of green groups oppose BLM nominee Interior stresses 'showing up for work' after Grijalva tests positive for coronavirus Trump's junk medicine puts his own supporters at deadly risk MORE (R-Texas), who was repeatedly seen at the Capitol not wearing a mask, announced he had tested positive for the virus.

Rooney defended his decision in a series of tweets, arguing that's believes it's the responsible move during the health crisis.

"As I have said before, Congress should utilize modern technology to permit remote voting. While I wanted to proxy vote as soon as the Speaker set it up, I agreed to wait until the lawsuit challenging its legality had been heard, which has now happened," he said. 

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"Votes have been occurring remotely for several months now, with no adverse consequences. Given the recent COVID-19 positive test results for my colleagues, including Louie Gohmert today, this method of voting is the prudent and rational course of action. (2/3)," he tweeted.

"Remote voting effectuates social distancing and follows proper health procedures. The work of Congress must continue, but it need not put people at risk unnecessarily."