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House GOP uses procedural tool to protest proxy voting

House GOP uses procedural tool to protest proxy voting
© Greg Nash

Republicans staged a protest against proxy voting Thursday by making a motion to adjourn the House, a move they're hoping will put Democrats in a bind.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), head of the conservative Freedom Caucus, introduced the motion to adjourn, with GOP lawmakers encouraged to refrain from voting on the motion so that House Democrats will be denied a quorum and forced to conduct official business through proxy votes.

“Basically, the Freedom Caucus wants [Democrats] to be forced to establish a quorum, and they don’t have enough members physically here so the quorum will only be through proxy,” one GOP aide told The Hill. 

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“Republicans are being urged to not vote on it. That makes it harder to reach a quorum [and therefore] defeat the motion,” said another GOP aide.

The office of the House minority whip previously sent out a note about the planned GOP procedural motion at 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

The motion was defeated in a 220-5 vote, with five Republicans opting to vote on the measure. Of those votes, 166 members cast votes in person — 50 short of a physical quorum, meaning proxy votes were needed to defeat the motion.

The Freedom Caucus hopes this will help their ongoing lawsuit challenging the practice of proxy voting during the pandemic.

Republicans are also pushing back on Democrats for scheduling bills like The Big Cat Public Safety Act and a measure aimed at legalizing marijuana when relief funding for small businesses hasn’t been authorized and a government funding deal has not yet been reached.

“[It] will be an effort to raise awareness — rather than debating COVID relief, voting on [Paycheck Protection Program] extension, government funding, etc. ... we’re voting on the Tiger King bill and legalizing weed,” one senior GOP aide said.

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Proponents of proxy voting argue that it’s necessary to keep members safe during the course of the pandemic, particularly as dozens of lawmakers have tested positive for COVID-19.

Top Republicans have been highly critical of Democrats’ decision to allow for proxy voting — which was approved in May along party lines — amid the pandemic, arguing lawmakers should be treated as essential workers and show up to work in person.

“They call it proxy voting, I call it exactly what it is — shadow voting. Democrats are turning away from their responsibility to their constituents," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyFive takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Environmental groups urge congressional leaders to leave climate provisions in infrastructure package Pelosi picks Democrats for special panel tackling inequality MORE (R-Calif.) said on the floor.

"They don't have to show up to vote because, guess what, someone else will do it for them," he said.

Updated at 3:31 p.m.