Pelosi extends proxy voting to October

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks prior to enrolling the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act on Wednesday, July 21, 2021.
Greg Nash

House members can continue to vote by proxy during the COVID-19 pandemic through at least Oct. 1, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Friday.

Proxy voting was set to expire on Aug. 17 under the previous extension issued by Pelosi absent further renewal. But other COVID-19 restrictions that had been relaxed slightly earlier this summer, such as the House mask mandate, have since gone back into effect, making it all but inevitable that proxy voting would remain in place.

Proxy voting has been in place since May 27 of last year, when House Democrats first established alternative ways for members to cast votes and participate in committee business virtually to address the risks of travel during the pandemic and so that they could all still work if they get sick or have to quarantine.

Under the rules Democrats first adopted last year, proxy voting is only allowed for 45 days at a time unless the Speaker authorizes an extension, which requires confirmation from the House sergeant-at-arms and Capitol physician that there is still a public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly all Republicans initially opposed proxy voting when it was first established, with many signing on to a lawsuit to challenge its constitutionality.

But over time, some Republicans have embraced proxy voting due to the pandemic and for unrelated reasons altogether. Several retiring GOP lawmakers first embraced it at the end of last year, and more followed suit after the Jan. 6 insurrection due to safety concerns.

More than a dozen Republicans voted by proxy in February — which requires filing letters with the House clerk stating they can’t attend floor proceedings “due to the ongoing public health emergency” — so they could go to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla.

The GOP lawsuit challenging proxy voting has further been rejected in the courts, with a federal appeals court ruling last month that the lawsuit lacked jurisdiction because the court didn’t have the authority to make decisions about House rules.

The rise in cases nationally due to the delta variant of COVID-19 has also led to a resumption of pandemic restrictions in the Capitol. After a nearly six-month stretch without any members of Congress revealing they had tested positive for COVID-19, at least five lawmakers have caught the virus in the last few weeks. Four of those lawmakers were fully vaccinated and experienced breakthrough cases, while the fifth did not reveal his vaccination status.

The Capitol physician reinstated the House mask mandate late last month, citing the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant.

That led to several Republicans refusing to wear masks on the House floor in protest, despite the risk of facing fines starting at $500 for noncompliance.

All Democrats in the House and Senate have confirmed they are fully vaccinated, while a recent CNN survey found that nearly half of House Republicans have declined to say if they are vaccinated. Some Republicans, such as Reps. Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Byron Donalds (Fla.), have openly said they have no intention of getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

Across the Capitol, the Senate does not have any form of remote voting and masks are still only recommended rather than required.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Nancy Pelosi Thomas Massie

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