Pelosi extends proxy voting through mid-May
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Monday that proxy voting will remain available to House members through at least May 14 even as Capitol officials lift other pandemic precautions.
Proxy voting was set to expire at the end of this month absent another extension. Under the original rules House Democrats established for proxy voting in May 2020, it can be authorized for only 45 days at a time.
Each time, Pelosi has had to obtain confirmation from the House sergeant-at-arms and the Capitol physician that there is still a public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet lawmakers have ultimately embraced proxy voting beyond the original intent of allowing them to cast votes if they were sick with COVID-19 or had to quarantine.
Democrats and Republicans alike have used proxy voting as a scheduling convenience. And some lawmakers, particularly Democrats who backed proxy voting from the start, have argued it would be a practical permanent option for special circumstances such as a family emergency or birth of a child.
But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has repeatedly vowed to eliminate proxy voting if Republicans win the chamber’s majority in this year’s midterm elections.
While proxy voting will remain in place for now, Capitol officials have relaxed other measures in recent weeks established in response to the pandemic.
The Capitol physician rescinded the House mask mandate in late February in accordance with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that masks can be optional in places it considers to have low levels of COVID-19.
In addition, a phased reopening of the Capitol began on Monday to allow limited tour groups after the building had been closed to tourists since March 2020 when the pandemic began.
Yet the virus is still at large to some extent among Capitol denizens. At least 20 members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 this month alone, including five who received their diagnoses because of a testing requirement for anyone attending President Biden’s State of the Union address.