House Minority Leader Rep.Kevin McCarthy is asking the Supreme Court to end proxy voting in the House, which was adopted as a pandemic emergency measure last year.
As with so many other “emergency measures” adopted by Democrats across the country, proxy voting is rapidly becoming a permanent fixture of government. The procedure allows for “remote legislating.” Instead of members having to be physically present to cast their votes, they can ask another member to cast their vote for them.
Members of Congress actually love proxy voting because it allows them to be in two places at once. They can be attending a committee hearing, confer with their staff, or meet up with their mistress and still vote on important legislation.
Proxy voting is supported by some Republicans, but McCarthy thinks it violates the spirit of the Constitution if not the letter of the law.
“Although the Constitution allows Congress to write its own rules, those rules cannot violate the Constitution itself,” Mr. McCarthy said in a statement, “including the requirement to actually assemble in person.”
House Democrats implemented the special rules in May 2020, allowing lawmakers who were not present to designate other members as proxies who would cast their votes according to specific instructions. They have argued that the changes are necessary for safety reasons, given the danger of traveling in a pandemic and the need for social distancing. They have also noted that a number of Republican lawmakers have refused to share their vaccination status or wear masks in the crowded rooms of Congress.
In July, an appeals court said that the federal courts had no jurisdiction over House rules and procedures. But McCarthy is not persuaded. He’s troubled that permanently adopting an emergency measure would set a bad precedent. He and other House Republicans have pledged to end proxy voting if they take back the house in 2022.
The system, which has also allowed members of Congress for the first time to conduct remote committee hearings and file bills electronically, has been used by lawmakers in both parties for purposes other than its intended one. Some members have used remote voting to save them the hassle of traveling from their districts to Washington, while others have used it to be able to cast a vote while attending political events. And it has served the interests of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who can ill afford absences in Democratic ranks given her slim majority in the House.
In fact, wrangling enough Democratic votes for a majority, especially on procedural matters that are usually decided along party lines, can be a headache for Pelosi. McCarthy figures that it will complicate her life substantially for the next year and a half if he can get the Supreme Court to see it his way.