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Congress Clashes On Proxy Voting

TOPLINE

Republicans are pushing back hard against the implementation of proxy voting in the House, filing a lawsuit to block it and arguing that any legislation passed by proxy voting is unconstitutional, as more and more Democrats sign up.

KEY FACTS

The House earlier this month passed Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan to institute proxy voting, meant to reduce lawmakers’ in-person work and prevent the spread of coronavirus, in a party line vote earlier this month, with all Republicans voting against it.

The measure, which allows an absentee House member to designate another member to vote on their behalf, is unprecedented in American history and raises questions about whether Congress is constitutionally allowed to conduct its business remotely.

A group of Republican House members led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is suing Pelosi in federal court to block the plan, arguing that it “contravenes the founders’ design” and would “allow as few as 20 Representatives to control the votes of 220.”

McCarthy has also argued that any legislation passed by proxy voting would violate Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution, which requires congress to have “a Quorum to do business.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also opposed efforts to institute proxy voting in the upper chamber, opting instead to return the Senate to session earlier this month in spite of the health risks posed by COVID-19.

So far, 71 House Democrats have designated proxies, with many more expected to come, but no Republicans have done so.

Chief Critic

A number of constitutional scholars have pushed back on Republicans’ claims that the Constitution forbids remote or proxy voting. “None of the clauses in which those terms appear is actually about how Congress casts or counts its votes,” Yeshiva University Law Professor Deborah Pearlstein writes in The Atlantic. The Constitution, she argues, leaves the manner in which Congress votes up to Congress itself. “This constitutional flexibility has enabled Congress to embrace the various informal solutions that it has long used to ‘do business,’ such as counting on members to give “unanimous consent,’” she adds.

Tangent

Of the 71 proxy designations, six have been for Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and another six have been for Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), members whose districts are nearby DC. Other popular choices were Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who were each designated by four colleagues, and Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), who were chosen by three.

Big Number

8,406. The DC metro area has had one of the most persistent COVID-19 outbreaks in the country. As of Tuesday, the district had 8,406 cases of coronavirus and 445 deaths, with 72 new cases and 5 deaths in the last day according to data from the DC Health Department.

What To Look For

The courts are unlikely to vote in the House GOP’s favor, typically deferring to Congress on matters of internal process. However, Republicans’ invalidation of legislation passed by proxy voting and refusal to participate could have a severe impact on Congress’ ability to govern.

Source: Forbes Business

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