A year after the pandemic upended life in Congress and across the country, House Democrats are leaving the door open to keeping proxy voting in some form as part of the new normal on Capitol Hill.
House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse approves .9T COVID-19 relief in partisan voteOn The Money: COVID-19 relief bill on track for House passage, Biden signature Wednesday | First new checks to go out starting next weekOvernight Health Care: Study finds Pfizer vaccine neutralizes Brazilian variant | New CDC guidelines a blow for ailing airline industry | House to vote Wednesday on COVID reliefMORE (D-Md.) said this week its a question lawmakers will likely discuss as a potential option under limited circumstances, especially given how many Republicans are now embracing the practice as a matter of convenience.
I think there will be discussion about should we be able to vote remotely in other circumstances post-COVID-19, Hoyer said. There is really, you know, no magic in being in a particular room when you vote.
Rep. Dan KildeeDaniel (Dan) Timothy KildeeAmazon manager sues company over racial discrimination, harassment allegationsDemocratic fury with GOP explodes in HouseBiden pledges action on guns amid resistanceMORE (Mich.), who serves as House Democrats chief deputy whip, expressed support for allowing proxy voting in limited circumstances, such as the inability to travel due to a long-term illness. Kildee served as a proxy for Rep. John LewisJohn LewisMike Lee says ‘For the People’ voting bill is ‘as if written in hell by the devil himself’ Budowsky: Warning: Sen. Manchin could elect GOP Congress, POTUSExcerpts from Obama’s 2015 Selma speech to be built into the outside of his presidential centerMORE last year before the Georgia Democrat’s death from pancreatic cancer.
I think that’s something worthy of consideration. I think the threshold would have to be pretty high, but I would be open to it, Kildee said.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesWatch live: House Democrats hold briefing ahead of coronavirus aid vote House Democrats push to create public reminder of Jan. 6 riotJustice Dept. pledges to address hate crimes against Asian AmericansMORE (D-N.Y.) added: It’s a reasonable discussion for us to have.
The proxy voting system used in the House is currently in effect through the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Democrats began implementing the practice in May, and it was renewed in January.
The willingness to consider proxy voting on a permanent basis — even if its just for limited circumstances — is a sea change from a year ago when lawmakers in both parties were initially skeptical of the concept to adapt to the pandemic.
Republicans at the time were adamantly opposed to the idea and even filed a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. The suit was initially dismissed but Republicans filed an appeal.
Since then, however, the practice has become more bipartisan and routine. Many Republicans got on board when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyPost-pandemic plans for lawmakers: Chuck E. Cheese, visiting friends, hugging grandkidsMcCarthy calls on Pelosi to return Capitol to pre-pandemic operationsNo Republicans back .9T COVID-19 relief billMORE (R-Calif.) signaled after the Jan. 6 insurrection that they could use proxy voting out of security concerns surrounding travel.
House Republicans have continued to use proxy voting, including about a dozen who cast votes remotely while attending the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Fla., last month.
But there are still some GOP holdouts.
At a Republican conference meeting last week, lawmakers were divided over the practice; some suggested they should embrace it, others called for sticking with their initial opposition.
Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisHouse committee to consider Democrat challenge to results in Iowa congressional raceNew CDC guidelines a blow for ailing airline industryHouse-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interferenceMORE (Ill.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, argued there has been bipartisan abuse of proxy voting.
I do think that we need to get rid of proxy voting, Davis said, questioning the need for it when the Senate hasnt implemented a similar system.
While walking toward the Rotunda that divides the House and Senate wings of the Capitol, Davis joked, We’re almost at the imaginary force field where COVID changes and the reaction to it changes when we go to the Senate side.”
McCarthy this week called on Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP senator applauds restaurant stimulus money after voting against relief billMcCarthy calls on Pelosi to return Capitol to pre-pandemic operationsJayapal asks for ethics investigation into Boebert, Gosar, BrooksMORE (D-Calif.) to outline a plan for reopening the House with a return to more in-person hearings, ending proxy voting and mask rules, and resuming Capitol tours that have been suspended since the pandemic began.
He cited a statistic from the Capitol attending physicians office that said about 75 percent of House members are now fully vaccinated or will be in a matter of days.
Simply put: it’s time that we return to regular order, McCarthy wrote in a letter to Pelosi.
Hoyer said this week that he anticipates most House business will eventually return to its traditional in-person format to facilitate the relationship-building thats critical to lawmaking.
I think the majority believes that being in person is a positive way of doing business with one another in the legislative process, whether it’s in committee or on the floor or just on the Hill seeing one another, he told reporters.
In addition to proxy voting, committee business has also been altered by the pandemic. House Democratic leaders now schedule committee work weeks dedicated to hearings and markups that can be held virtually when lawmakers arent required to be in Washington for floor votes.
Some lawmakers say they appreciate the ability to conduct committee work remotely — Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarHouse vote on COVID-19 relief expected by WednesdayPartisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commissionAOC v. Pelosi: Round 12?MORE (D-Calif.) called the work weeks very efficient for handling oversight functions — while others are sick of Zoom calls and internet connectivity problems.
Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColePost-pandemic plans for lawmakers: Chuck E. Cheese, visiting friends, hugging grandkidsDemocratic women sound alarm on female unemploymentHouse votes to kick Greene off committees over embrace of conspiracy theoriesMORE (Okla.), the top Republican on the House Rules Committee, said reducing rank-and-file members time in Washington means they have fewer opportunities to influence legislation thats primarily driven by leadership.
A lot of business gets transacted on the floor, just interacting with other members. So missing that, I think, really weakens members, and honestly strengthens leadership. This place has become more top-heavy because of the way in which we vote and the amount of time it takes, Cole said.
Floor votes are now held open for 45 minutes, instead of the typical 15-minute cap, so that lawmakers can vote in small groups instead of crowding together like they did before the pandemic.
For critics of proxy voting, though, theres an acknowledgement of the uphill battle to reverse a practice that’s become commonplace.
I certainly said at the beginning, this is never going to go away once it’s implemented, Davis said.
Mike Lillis contributed.