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Nearly 4 in 10 House members to vote remotely as Omicron soars

More than a third of House members are ready to vote remotely this week – a reflection of deep fears of the coronavirus at the highest level of government, as well as the adoption of proxy voting for other reasons .

Why is this important: Proxy voting was enacted to allow representatives to reduce their risk of contracting the virus, but it also undermined the convening of the People’s House and allowed alternative political activities, including overseas travel and fundraising. funds.

  • The uneven application of COVID-19 reporting requirements and practices to Congress compounds the problem.
  • Senators or Representatives are not required to report their vaccinations or COVID status, although Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) and Nancy Mace (RS.C.) were among the most recent to announce positive results.
  • Members of the House are being punished for refusing to wear a mask in their bedroom, but two Georgia Republicans have racked up more than $ 100,000 in combined fines in defiance of the rule.

Driving the news: Axios discovered that 158 ​​lawmakers filed active proxy voting letters with the House Clerk’s office before the Monday night quorum was called at 6:30 p.m.

  • Fifty-eight of these letters alone arrived during the day. They appointed a colleague to vote on behalf of another member.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has extended the use of proxy voting until February 13, and some lawmakers privately expect her to extend it for another 45 days.
  • Over the weekend, before members returned for the first time since early December, the House imposed new coronavirus precautions.
  • The Capitol doctor urged staff to wear KN95 masks and “adopt maximum telecommuting posture.”

The big picture: The House established proxy voting in May 2020 to allow members to follow COVID protocols and avoid travel during the height of the pandemic.

  • While Republicans have criticized the practice, with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy asking the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional, members of both parties have used – and extended – proxy voting for the past 19 months.
  • In August, Reps Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) And Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) Slipped to Afghanistan on their own fact-finding mission, but did not miss a roll-call vote because they had appointed agents in Washington. .
  • AOC also voted once “present” – by proxy.

In numbers : Lawmakers have made more than 3,300 proxy designations since the practice began, with some House members making dozens of requests and changing which lawmakers they vote on.

  • In October, when the House was brought back to session after the Columbus Day recess to vote for an extension of the short-term debt ceiling, 160 lawmakers voted in absentia.
  • In the first year, the number of active proxies fluctuated, with the number of lawmakers making short proxy requests increasing over time, according to the Brookings Institution.

How it works: Lawmakers file a master letter with the Clerk of the House to invoke the proxy rule. They cite “the ongoing public health emergency” and designate a colleague – usually from the same party – to know how to vote on a given bill.

  • The legislator is required to document the voting instructions that he gives to his proxy.

Go further: Some Republicans who have vigorously opposed proxy voting have used it in practice.

  • Some used it to tour the border with former President Trump in the summer of 2020, as votes were called in Congress.
  • A handful of California lawmakers have voted by proxy more than 250 times since May 2020, with Representative Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), 85, citing her age and stroke history, using it almost 400 times, reported the Los Angeles Times. in August.
  • Rep. Tom Malinowski (DN.J.) used the proxy vote on the debt ceiling because he was raising money in California, according to the New Jersey Globe.