Since mid-May, the House of Representatives has been using “proxy voting.” Proxy voting is a way to allow the House to vote on legislation when many Representatives are unable or unwilling to come to D.C. because of the coronavirus, or more accurately, the overreaction to the coronavirus.
The House passed a change to the House rules implementing proxy voting on May 15 by a largely party-line vote of 217-189.
You can see that vote here.
So how does proxy voting work?
Whenever the Speaker declares there is a “novel coronavirus” emergency, the representatives may vote by proxy voting up to 45 days. The speaker can then extend the time for proxy voting if she feels it’s necessary. In fact, she has already extended proxy voting to August.
A member who is unable to travel to D.C. can give another member their proxy by submitting a letter to the Clerk of the House. Representatives can revoke or alter their proxy at any time. A representative may have up to ten proxies.
Representatives holding a proxy must obtain instructions on how to vote before casting the vote. Votes will be recorded as by proxy, but the website of the House does not list what votes were cast by proxy.
Concerns have been raised that proxy voting deprives representatives of the opportunity to participate in debate, offer amendments, and confer with other representatives, staffers, and constituents before deciding how to vote.
Proxy voting also means representatives will not be able to strategize with other representatives on how to get leadership to make changes to the bill.
Concerns have also been raised that by reducing the number of representatives in D.C., proxy voting increases the already excessive influence of Pelosi and her “lieutenants” over legislation.
An alternative that some are supporting is remote voting, where representatives not able to go to D.C. participate in the debate via teleconference. The legislation authorizing proxy voting also authorized a study of remote voting. Of course, the best, and ultimately only acceptable solution, is for Congress to recognize there is no reason why a virus with a 99% recovery rate (with many of those experiencing no symptoms at all) should stop them from doing their jobs and showing up in D.C. After all, if meat packers, grocery clerks, Walmart and Target cashiers, and others can go to work then why shouldn’t Congress?