- The Washington Times - Friday, May 13, 2022

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has extended the House proxy voting period until the end of June, citing the public health emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The California Democrat informed lawmakers of the decision in a letter Friday, saying her move was made “in consultation with the Office of Attending Physician.” 

The authorization for proxy voting had been renewed before it expired at the end of March, and lawmakers debated whether the measure should be reformed to avoid abuse of the rule.

Republicans on the House Administration Committee criticized Mrs. Pelosi’s decision to extend the proxy voting rule, noting the COVID-19 spread level across the country is low.

“[Speaker Pelosi] has refused to fully reopen the House for 787 days. This is no longer about the pandemic,” House Administration Republicans tweeted. “New data shows the majority of the U.S. has hit the low COVID-19 community spread level. It’s past time to fully reopen.”

The House Democratic majority voted to allow for proxy voting in May 2020, which enabled lawmakers who expected to be absent from the floor to give written permission to another member to cast a vote on their behalf.

Republicans initially opposed the rule, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California warned the GOP would ban it if it captures the majority following the midterm elections.

Many GOP lawmakers argued that while its intention was to protect lawmakers during the pandemic, members on both sides of the aisle are abusing the system to vote remotely for reasons beyond the coronavirus.

Lawmakers have voted by proxy while campaigning, boating and in the congressional parking lot doing a media interview. However, supporters of proxy voting, mostly Democrats, say that Congress needs to modernize its work rules to be flexible for its members.

Mr. McCarthy became part of a lawsuit challenging the measure’s constitutionality, but the Supreme Court decided not to take up the case in January. During the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2021, many Republican lawmakers started voting by proxy.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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