U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) vowed at the America First Agenda summit in Washington on July 26 that Republicans would seek to end the practice of proxy voting “on the very first day” if the GOP takes back the House majority in the midterm elections.
The House had approved a measure at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2020 that allowed lawmakers to cast votes remotely through another colleague so that they didn’t have to physically be inside the chamber. It marked the first time that Congress members have been allowed to cast votes without being present.
Under the rules laid out in H.R. 965, sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), proxy voting was supposed to be in effect for only a limited time, since little was known about COVID-19 in 2020.
Republicans, in conjunction with the chamber’s only independent member, then-Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), voted unanimously against the measure. By contrast, only three Democrats voted against it.
Since May 2020, the rule change has been consistently extended and remains in effect at the time of publication.
Republicans have remained generally opposed to the measure since its approval.
Under a GOP majority, McCarthy said, “[Democrats] are going to have a rude awakening because no longer can you not show up to work and get paid—we’re going to take away the proxy voting.”
Pausing for a moment, McCarthy added, “On the very first day.”
The measure has met with opposition from Republicans since its original introduction and approval by the chamber’s Democratic majority. In a Jan. 12 speech on the House floor, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) criticized the practice.
“Have House Democrats become so averse to work that they now believe voting from their couches is a viable option?” Foxx asked. “It is time to end proxy voting once and for all. It is one of the many blemishes that have been put on this great body under one-party rule.
“If the current majority won’t end proxy voting, Republicans will snuff it out entirely when we take back the House. It is past time to get back to work.”
Near the end of 2021, McCarthy and several other Republicans sought to have the practice overturned by the Supreme Court, but their request was denied; the high court ruled that the House has the constitutional authority to set its own rules.
Democrats Cast the Most Proxy Votes
Despite criticism of the practice, particularly as the pandemic has eased, Pelosi has given no indication that she intends to end proxy voting any time soon.
According to a study released by the Republican-leaning Ripon Society, Democratic House members have voted by proxy far more than their Republican counterparts.
A total of 17,263 votes were cast by proxy in 2021, making up about 9.3 percent of all votes cast during the year. Of those proxy votes, 12,500—or approximately 72.4 percent—were cast by Democrats, while only 4,763 votes—or about 27.6 percent—were cast by Republicans.
Among the House’s 440 members, 339 have used proxy voting on at least one occasion.
Broken down by party, 202 out of the 225 House Democrats, or 89.8 percent of the Democratic caucus, have cast a proxy vote on at least one occasion. Among Republicans, 137 of the chamber’s 215 members have used the system, meaning 63.7 percent of House Republicans have voted by proxy at least once.
However, calls to end the practice have only gained steam among Republicans, who now seem poised to end the practice as soon as possible.