The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Jan. 24 to hear a legal challenge by Republican lawmakers to COVID-19-related proxy voting rules for House members that were set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The rules, which were set up in May 2020, allow members of the House to serve as proxies for colleagues in isolation due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, or who otherwise aren’t able to cast votes on the floor.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other GOP members filed a challenge with the high court to reverse a lower court decision in July 2021 on the rules. At the time, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agreed that courts don’t have jurisdiction to weigh in on the House’s rules and procedures, affirming another lower court decision that reached a similar conclusion.
The Pelosi-backed proxy voting resolution passed by the House enabled lawmakers to act as a proxy for as many as 10 colleagues at any one time, requiring that they disclose which members they intended to represent. It was embraced early in the pandemic and was intended to be temporary, but has been extended several times, and remains in effect until at least Feb. 13.
Republican lawmakers have said the measure is a violation of the Constitution, arguing that only lawmakers actually present within the halls of Congress can cast votes, with McCarthy saying in a statement that he wanted to turn back Pelosi’s “perpetual proxy voting power grab.”
GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) said at a press conference last week with other Republican leaders: “We believe in in-person voting. When Republicans win back the House, that’s what we are committed to.”
Republicans also have called the proxy voting resolution a way for Democrats to maintain their slim majority in the House regardless of whether all their members are present on Capitol Hill.
“Nothing shook that uninterrupted tradition—not the Yellow Fever epidemic, not the burning of the Capitol in the War of 1812, not the Civil War, not the Spanish Flu, not two World Wars, not the 9/11 terrorist attacks,” Republicans wrote to the Supreme Court in their filing.
But Pelosi’s team wrote in court papers that “in light of the pandemic and advances in modern technology, the House has reasonably authorized members to vote remotely by providing binding, precise instructions to a member on the floor.”
The House, meanwhile, has utilized other rules that were created during the pandemic, including a requirement for wearing masks and a prohibition on congregating in an area called the Speakers Lobby outside the House chamber. In addition, many House and Senate hearings are held virtually, and tourists aren’t allowed in the Capitol.
Reuters contributed to this report.