Vote on Rules Change for Proxy Voting Cancelled, Bipartisan Group to Plan Reopening House

April 22, 2020 Updated: April 23, 2020

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urged Speaker Nancy Pelosi to establish a plan for reconvening the House because Representatives’ work is “essential.”

The House went into its fourth week of working remotely, affecting lawmaker’s ability to deliberate on legislation and conduct oversight.

“In my view, conducting the business of the People’s House is the definition of ‘essential work’—just as many of our friends and neighbors continue working to hold up our communities on a daily basis,” McCarthy wrote.

McCarthy said that limiting the work of Congress should not become the new normal and that he is ready to work on a bipartisan solution to enable the House to get back to their full duties.

McCarthy asked the Speaker to consider how high priority legislation, like the National Defense Authorization Act and Appropriations for 2021, were going to be reviewed with the current limitations. McCarthy suggested resuming in-person meetings while adhering to physical distancing guidelines to avoid infection.

The California Representative recommended revising the House Calendar to reflect the lost weeks, in which important legislation could not be reviewed.

McCarthy also addressed his concern with members getting enough preparation time before recorded votes are cast on the floor of the House.

The Minority Leader reiterated his concern for voting by proxy.

“It has been reported that Chairman McGovern is recommending a House rules change to allow for ‘voting by proxy’ during this period. What are the details of this proposal, how will it avoid potential abuses of power, and when do you expect this proposal to be made public for the necessary scrutiny and member input that changing 200 years of House precedent would merit?”

Top Democrats have called for changing House rules to allow remote voting during the pandemic, and Pelosi tasked Chairman of the House Rules Committee, Jim McGovern, to research the issue and present the case for secure remote voting to the leadership for consideration.

The Senate is having a similar debate on proxy voting verses convening. In a Twitter entry, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voiced his preference for all the senators to get back to Capitol Hill but added he would be willing to support remote-voting as a second choice.

“I just offered an amendment to allow remote voting if necessary. I strongly believe Congress should at once return into session. If not, remote voting should be available during emergencies.”

A vote was scheduled in the House for Thursday on changing the rule for how members cast their votes during the pandemic.

But Pelosi announced Wednesday that she canceled the rules change vote. She told reporters that she and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) would instead set up a group of bipartisan lawmakers to study remote voting and proxy voting as a way to reconvene the House safely.

Other members of the group planning the reopening of the House are Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.); Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.); the top Republican on the Rules Committee Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.); House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.); and the top Republican on that panel, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.).