Republicans in Congress are keeping a close eye on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) plan to allow proxy voting on legislation in the House of Representatives.
“There will be enormous constitutional questions around anything the House does if they fail to demonstrate a real quorum but plow ahead anyhow,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said during a speech before the Senate on Thursday, the Washington Examiner reported.
The House has only convened twice in the past eight weeks with Pelosi claiming that it is too unsafe for members to return because of the coronavirus. Of course, this has made it difficult for House members to get anything done.
Accordingly, Pelosi and the Democrats passed a rule change last week which would allow proxy voting.
According to this new rule, one member of congress who is present in the House will be allowed to vote for up to ten absent colleagues. The only requirement is that those absent members must transmit their intention, in writing, to the proxy as well as to the House clerk.
This rule is now in place for a period of 45 days. When that time runs out, however, Pelosi does have the power unilaterally to renew the rule for another period of time.
Republicans in both the House and the Senate vehemently disagreed with the rule change.
Those in the House argued that the measure is just unnecessary, that procedures could be put in place to make it safe to return to Washington D.C. Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, called it unconstitutional.
“The Constitution requires a physical quorum to do business,” McConnell said. “The new rule says one person may mark himself and 10 others present, even if they are nowhere in sight, a flat-out lie.”
Indeed, according to the long-established rules of congress, a majority of the members of the House of Representatives must be present before business can proceed. That number is usually 218 unless there are some vacant seats, in which case it is a little lower.
We will not really know what is going to happen until the House actually attempts to put this new rule into action by voting on a piece of legislation by proxy. If that does happen, then it is likely that the House will face a legal challenge.
The Republicans are onto Pelosi and the Democrats with this one.