Following her earlier controversial move allowing lawmakers to vote by proxy in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) extended the provision this week, according to the Washington Examiner.
The Democratic Party leader rubber-stamped her chamber’s new normal on Wednesday, providing legislators the opportunity to vote while away from Capitol Hill until at least Nov. 16.
A controversial change
She initially passed the proxy voting rule in May, upending longstanding congressional precedent in the stated pursuit of reducing the health risk to members of the House.
Citing the continued public health crisis, Pelosi unilaterally extended the period for a third time, two days before the prior extension had been set to expire.
As written, the rule allows a proxy lawmaker to vote for up to 10 other members not present on Capitol Hill. Republicans have long complained that the rule is a radical break from House norms and reduces accountability for those serving in the chamber.
Efforts to reverse the rule, however, have been unsuccessful. Last month, a judge dismissed one lawsuit filed on behalf of the GOP to end proxy voting.
When the provision was first presented, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) expressed his concerns about the precedent it could set.
“Disconnected from the American people”
“A virtual Congress will be a Congress that is connected to the Internet, but disconnected from the American people,” he said at the time.
Signaling her party’s general support for more restrictive coronavirus precautions, Pelosi also passed a rule earlier this year forcing lawmakers to wear face masks while on the House floor. She also came under fire, however, when surveillance footage revealed her inside a San Francisco hair salon without a mask in apparent violation of local restrictions.
This all comes as Congress continues to negotiate the terms of a second coronavirus stimulus bill, with Pelosi failing to reach a deal in ongoing talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“We come from two different places,” she said this week after their latest meeting. “Hopefully we can find our common ground on this and do so soon.”
While the rules of Congress are important for many reasons, American voters struggling through the impact of the pandemic are more interested in the ability of lawmakers to actually propose and pass laws that will help them.