Beginning last summer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and fellow Democrat House leaders changed the rules governing the chamber to allow for members to cast remote or proxy votes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Pelosi has issued an update.
On Friday, the speaker announced that she had decided to extend the use of proxy voting through the end of this year, Newsmax reported.
The move will undoubtedly cause additional consternation among House Republicans, who from the start have strongly opposed the rule change, which relaxed the longstanding requirement that members must be present in the chamber to cast their votes.
Proxy voting extended – again
Speaker Pelosi made her announcement by way of a brief “Dear Colleague” note posted to her official website Friday.
She wrote that per the House sergeant-at-arms and “in consultation with the Office of Attending Physician,” and because “a public health emergency is in effect due to a novel coronavirus, I am hereby extending the ‘covered period’ designated on January 4, 2021, pursuant to section 3(s) of House Resolution 8, until December 30, 2021.”
Linked within that notification from Pelosi was a letter she had just received that day from House Sergeant-at-Arms William Walker.
In it, Walker wrote:
Pursuant to section 3(s) of House Resolution 8, following consultation with the Office of Attending Physician, I write to provide you further notification that the public health emergency due to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 remains in effect.
Pelosi keeps it going
In a similar “Dear Colleague” note issued on Sept. 30, Pelosi had extended the so-called “covered period” during which remote and proxy voting would be allowed through Nov. 15.
Another extension in mid-August allowed it through Oct. 1, according to a report published by The Hill at that time. The new practice was initially authorized in 45-day extendable increments by the House resolution referenced by Pelosi, which was passed on May 27, 2020.
Though some House Republicans have accepted the rule change or exploited it for other purposes — as some Democrats themselves have also done — a majority of the GOP caucus remains opposed, reports indicate.
In fact, House Republicans even filed a lawsuit seeking to have the old rule restored.
Unfortunately, The Hill reported that the lawsuit, filed in 2020, was finally dismissed earlier in 2021 by a federal appeals court, which determined that the courts lacked any authority or jurisdiction to interfere with internal House rules that have always been under the sole purview of members themselves.