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House proxy voting extended through mid-August

Continued presence of the coronavirus pandemic and infections prompts decision

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has extended the House’s use of the proxy voting system because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has extended the House’s use of the proxy voting system because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/POOL)

Proxy voting has been extended through mid-August in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi alerted members in a Dear Colleague letter on Monday.

House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving, in consultation with the Office of the Attending Physician, notified Pelosi that the public health emergency due to the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic remains ongoing.

“I am hereby extending the ‘covered period’ designated on May 20, 2020, pursuant to section 1(a) of House Resolution 965, until August 18, 2020,” Pelosi wrote.

The proxy voting period was implemented on May 20, for 45 days. It allows lawmakers who do not feel comfortable traveling to Washington because of the pandemic to stay home and still vote on the House floor and participate in committee meetings.

The historic rules change that allowed for implementation of a proxy voting period also gave Pelosi the authority to extend the 45-day period or end it early based upon future correspondence from the SAA about the status of the public health emergency.

The submission of a proxy vote is a lengthy process. It begins with a letter to the House clerk, followed by the announcement from the designee at the microphone and another announcement by the clerk of the absent lawmaker’s position during the vote. Only once the clerk voices the position does it appear illuminated on the wall alongside the electronic votes of their physically present colleagues.

The temporary allowance of proxy voting is the most significant update to voting procedures since the elimination of “teller votes” in 1971 and the debut of the current electronic voting system in 1973. Democrats pushed through the temporary rules change without support from Republicans.

Scores of House Democrats have used the proxy voting system since it was activated in May, but Republicans maintain their opposition. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sued Pelosi to block the proxy voting system, calling it unconstitutional.

Last week, amid a slew of floor votes on high-profile legislation, Republicans accounted for significant absences. On the last vote of the week on Friday, on a measure to grant Washington, D.C., statehood, 19 Republicans did not vote, while all 233 Democrats did. Earlier in the week, on a measure to overhaul policing, 14 Republicans did not vote, while all Democrats did.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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