Florida Rep. Francis Rooney became the first House Republican to vote by proxy Wednesday, bucking his party’s leadership and its outspoken opposition to the emergency procedure.
Rooney, who is retiring at the end of this term, filed a letter in June with the House clerk designating Virginia Democratic Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. to serve as his proxy.
But he waited until this week to utilize it. He remains the only Republican who has expressed support for proxy voting, which enables a colleague to cast a vote on another lawmaker’s behalf if they can’t be in the Capitol.
“He can call me when he wants,” Beyer said back in June. “I have no idea what kind of pressure he may or may not be under.”
Beyer is a popular proxy choice for House Democrats, since he represents a Northern Virginia district that is just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
House Republicans are challenging the constitutionality of Democrats’ proxy voting rule in federal court and had not wanted any of their members voting by proxy. It was not immediately clear if the decision by Rooney could undercut the legal argument against the use of proxy votes by members unable to attend proceedings in person.
The first GOP proxy vote occurred on a procedural motion on ordering the previous question, thus proceeding to an immediate vote, on rules for floor debate for a package of fiscal 2021 spending bills that House leaders have put on the floor for the week. As is customary for members of the minority, Rooney voted no.
“As the member designated by Mr. Rooney of Florida, pursuant to House Resolution 965, I inform the House that Mr. Rooney will vote ‘No’ on the Previous Question,” Beyer said.
Beyer texted his communications director that there were, “audible gasps from the people in the Chamber” when he made the announcement.
The decision by Rooney to buck leadership and actually vote by proxy came the same day that Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, was found to have tested positive for the coronavirus. Gohmert was regularly around the Capitol complex not wearing a mask, raising concerns about possible asymptomatic spread.
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.