Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blasted Democrats on Thursday morning for changing House rules to allow for remote voting on legislation, and accused Democrats of “playing games with the Constitution so they can continue their never-ending spring break well into July.”
During a speech on the Senate floor, McConnell spoke out against recent changes to House voting rules, which will allow members to vote on behalf of up to ten other members for the next 45 days.
“Since the early days of this crisis, the self-described ‘People’s House’ has been suspiciously empty of people,” said McConnell. “I understand they’ve convened for legislative session a grand total of two days — two — in the last eight weeks.”
“But there’s a new wrinkle: House Democrats jammed through a precedent-breaking remote voting scheme that will let one member cast ten additional votes,” he continued. “There will be enormous constitutional questions around anything the House does if they fail to demonstrate a real quorum but plow ahead anyhow.”
Last Friday, the House voted along party lines to allow the Speaker to temporarily change the voting rules. According to The Hill, three Democrats voted against the move and no Republicans voted for it. However, Congressman Francis Rooney (R-FL), who was not present for the vote, showed support for it after it passed.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) enacted the rule change on Wednesday, formally allowing members to designate another House member as a proxy for the purposes of voting, reports The Washington Times.
“If some people should stay home because of a health issue — thank you for not sharing. We’d rather you do stay home. And if transportation is difficult in that regard we want their voices to be heard,” said Pelosi. “The planning that has gone into it has been very smart.”
Roll Call reports that any member of the House who wishes to designate a proxy must send a letter to the clerk’s office, but the letter does not require the member to provide voting instructions. The proxy voting period may also be extended, or shortened, based on the Speaker’s correspondence with the Sergeant at Arms.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told House members in a memo that the “new proxy voting system has been developed to afford members greater flexibility to safely record their votes during this national pandemic,” reports the news agency.
According to Vox, the speaker previously indicated that the House should only adopt remote voting plans for special circumstances and has also implied that members of congress haven’t been the primary consideration for plans to adopt remote voting.
“It’s not just about us. It’s about the staff, it’s about the press, it’s about the security, it’s about those who run the buildings,” Pelosi told reporters in April.
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