House Republicans are suing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to stop the new rules allowing members of Congress to vote by proxy. The Democrat-led rule change was approved in response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic despite the Senate returning to Washington, D.C., and working under safety guidelines.
The lawsuit was filed in the D.C. Federal District Court and it says the rule change under H. RES 965 is unconstitutional.
“This week, House Democrats will break over 230 years of precedent and allow Members of Congress to vote by proxy on the House floor. This is not simply [an] arcane parliamentary procedure. It is a brazen violation of the Constitution, a dereliction of our duty as elected officials, and would silence the American people’s voice during a crisis," Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said in a statement. "Although I wish this matter could have been solved on a bipartisan basis, the stakes are too high to let this injustice go unaddressed. That is why, along with other members of the House and our constituents, I have filed a lawsuit in federal court to overturn Speaker Pelosi’s unconstitutional power grab."
Since proxy voting has been implemented, almost 60 Democrats have written to the House Clerk to give their vote to another member. This has led to one member of Congress representing five congressional districts at one time.
"Those numbers can and will grow, while the number of members who cast votes in person shrinks. Ultimately, as few as 20 members could control the vote of over 220 members under this rule for the foreseeable future. That is not only irresponsible leadership, it is patently unconstitutional, as 230 years of Congressional history and Supreme Court precedent make abundantly clear," McCarthy said.
The lawsuit further argues proxy voting is unconstitutional because of the wording in the nation's founding document.
- Article I, Section 4, Clause 2 states: "The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall . . . "
- Article I, Section 5, Clause 1 states: "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections . . . and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; . . . and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members"
- Article I, Section 6, Clause 1 states: "The Senators and Representatives . . . shall . . . be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses"
"While the Constitution allows Congress to write its own rules, those rules cannot violate the Constitution itself — namely, the requirement of actual assembly. Rapid and robust legal relief is necessary. The alternative — a small number of members dictating the businesses of the whole House while the people’s voice is diluted — is unacceptable and would only make it more difficult for Congress to respond in the national interest. We must assemble," McCarthy concluded.