Nancy Pelosi Postpones Vote On Lawmaking From Afar

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

House members will not be voting on whether to adopt a proxy voting system this week when the chamber convenes to vote on the COVID-19 relief bill that the Senate passed, the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced on Wednesday.

Pelosi signed off on a plan last Thursday developed by House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) that would have temporarily enabled members reluctant to travel to Washington, D.C., during the pandemic to empower another member capable of appearing in person to vote on legislation on their behalf.

And Pelosi’s second-in-command, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), told House Democrats on Monday that they could expect to vote on a rule change enabling proxy voting when they assemble in person to vote on the new relief bill. He advised members to plan to be present for those votes on Thursday.

But Pelosi revealed Wednesday that in lieu of a vote this week, she would convene a bipartisan task force to review the proxy voting system.

A senior aide to House Democratic leadership told HuffPost that Pelosi made the decision after consulting with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

“Bottom line here is that the speaker wants a bipartisan solution,” the senior aide said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has also drawn scrutiny for naming scandal-clouded Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) to a board overseeing corporate bailout money. (Photo: SAUL LOEB/Getty Images)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has also drawn scrutiny for naming scandal-clouded Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) to a board overseeing corporate bailout money. (Photo: SAUL LOEB/Getty Images)

Pelosi’s decision not to hold a vote on proxy voting this week indefinitely postpones the adoption of a system that would permit Congress to function even somewhat normally during the coronavirus crisis. Until then, the House ― Democrats’ sole bastion of power in Washington ― is severely limited in its ability to shape the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic havoc it has wrought.

The House has not assembled in person since late March, when Rep. Thomas Massie, a libertarian-minded Republican from Kentucky, forced an in-person voice vote on an economic stimulus and corporate bailout bill that Pelosi was otherwise prepared to pass unanimously. The House’s inactivity prior to the vote ― coupled with the absence of a system to pass its own bill from afar ― effectively allowed the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Senate to dictate terms of that bill.

The additional delay in proxy voting sparked criticism from proponents of congressional reform who already considered proxy voting inferior to direct remote voting through electronic means, as well as the creation of a digital framework for debate and committee deliberation.

What’s more, McGovern’s staff already published a lengthy examination of proxy voting in a late March report, making additional study unnecessary, those critics argue.

Speaker Pelosi should have figured this out months ago. Daniel Schuman, Demand Progress

“Speaker Pelosi should have figured this out months ago,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director of Demand Progress, a leading proponent of remote voting. “Pushing forward on a select committee that cannot meet and a task force that will require the House to reconvene to implement its recommendations is a recipe for continued delays in getting the House, and its committees, back to work.”

A spokesperson for the Congressional Progressive Caucus did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Pelosi’s decision to delay consideration of proxy voting. A spokesperson for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a CPC member who frequently bucks party leadership, declined to comment.

The postponed vote is the latest in a series of decisions Pelosi has made that have prompted public criticism from a host of progressive activists and groups that would normally be reluctant to speak up against her.

After the March relief bill, which created a $500-billion corporate bailout fund under the purview of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, a former hedge fund manager, Democratic leaders assured activists that the next bill would be far better for ordinary workers and their families.

Now the House is poised to vote on legislation the Senate passed that expands small business aid and allots money for testing, but excludes new aid for distressed city and state governments, more food aid for struggling households, the passage of universal voting by mail, rules barring creditors from confiscating relief checks, or a bailout for the Postal Service. Ocasio-Cortez, who represents neighborhoods in the New York City borough of Queens with some of the highest COVID-19 fatality rates in the country, said Monday that she planned to vote against the bill pending major changes.

“It is insulting to think that we can pass such a small amount of money in the context of not knowing when Congress is even going to reconvene ― and pass such a small amount of money, pat ourselves on the back, and then leave town again,” she declared.

A coalition of heads of major progressive organizations and thinks tanks, including the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the National Women’s Law Center and the Center for Popular Democracy, released a joint statement on Wednesday condemning the Senate bill.

“The legislation that just passed the Senate is a small, but wholly insufficient, step in the right direction,” they said. “As a result, many people, families, and communities will remain in dire straits.”

Even Bob Greenstein, the president of the center-left Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which rarely breaks with Democratic leadership, said the bill “falls short even as an interim measure.”

Pelosi also rankled some progressives with her announcement Wednesday that she would stick with her selection of Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) to serve on an oversight panel of the corporate bailout money.

Pelosi picked Shalala, an Education and Labor Committee member with little financial policymaking experience, over Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), a consumer rights attorney and disciple of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who actively sought a post on the panel. Porter, a freshman member on the Financial Services Committee, has made a name for herself with her interrogation of financial executives and Trump administration officials.

Days later, it emerged that Shalala, who owns millions of dollars in corporate stocks, violated the law when she failed to disclose her sale of some stocks after assuming office in 2018.

Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesman, said Shalala’s apology for her actions had sufficed.

“Congresswoman Shalala has the speaker’s complete confidence,” he said.

Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Revolving Door Project, which monitors executive branch corruption, believes the week’s events have done irrevocable damage to Pelosi’s reputation as a shrewd tactician. (The Revolving Door Project and Demand Progress had called on Pelosi to encourage Shalala to withdraw.)

“For a long time, Pelosi has received the benefit of the doubt from rank-and-file progressives who don’t follow the ins and outs of D.C. and believe that she is genuinely as calculating and knife fighting as portrayed by Kate McKinnon on ‘Saturday Night Live,’” he said. “I think that myth ends this week with a set of defeats too big to overcome by tearing up paper.”

Also on HuffPost

Love HuffPost? Become a founding member of HuffPost Plus today.

Selfie Time

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), shoots a video selfie as he heads to the House floor for votes on March 4, 2015.
Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), shoots a video selfie as he heads to the House floor for votes on March 4, 2015.

Giffords' Voice

Former Congresswoman and handgun violence survivor Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) speaks during a news conference about background checks for gun purchases at the Canon House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 4, 2015.
Former Congresswoman and handgun violence survivor Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) speaks during a news conference about background checks for gun purchases at the Canon House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 4, 2015.

Netanyahu Speaks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves as he steps to the lectern prior to speaking before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 3, 2015. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) applaud.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves as he steps to the lectern prior to speaking before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 3, 2015. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) applaud.

Netanyahu Speaks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves after speaking before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 3, 2015.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves after speaking before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 3, 2015.

Twinning

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) chuckles as she starts a news conference by donning dark glasses, a teasingly sympathetic gesture to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as he recovers from a serious injury to his right eye, suffered while exercising at his Nevada home during the holidays. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) chuckles as she starts a news conference by donning dark glasses, a teasingly sympathetic gesture to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as he recovers from a serious injury to his right eye, suffered while exercising at his Nevada home during the holidays. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Smooch

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) responds to reporters about the impasse over passing the Homeland Security budget because of Republican efforts to block President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration on Feb. 26, 2015, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) responds to reporters about the impasse over passing the Homeland Security budget because of Republican efforts to block President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration on Feb. 26, 2015, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Code Pink Targets Kerry

Code Pink protesters hold up a sign as Secretary of State John Kerry arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 25, 2015, to testify before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.
Code Pink protesters hold up a sign as Secretary of State John Kerry arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 25, 2015, to testify before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

Cool Shades

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (left) speaks as  Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) listens during a news briefing after the weekly Senate Democratic Policy Luncheon on Feb. 24, 2015. Reid was wearing glasses following a recent eye surgery.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (left) speaks as Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) listens during a news briefing after the weekly Senate Democratic Policy Luncheon on Feb. 24, 2015. Reid was wearing glasses following a recent eye surgery.

Space Socks

The socks of former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin are shown as he testifies before the Senate Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee on Capitol Hill on Feb. 24, 2015.
The socks of former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin are shown as he testifies before the Senate Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee on Capitol Hill on Feb. 24, 2015.

Kerry Plots

Secretary of State John Kerry appears before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs on Feb. 24, 2015, to talk about fiscal year 2016 funding for the State Department.
Secretary of State John Kerry appears before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs on Feb. 24, 2015, to talk about fiscal year 2016 funding for the State Department.

Liberace In Washington

A cardboard cutout of Las Vegas star Liberace stands outside the office of Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) in the Cannon House Office Building on Feb. 18, 2015.
A cardboard cutout of Las Vegas star Liberace stands outside the office of Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) in the Cannon House Office Building on Feb. 18, 2015.

Workers Rally

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) attends a rally with labor groups, including the American Federation of Government Employees, in Upper Senate Park to support federal workers and the working class, on Feb. 10, 2015.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) attends a rally with labor groups, including the American Federation of Government Employees, in Upper Senate Park to support federal workers and the working class, on Feb. 10, 2015.

Senate Laughter

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) (3rd L) laughs as he talks to (L-R) Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) before a news conference on currency and trade Feb. 10, 2015, on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) (3rd L) laughs as he talks to (L-R) Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) before a news conference on currency and trade Feb. 10, 2015, on Capitol Hill.

Carrying Reagan Through The Capitol

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) walks through the basement of the Capitol with a painting of former President Ronald Reagan by artist Steve Penley on Feb. 11, 2015. The painting will be added to Issa's collection of Reagan memorabilia.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) walks through the basement of the Capitol with a painting of former President Ronald Reagan by artist Steve Penley on Feb. 11, 2015. The painting will be added to Issa's collection of Reagan memorabilia.

Sad Speaker

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) holds his weekly press conference in the Capitol on Feb. 5, 2015.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) holds his weekly press conference in the Capitol on Feb. 5, 2015.

Group Hug

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) gives a group hug to students from the Richard Wright Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., during his National School Choice Forum in the Hart Senate Office Building on Feb. 9, 2015.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) gives a group hug to students from the Richard Wright Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., during his National School Choice Forum in the Hart Senate Office Building on Feb. 9, 2015.

Ukraine In Washington

Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5, 2015. Delegates from the Ukrainian Parliament joined members of the House of Representatives to appeal for lethal military aid from the U.S.
Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5, 2015. Delegates from the Ukrainian Parliament joined members of the House of Representatives to appeal for lethal military aid from the U.S.

Back On The Hill

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) speaks to the media as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) listens, following the Senate Democrats' policy lunch on Feb. 3, 2015.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) speaks to the media as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) listens, following the Senate Democrats' policy lunch on Feb. 3, 2015.

CodePink

The protest group CodePink disrupts a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, carrying banners calling former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger a "war criminal" as he and fellow former Secretary of States George Shultz and Madeleine Albright were set to testify on U.S. national security on Capitol Hill on Jan. 29, 2015.
The protest group CodePink disrupts a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, carrying banners calling former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger a "war criminal" as he and fellow former Secretary of States George Shultz and Madeleine Albright were set to testify on U.S. national security on Capitol Hill on Jan. 29, 2015.

Democratic Retreat

Naomi Sherman, 4, right, along with her father, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.); mother, Lisa; and sisters, Lucy, 2, and Molly, 5, prepares to board a bus that will take House Democrats and their families to a retreat in Philadelphia on Jan. 28, 2015.
Naomi Sherman, 4, right, along with her father, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.); mother, Lisa; and sisters, Lucy, 2, and Molly, 5, prepares to board a bus that will take House Democrats and their families to a retreat in Philadelphia on Jan. 28, 2015.

Did You See That?

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), left, and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) talk before a news conference in the Capitol's Senate studio to "respond to the Obama administration's efforts to lock up millions of acres of the nation's richest oil and natural gas prospects on the Arctic coastal plain and move to block development of Alaska's offshore resources" on Jan. 26, 2015.
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), left, and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) talk before a news conference in the Capitol's Senate studio to "respond to the Obama administration's efforts to lock up millions of acres of the nation's richest oil and natural gas prospects on the Arctic coastal plain and move to block development of Alaska's offshore resources" on Jan. 26, 2015.

That's A Big Hammer

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), left, reacts as Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) brings out a giant gavel while making remarks during an executive business meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 22, 2015. Leahy ceremonially passed the gavel to Grassley who has taken up the chairmanship after the Republicans won the majority in the Senate.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), left, reacts as Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) brings out a giant gavel while making remarks during an executive business meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 22, 2015. Leahy ceremonially passed the gavel to Grassley who has taken up the chairmanship after the Republicans won the majority in the Senate.

State Of The Union Excitement

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) as senators arrive for President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in the Capitol on Jan. 20, 2015.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) as senators arrive for President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in the Capitol on Jan. 20, 2015.

SOTU Selfie

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) takes a selfie with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) as Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) sits nearby before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Jan. 20, 2015.
Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) takes a selfie with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) as Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) sits nearby before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Jan. 20, 2015.

Hello, Mr. President

President Barack Obama, bottom right, is greeted by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), center, as he arrives to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 20, 2015.
President Barack Obama, bottom right, is greeted by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), center, as he arrives to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 20, 2015.

Making His Point

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) holds a news conference on the budget on Jan. 16, 2015.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) holds a news conference on the budget on Jan. 16, 2015.

Searching The Senator

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and his wife, Laura, have their luggage inspected by a police dog before boarding a bus that will take Republican senators to a retreat in Hershey, Pa., January 14, 2015.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and his wife, Laura, have their luggage inspected by a police dog before boarding a bus that will take Republican senators to a retreat in Hershey, Pa., January 14, 2015.

Retreating From Capitol Hill

Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) walks by immigration protesters on his way to one of the buses outside the Rayburn House Office Building as House Republicans prepare to head to Hershey, Pa., for their retreat with Senate Republicans on Jan. 14, 2015.
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) walks by immigration protesters on his way to one of the buses outside the Rayburn House Office Building as House Republicans prepare to head to Hershey, Pa., for their retreat with Senate Republicans on Jan. 14, 2015.

Just A Joke

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) fools around with colleagues upon arriving for a news conference on Guantanamo detainees in the Senate studio on Jan. 13, 2015.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) fools around with colleagues upon arriving for a news conference on Guantanamo detainees in the Senate studio on Jan. 13, 2015.

Oh Boy!

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill on Jan. 13, 2015. House Democrats spoke about U.S. President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill on Jan. 13, 2015. House Democrats spoke about U.S. President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration.

Paying Off The Bet

From left, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) make symbols that spell "Ohio" on Jan. 13, 2015, as the result of a football bet. Ohio State beat the University of Oregon 42-20 in the NCAA national football championship.
From left, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) make symbols that spell "Ohio" on Jan. 13, 2015, as the result of a football bet. Ohio State beat the University of Oregon 42-20 in the NCAA national football championship.

Frustration

Cleanliness

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) sanitizes his hands while talking on his cell phone outside the Mansfield Room in the Capitol on Jan. 8, 2015.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) sanitizes his hands while talking on his cell phone outside the Mansfield Room in the Capitol on Jan. 8, 2015.

Hats In The Hallways

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) walks with her family through the Will Rogers Hallway after the swearing-in of the 114th Congress on the House floor on Jan. 6, 2015.
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) walks with her family through the Will Rogers Hallway after the swearing-in of the 114th Congress on the House floor on Jan. 6, 2015.

Baby Face

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) holds Andrea Elena Castro, daughter of Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), second from right, before the 114th Congress was sworn in on the House floor of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2015.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) holds Andrea Elena Castro, daughter of Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), second from right, before the 114th Congress was sworn in on the House floor of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2015.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting