Over a dozen GOP House members cited 'the ongoing health emergency' to skip in-person voting while they spoke at CPAC

Grace Panetta
·3 min read
Matt Gaetz
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.,, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. John Raoux/AP
  • Over a dozen GOP members voted by proxy while speaking at a big conservative conference.

  • Their proxy notices all cited the "ongoing public health emergency."

  • A group of GOP lawmakers sued over the proxy system in 2020.

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Over a dozen members of Congress speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, this weekend designated other members to vote on their behalf while they're gone while citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Active proxy letters filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives show that 13 GOP representatives who spoke on Friday or are slated to speak on Saturday or Sunday designated proxies to vote on their behalf.

In all the proxy letters, first reported by CNN, the members on the schedule to speak at CPAC in Orlando, Florida all attest that they are "unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency."

The members include high-profile Republicans such as Reps. Devin Nuñes and Darrel Issa of California, Reps. Greg Steube and Matt Gaetz of Florida, Rep. Jim Banks of California, and Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina.

Notably, the US House is set to vote on the American Rescue Act, President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package, on Friday evening.

The proxy voting process, designated in House Resolution 8, was created at the beginning of the pandemic primarily to allow members who were ill with COVID-19, quarantining after a COVID-19 exposure, or otherwise unable to travel, to be able to vote through a present colleague.

Some of the Republicans who filed to vote by proxy have previously criticized the system as giving Congress a pass not to work.

Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina, who spoke at CPAC at Friday and designated a colleague to be his proxy, has previously criticized proxy voting as "unconstitutional and wrong" and even introduced an item of legislation, the No Pay for Proxy Voting Act, which would have stripped pay for lawmakers who used the proxy system.

"After Democrats rearranged the House schedule with extremely late notice, Rep. Budd was forced to proxy vote for the first time," Budd's office said in a statement to ABC News. "Rep. Budd remains philosophically opposed to proxy voting which is why he has already donated his congressional salary for the days he proxy-voted to the North Carolina Restaurant Workers Relief Fund to support restaurants who were shut down during the pandemic."

House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy and a group of House Republicans also filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the proxy system as unconstitutional.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. dismissed the suit in August of 2020, finding that the courts have no standing to rule over the internal functions of Congress protected under the speech and debate clause. The Republicans subsequently appealed the suit to US Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit.

Read the original article on Business Insider