Republicans cite ‘public health emergency’ for skipping Covid relief votes while speaking at maskless CPAC

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<p>Republican congressman Madison Crawthorn speaking at CPAC</p> (REUTERS)

Republican congressman Madison Crawthorn speaking at CPAC


Several Republican lawmakers said they could not attend Congress on Friday to vote for the coronavirus stimulus package due to the pandemic, but were due to appear in-person at the conservative conference taking place in Orlando, Florida, this weekend.

According to CNN, the Republican lawmakers included those who were former US president Donald Trump’s closest allies - some of whom were scheduled to speak at this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Florida.

The group of twelve House Republicans said they were unable to attend a number of votes in the House of Representatives that day "due to the ongoing public health emergency”, in a written letter seen by CNN.

The House went on to approve the Biden administration’s proposed $1.9 trillion (£1.4 trillion) Covid stimulus package in the early hours of Saturday morning, with those absent asking other colleagues to vote on their behalf — a process known as proxy voting.

Among those who signed the letter were Lauren Boebert, the newly elected Representative for Colorado’s 3rd congressional district, who is scheduled to speak at CPAC on Saturday evening.

Read more: CPAC 2021 – live: Trump Jr pushes his father’s big election lie as organiser begs attendees to wear masks

As CNN reported, she was spotted in the grounds of the US Capitol on Friday morning and it was not clear if she voted in-person for the coronavirus stimulus package.

Other House Republicans who signed the letter were Paul Gosar, Jim Banks, Madison Cawthorn, Ted Budd, Mark Green, Ronny Jackson, Mike Kelly, Ralph Norman, Devin Nunes, Greg Steube and Darrell Issa.

A spokesperson for Mr Issa, the Representative for California's 50th congressional district, told CNN that he "complied with all House voting rules in lodging his opposition to what the Democrats labelled as Covid relief”.

The spokesperson, Jonathan Wilcox, added that the relief bill “devoted more than 90 per cent of its total to non-Covid spending.”

Democrats were angered by the decision by Republicans to cite the Covid-19 pandemic for their reasoning no to vote in-person on Friday, having criticised a system for proxy voting and ridiculing Democrats who used it in the past.

House Rules chairman Jim McGovern, a Democrat of Massachusetts, responded by saying that "apparently hypocrisy has become a tenant of the Republican Party”.

He added: “Let me get this straight: these members can't vote in person because of the pandemic, but they manage to attend CPAC? They were even maskless at this super spreader event. It's outrageous!"

Mr Cawthown, the Representative for North Carolina's 11th congressional district, wrote in a Twitter post last year that "leaders show up no matter how uncertain the times are ... the Democrats are cowards for not showing up to work".

To vote by proxy, lawmakers must sign a letter with the House clerk allowing another member of Congress to vote on their behalf.

According to CNN, the letters filed by the 12 Republicans with the House clerk's office on Friday said: "I am unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency."

Although Republicans were told to vote against the Covid stimulus, the bill passed by 219 to 212 votes — paving the way for the bill’s passage to the Senate.

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