SCOTUS rejects Republican challenge to House COVID-19 proxy voting rules
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SCOTUS rejects Republican challenge to House COVID-19 proxy voting rules

The US Supreme Court Monday rejected a challenge by Republicans to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s proxy voting rules introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rules allow a member of the House to designate another member as a proxy. The proxy may cast the floor votes of members who are unable to physically attend House proceedings. The proxy may represent up to ten members at a time and must vote according to exact instructions.

California Representative Kevin McCarthy and several other House Republicans challenged the rules as unconstitutional in May of 2020. The US District Court for the District of Columbia rejected the party’s lawsuit citing the immunity under the Speech or Debate Clauses of the Constitution. The court also recognised that the Constitution empowers the House to make its own rules foreclosing the court from interfering with the legislative process. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously affirmed the district court’s ruling. 

In his appeal to the Supreme Court, California Representative Kevin McCarthy stated:

The Founders wisely rejected proxy voting because they knew Congress cannot adequately “do the business” of our chambers without deliberating, and we cannot adequately deliberate without assembling in person. The Senate has managed through the whole pandemic without proxy voting because they know, as we do, that it is unconstitutional. To restore the House to its proper legislative role, the Supreme Court must strike down proxy voting.

By the time McCarthy appealed to the Supreme Court, several House Republicans withdrew from the suit and participated in House proceedings through proxy voting. Presently, 91 members have active proxy letters. On January 20, the Brookings Institute reported that 144 of 213 House Republicans have designated a proxy to cast their vote at least once during the 117th Congress.

The rules are designed to operate for a period of 60 days when a pandemic emergency is in effect. They may be extended for 60 additional days at a time. They are currently slated to remain in effect until February 13.