Supreme Court denies Kevin McCarthy’s challenge to abolish proxy voting

The Supreme Court on Monday announced that it will not hear the challenge submitted last year by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to the House proxy voting rules that were introduced during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The Supreme Court did not specify a reason for the refusal.

McCarthy (R-Ca), objected at the time to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s proposed rule changes to the voting procedures, which allowed for absentee voting; this had members casting votes through colleagues so they didn’t need to be in the House chamber. The new rules were adopted in May 2020 on a 217-to-189 vote along party lines.

Pelosi reacted to the Court’s decision, saying in a statement that she was pleased with the outcome and that it was a “frivolous lawsuit;” she then described it as “a victory for the Congress, the rule of law and public health.”

Republicans have objected to proxy voting from the beginning, with McCarthy filing a federal lawsuit alongside other Republican leaders who questioned the constitutionality of it at the time it was proposed.

“Voting by proxy — giving your vote, as a member of Congress, to another person — is just simply not allowed and not envisioned in the Constitution. It’s a non-delegable power and that proxy vote is prohibited,” explained a Republican aide during a call with reporters in May 2020.

McCarthy approached the Supreme Court again in September 2021 to ask it to overturn the pandemic-born proxy voting rules. He said in a statement at the time of the filing that the rule is a “perpetual proxy voting power grab” by Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats.

“Although the Constitution allows Congress to write its own rules, those rules cannot violate the Constitution itself, including the requirement to actually assemble in person,” he asserted.

Democrats would argue that Republicans are using the proxy, too. Recent numbers compiled by NBC News, however, suggest that of the 91 proxy votes cast since the beginning of December 2021, just one-sixth of them have been by Republican members.

And BPR reported on the hypocrisy of Democrat lawmakers at the time of the original change to the House voting rules, pointing to lawmakers like Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fl), who immediately took advantage of the new rules and submitted a letter stating that he was “unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing health emergency,” and then went to view a rocket launch at Kennedy Space Center. He and fellow Florida Democrat Charlie Crist both tweeted about the delay of the launch on May 27, 2020, with Soto saying, “The launch has been scrubbed. We’ll try again Saturday. Safety first!”

Republicans have said that the proxy voting protocols will end if they win the House in the midterm election. Currently, the process allows for temporary use of the measure, with the Speaker in a position to extend the emergency authority every 45 days.

In December, Pelosi extended proxy voting through at least Feb. 13.

Republicans are now looking ahead to November. “If Republicans earn back the majority, proxy voting will be eliminated on Day One,” a spokesperson for Rep. McCarthy declared.

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