House back in session this week; many Democrats staying home
The House of Representatives will meet this week to consider several non-coronavirus related bills. It will be the first time the House convenes since passing its new proxy voting rules which allows members to phone in their vote from home.
The House will vote this week on the federal Paycheck Protection Program to give small businesses additional time to use emergency loans provided under the CARES Act. They will also vote on a measure to reauthorize expired federal surveillance laws.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise sent out a notice last week encouraging all GOP members who were able to safely return to the Capitol to do so. As of Tuesday, it was likely that all Republican members would be present.
That’s a sharp contrast to the nearly three dozen Democrats that have announced their plans to vote by proxy.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters Tuesday that proxy voting is crucial because there are members who have health concerns, face travel hardships and are worried about contracting the disease and exposing it to family members.
“We believe proxy voting is not only consistent with the Constitution but consistent with the responsibility a member has to express the view of their constituents — whether or not they can get to Washington, D.C.,” said Hoyer.
The Senate, which only has 100 members compared to more than 400 House members, returned in May and employed social distancing practices. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has spoken out against House leadership and their lack of work the past few weeks.
“At this point, I’m wondering if we should send senators over there to collect their newspaper and water the plants,” McConnell said on the floor last week.
Republican Congressman Brad Wenstrup told Fox News that it’s amazing that under the new House rules members can now vote present even while they are physically absent.
“This is not leadership. I served in the military. You’re not leading when you don’t show up,” Wenstup said. “The American people need to see that we will go to work and proxy voting is not the way to do that.”
The proxy voting rule change is the first time in American history that members have not had to be present in order to cast a vote on the floor. Many believe it could be setting the stage for far more dangerous measures in the future.
The House Clerk’s Office is keeping a running list of members requesting to vote proxy. You can view the list as well as read the letters submitted by members here.
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