With a Republican majority and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) now in charge of the House of Representatives, a number of changes have been made or are underway with respect to how that legislative body will operate over at least the next two years.
One such change that has already taken effect is an end to the practice of proxy voting, in which absent members designate other members to cast votes on their behalf, as confirmed by McCarthy on Thursday, Breitbart reported.
“No more proxy voting”
In a Thursday morning tweet, Speaker McCarthy wrote, “No more proxy voting. Effective immediately, Members of Congress have to show up to work if they want their vote to count.”
No more proxy voting. Effective immediately, Members of Congress have to show up to work if they want their vote to count.
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) January 19, 2023
In all of the nation’s history, proxy voting had never been permitted for members of Congress until the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country in 2020.
On May 15, 2020, with the full support of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), a resolution was passed to authorize both remote voting by proxy and official remote committee proceedings for a 45-day period due to the ongoing “public health emergency” — a resolution that Pelosi subsequently extended multiple times for additional 45-day periods until her tenure ended.
To be sure, the initial reasoning behind the allowance for proxy voting seemed logical enough, as it provided an opportunity for members who were sick or isolated to still participate and reduced unnecessary crowding on the House floor during votes, and while Republicans generally disapproved of the practice, many nonetheless accepted and took advantage of it.
However, Breitbart noted that it wasn’t long before the practice began to be abused, as some members who were not sick or in isolation at home were designating others to vote on their behalf while they were instead attending campaign events or on vacations, among other non-pandemic-related things.
“The start of a new direction in Washington”
The practice of proxy voting was officially ended with the adoption of the new House Rules package that had been one of the sticking points in the negotiations to end the days-long standoff and multiple rounds of ballots that it took for Speaker McCarthy to win over sufficient support from his own caucus to attain his new leadership position.
In an op-ed for the New York Post last week, McCarthy cheered the passage of the new rules package as one of several clear signs that “This isn’t just the start of a new Congress. This is the start of a new direction in Washington.”
“Following through on our pledge for a more accountable, more transparent, more open chamber, House Republicans began this Congress by passing a rules package that transitions away from the top-down, centralized control that has defined this institution for many years,” he continued.
“Our new approach empowers members and restores regular order,” McCarthy added. “We ended proxy voting and reopened the People’s House to the American people after almost 1,000 days in which they could not petition their government in person.”
Do the job as originally intended, in person
The end of the practice of proxy voting in the House, which was predictably exploited and misused by some members — and which was never instituted in the Senate, even under Democratic control — is an objectively good thing for not just Congress but the nation as a whole.
Now, as Speaker McCarthy duly noted, if members of the House want to actually do the job that they were elected by their constituents to do, they will need to actually show up in person to cast a vote or participate in committee proceedings, as was originally intended and as all other members were required to do up until former Speaker Pelosi changed the longstanding rule amid the pandemic.