House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) recently changed longstanding House rules to allow for members to vote by proxy — an option she insisted would only be used sparingly in cases involving “ongoing health emergencies.”
House Republicans, for their part, opposed the rule change and warned that it would be abused — and it didn’t take long for those warnings to be proven correct. Dozens of Democrats voted by proxy on Wednesday and Thursday, some for reasons that were not health-related — including one New York lawmaker who admitted he’d rather spend time with family than cast votes on menial legislative matters, as Breitbart reported.
That particular member of Congress was Rep. Thomas Suozzi, who had reportedly planned to remain in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday and Thursday to vote for the reauthorization of portions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), but skipped town after that bill was pulled for lack of support.
Despite there being a number of procedural matters requiring votes on Thursday, Suozzi designated his votes on those matters by proxy to one of his colleagues and returned to his home in Long Island, New York.
“When I learned that the calendar today would only be suspension votes, I wanted to get home for some family obligations,” Suozzi told Newsday in a phone interview, as Breitbart reported. “So instead of just missing the votes, which I could do that too, I decided I would just file a proxy vote.”
So much for Pelosi’s promise.
Of course, Suozzi wasn’t alone in ditching work to go do something else. In fact, dozens of Democrats bailed on their obligations on both Wednesday and Thursday and allowed their colleagues to cast votes on their behalf by proxy.
Another particularly egregious and decided non-health-related abandonment of congressional duties came from Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), who, according to The Blaze, sent a letter on Wednesday to the clerk of the House stating that he would be “unable to physically attend proceedings” due to “the ongoing public health emergency” and would instead have a colleague cast his votes for him.
But in reality, The Blaze reports, Crist didn’t remain fearfully huddled in his St. Petersburg, Florida home to avoid the “ongoing public health emergency.” Rather, he traveled across the state to Cape Canaveral in order to watch the scheduled SpaceX rocket launch that was ultimately scrubbed and rescheduled at the last minute.
Breitbart noted that fellow Floridian Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) did the same thing, leaving others to cast votes on his behalf so he could attend the aborted launch.
According to Newsday, this new proxy voting rule — in which one member can vote on behalf of 10 others — will only be in effect for a 45-day period.
But whether it is allowed to lapse after that period ends or becomes the “new normal” going forward remains to be seen.