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13 House Republicans are voting by proxy on COVID relief bill, citing pandemic, but they're speaking at CPAC

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At least 13 House Republicans have filed paperwork to have colleagues cast their votes on the COVID-19 relief bill Friday evening, citing the ongoing pandemic. However, they are also slated to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. 

Republican Representatives Madison Cawthorn and Ted Budd of North Carolina, Matt Gaetz and Greg Steube of Florida, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Mark Green of Tennessee, Devin Nunes of California, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, Darrell Issa of California, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Jim Banks of Indiana and Ronny Jackson of Texas, filed paperwork with the House clerk this week, stating, "I am unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency." 

Cawthorn, Budd, Gaetz and Steube were slated to address the conservative gathering on Friday, while the others are slated for Saturday and Sunday remarks. 

In a statement, a spokesman for Budd said, "After Democrats rearranged the House schedule with extremely late notice, Rep. Budd was forced to proxy vote for the first time. Rep. Budd remains philosophically opposed to proxy voting, which is why he has already donated his congressional salary for the days he proxy-voted to the North Carolina Restaurant Workers Relief Fund to support restaurants who were shut down during the pandemic. Mentioning the pandemic in the letter is the standard language that both parties are required to use to proxy vote."  

In May 2020, he introduced a bill entitled the "No Pay for Proxy Voting Act." 

At least four Democrats are also having their colleagues cast their votes on the COVID-19 relief package. Texas Representatives Sheila Jackson LeeAl GreenLizzie Fletcher and Sylvia Garcia designated proxies while they met President Biden in Texas Friday during his trip to survey damage from the recent snowstorms.    

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi implemented proxy voting in May 2020 to give members of the House a way to vote while avoiding travel that could expose them to COVID-19 during the pandemic. She has since extended proxy voting multiple times. 

The move drew criticism from Republicans, particularly after Florida Democrats Charlie Crist and Darren Soto filed proxy letters citing the health emergency and were later found to be attending the SpaceX rocket launch in their home states. 

Before he was elected, Cawthorn tweeted, "Leaders show up no matter how uncertain the times are. The Democrats are cowards for hiding and not showing up to work. I guess we can label them as 'Nonessential personnel'?" 

Jonathan Wilcox, a spokesman for Issa, said the California Republican "complied with all House voting rules in lodging his opposition to what the Democrats' labeled as COVID relief, but that devoted more than 90 percent of its total to non-COVID spending.  

"After summarily rejecting hundreds of attempts by Republicans to pursue the bipartisan consensus of previous COVID legislation, it is clear that Democrats have no desire for solutions. Just partisanship," Wilcox said.  

GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana accused the members of using proxy voting to "play hooky." 

"They claimed they couldn't show up to work 'due to the ongoing public health emergency'—but then went to attend the rocket launch. This isn't Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It's the United States Congress," he wrote on Twitter.  

A spokesman for Scalise confirmed that he canceled his speech at the conference because of the votes Friday evening.

Kimberly Brown contributed to this story

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