Top Republicans are suing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over new proxy voting plans that will allow some members of the House to vote from home amid the coronavirus pandemic. The decision to allow proxy voting was largely along party lines, and is only temporary.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday evening by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in D.C. District Court, contends that proxy voting in the House is unconstitutional. Twenty other Republican members of Congress and four constituents are listed as co-plaintiffs.
"In the 231-year existence of the United States Congress, neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate has ever permitted a member to vote by proxy from the floor of the chamber," the lawsuit reads. "Through the Civil War; through the burning of the Capitol during the war of 1812 and the terrorist attack on Washington on 9/11; and through the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 and the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, the Congress of the United Stats has never before flinched from its constitutional duty to assemble at the nation's capital and conduct the people's business in times of national peril and crisis. So it was for more than two centuries. Until now."
The suit suggests it is "simply impossible to read the Constitution and overlook its repeated and emphatic requirement that members of Congress actually assemble in their respective chambers when they vote."
Dozens of House Democrats have already filed to give their vote to another member who will be present in D.C.
The Senate has continued to convene in person throughout the pandemic, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell criticizing House Democrats for not also meeting in D.C.
Pelosi declared the suit a "stunt" that is obstructing important work.
"House Republicans' sad stunt shows that their only focus is to delay and obstruct urgently-needed action to meet the needs of American workers and families during the coronavirus crisis," Pelosi said in a statement.
"The House made its will clear two weeks ago when it voted to implement remote voting by proxy and other necessary measures to ensure that Congress can continue to protect lives and livelihoods," Pelosi continued. "The House's position that remote voting by proxy during a pandemic is fully consistent with the Constitution is supported by expert legal analyses. Further, the Supreme Court made clear over a century ago that the Constitution empowers each chamber of Congress to set its own procedural rules."