House Speaker Nancy Pelosi extended proxy voting in the House — which allows members to vote without being present in the chamber — due to the ongoing “public health emergency” of COVID-19.
Days after President Biden said that “the pandemic is over,” Pelosi declared Friday that Congress is still keeping some public health measures in place, including one that allows members to be absent for floor votes.
The extension will run through Nov. 10, according to Pelosi’s announcement, days after the midterm elections where Democrats are widely expected to lose the House.
During an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” last weekend, a reporter asked Biden if the pandemic was over. “The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it,” Biden responded.
And last week, Biden quipped during the Detroit Auto Show: “If you notice, no one’s wearing a mask, everybody seems to be in pretty good shape.”
The White House was quick to clarify the president’s words on “60 Minutes,” with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy telling MSNBC that the president only meant that the U.S. has come a long way. “What the president is reflecting is the fact that we have made tremendous progress against COVID-19,” Murthy said. “We’re in a very different place now than we were at the beginning of this pandemic, with significantly lower death rates. We have all of our children back in school, people able to go back to work, families and friends able to see each other.”
The extension of proxy voting may help House members arrange schedules to campaign more in their home districts. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who is running for Senate against Republican nominee J.D. Vance, was criticized earlier this summer for campaigning while voting by proxy.
“Democrats claim they need [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi’s proxy voting scam due to the ‘public health emergency,’ but it’s simply another abuse of power to neglect their jobs and collect a paycheck,” Mark Bednar, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, told Fox News earlier this year.
Some lawmakers have voted by proxy while traveling, including Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, who was apparently visiting France with family during the House vote on the inflation reduction act.
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., condemned the extension of the proxy voting rule Friday.
“Earlier this week, President Biden claimed that the pandemic was over. It seems everyone but Speaker Pelosi agrees.” Gallagher said. “By extending proxy voting, Speaker Pelosi continues to allow members to forgo the most important component of their job – voting – and lie to their constituents in the process. The day when Republicans take back the House and eliminate this unconstitutional and unethical practice can’t come soon enough.”
Any member may vote by proxy if they submit a letter to the House clerk citing the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for their missing the vote, and designate another member who will cast their vote for them.
A report by the Ripon Society found that more than 17,000 proxy votes were cast in the House in 2021. Of that total, more than 72% came from absent Democrats.
Fox News Haris Alic contributed to this report.