Congressional Institute President Mark Strand has an opinion piece featured in Roll Call on the problematic proxy voting scheme rammed through the U.S. House by Democratic leadership. On the very first vote in which Members of Congress were allowed to give their proxy to someone else, two Democratic reps “skipped work to attend a shuttle launch, after certifying to the clerk of the House that they could not attend session because of the coronavirus,” Strand wrote.
House Republicans filed a lawsuit against proxy voting, alleging that it is unconstitutional. This is a legal fight worth having. The Constitution requires that Congress meet to conduct its business. Technology certainly presents us with options for remote work, but the critical function of voting is something that the Founding Fathers intended to be done in person. From Strand’s oped:
In 1793, Congress understood that it first had to meet in Philadelphia, where Yellow Fever raged, to vote to move the nation’s capital to another city. Members took precautions and showed up to do the jobs they were elected to do. It was the same during the War of 1812 (when the Capitol was torched by the British), the Civil War, the Spanish Flu of 1918 and after 9/11 when the Capitol itself was a target. Members of Congress understood their solemn responsibility to represent their constituents and showed up for work. The U.S Senate has showed up for work and regularly casts votes during the pandemic. One would think the traditional rivalry would embarrass the House into doing the same.
The new rules do let House committees conduct hearings via secure video platforms, but it is clearly stated that Members must appear on camera. That’s fine for Members who have strong, reliable Internet connections, but, as legislation seeking to expand and strengthen web services to rural areas proves, that’s not the case for everyone. During the markup on the $1.5 trillion infrastructure package, Committee Chair Peter DeFazio blamed “crappy Wi-Fi” that prevented him from appearing on camera.
As Strand wrote, the “House works because there is equal representation of our citizens. No one member is any more powerful than another when it comes time to cast a vote. Until now.”
Go here to read the full oped, and see why Burger King has one up on the U.S. House.