House Democrats are refusing to allow Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a double-amputee veteran, to cast her vote for party leadership from her home in Illinois where she is pregnant and unable to travel.
Duckworth, who lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down in the Iraq War in 2004, sent a letter to Democratic House leadership requesting to cast her vote by proxy, National Journal reports.
“As you are aware, I am in the final weeks of my pregnancy, and have been instructed by my physician not to travel,” Duckworth wrote. “As a result, I will not be attending the upcoming Caucus meetings in person.”
“I would like to require a proxy vote on the upcoming leadership and ranking member elections that will come before the Caucus in the coming weeks.”
House Democrats’ policy requires members to vote for party leadership in person.
The letter was read during a closed-door meeting on Thursday, but senior party leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Steering Committee co-chair Rosa DeLauro, from Connecticut, moved to block the request.
In the meeting, Illinois U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky offered a proposal to bend the rules for Duckworth.
Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore then requested to be able to vote by proxy for next week’s leadership vote because she will be attending a relative’s funeral.
“After that, the mood of the room turned on the motion, with members realizing the slippery-slope argument that others had made,” a Democratic House aide told National Journal. “Schakowsky realized this and pulled her motion. The Moore speech was the pivotal moment for the motion.”
“Congresswoman DeLauro does not want to set a precedent,” DeLauro spokeswoman Sara Leonardo told National Journal. “There are many meritorious situations where the argument could be made for a waiver, including Congresswoman Duckworth’s. The question is, how do you choose?”
But other House aides said they believe that the refusal was due because of a close contest to replace Rep. Henry Waxman as the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Duckworth supports New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone for the position while Pelosi supports California Rep. Anna Eshoo.
“But here you have a woman, a decorated war veteran who is undergoing a high-risk pregnancy, and they can’t suspend the rules,” another anonymous senior aide told National Journal.