After Record-Breaking McCarthy Speech, 78 House Members Decide Not To Show Up For Build Back Better Vote

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Taking advantage of a COVID-19 rule, 78 members of the House of Representatives announced that they would not appear in person to vote on the Build Back Better Act.

49 Republicans and 28 Democrats submitted letters to the House clerk Thursday and Friday explaining that they would instruct proxies to vote for them, “due to the ongoing public health emergency.” The House reconvened at 8:00 a.m., less than three hours after Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy concluded the longest floor speech in chamber history. He spoke for eight hours and 32 minutes, breaking Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s 2018 record by 25 minutes.

Proxy voting allows a present member to announce the vote of up to ten absent colleagues. Democrats introduced the rule to the House in May 2020, arguing that members should be able to protect themselves from the COVID-19 pandemic by alerting a colleague to their planned vote on pieces of legislation. They renewed proxy voting in January 2021. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: McCarthy Sent Letter To Pelosi Demanding Answers On Her Plan To Reopen The People’s House)

Despite taking advantage of the provision themselves, House Republicans have been almost uniformly critical of proxy voting. When Pelosi introduced the rule, then-Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney blasted it as a “blatant disregard of constitutional imperative, precedent and the rights of the minority.” Republican leadership filed a lawsuit to overturn the rule, and some members introduced a bill to withhold salary from lawmakers who use proxy voting.

During his floor speech, McCarthy pledged to end the proxy voting system if he becomes Speaker in 2023.

“If you’re all thinking of running again, for those who win, no more proxy voting. You’re going to have to show up to work,” he said.