Supreme Court Rejects McCarthy Challenge To Absent Voting

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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The Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging a rule set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that allows members of the House of Representatives to cast votes when not present in the Capitol.

The lawsuit filed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other leading Republicans in 2020 alleged that proxy voting violates the Constitution’s Quorum Clause as well as plain language indicating that both chambers of Congress must meet in person. Under current House rules, one member can cast a proxy vote for up to ten colleagues as long as the members who are not present file a letter with the House clerk. Pelosi and other supporters argue that proxy voting is necessary to social distance and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Court did not release its reasoning for its decision. Lower courts had ruled that they could not intervene under the Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause, which allows Congress to set its own rules and insulates members from lawsuits for their speeches on the House and Senate floor.

During a marathon speech on the House floor in December 2021, McCarthy promised to eliminate proxy voting.

“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.

After McCarthy’s speech, which delayed the House’s vote on President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better social spending package, 78 members of the lower chamber, including 49 Republicans, voted on the bill by proxy. (RELATED: Rep. Ted Budd Introduces Bill That Would Withhold Pay From Members Of Congress Who Vote By Proxy)

“Members of Congress should show up to work on behalf of their constituents, just as they have since our nation was founded. We can’t rely on a separate branch of government to make Congress do their jobs as intended by the Constitution, and if Republicans earn back the majority, proxy voting will be eliminated on Day One,” a spokesperson for McCarthy said in a statement to the Daily Caller.

Of the 441 members who have served in the 117th Congress, only 80 have not filed proxy letters with the House clerk.