- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 21, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s criticism Thursday of the new proxy voting procedures in the House.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, defended the legality of the new temporary rule changes after the Kentucky Republican said they “raise enormous constitutional questions.”

“Remote voting by proxy is fully consistent with the Constitution and more than a century of legal precedent, including Supreme Court cases, that make clear that the House can determine its own rules,” Mrs. Pelosi wrote in a statement. “Leader McConnell’s comments are deliberately misleading, as proxy voting has long been used by Senate committees. Simply and sadly, he is trying to find every excuse not to meet the needs of the American people.”

At a press conference earlier Thursday afternoon, Mrs. Pelosi also jabbed the Republicans for resisting any new coronavirus legislation.

“We have the HEROES bill. Others say he has the zeroes bill,” she said.

Mr. McConnell slammed the House for taking “paid leave” during the coronavirus Thursday morning.

“At this point, I’m wondering if we should send senators over there to collect their newspaper and water the plants,” he said.

House Democrats canceled their plans to return in person at the beginning of this month after the Capitol Physician warned that members would be putting themselves at risk traveling to the Washington D.C. area, where coronavirus cases are still climbing.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended that decision, arguing that the House had four times as many lawmakers as the 100-member Senate did.

After facing a few hurdles with attempts at unanimous consent and voice votes, the House passed the last two major coronavirus bills — their $3 trillion package and the emergency interim bill — by reconvening the House in person for voting day only.

They stretched out the voting and debate process by limiting the number of lawmakers allowed on the floor at any given time and setting up the vote in alphabetically-sorted groups.

Last week, Democrats adopted a temporary 45-day emergency rule change that would officially allow members to do committee work virtually and vote by designating certain proxies to cast their vote for them. Members can only proxy for up to ten members at a time and the instructions must be recorded in writing.

The historic rules change passed on a 217-189 vote, with Republican leadership arguing the measure was a tradition-breaking power grab.

Mrs. Pelosi officially authorized proxy voting for next week, when the House is expected to vote on the Senate-amended FISA reauthorization bill.

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