House Republicans have filed a lawsuit against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and two other chamber officials as part of a long-shot effort to block the use of proxy voting before it goes into effect this week.
The lawsuit alleges that the proxy vote legislation passed by the House earlier this month is unconstitutional and sets a dangerous precedent.
Filed on Tuesday in DC Federal District Court, the lawsuit names House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as the top plaintiff. He is joined by Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and 16 other members. Four constituents are also included as plaintiffs in the suit.
Under the changes approved by House Democrats, lawmakers are now permitted to vote on behalf of up to 10 other members who are left unable to travel during the coronavirus pandemic, which has left dozens of politicians trapped in their home districts.
The reform was passed earlier this month in a near-party-line 217-189 vote, with all Republicans opposed and joined in their nay votes by three Democrats and Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich.).
As of Wednesday morning, 63 Democrats had submitted letters to the House Clerk’s office to authorize their vote to be cast by proxy.
Last week, less than 20 Democratic lawmakers were on the list.
In announcing the lawsuit, McCarthy said that Democrats in Congress’ lower chamber were breaking “over 230 years of precedent.”
“This is not simply arcane parliamentary procedure. It is a brazen violation of the Constitution, a dereliction of our duty as elected officials, and would silence the American people’s voice during a crisis,” the top House Republican said in a statement.
“Although I wish this matter could have been solved on a bipartisan basis, the stakes are too high to let this injustice go unaddressed. That is why, along with other members of the House and our constituents, I have filed a lawsuit in federal court to overturn Speaker Pelosi’s unconstitutional power grab,” he continued.
In response to the lawsuit, Pelosi released a statement slamming the move as a “sad stunt.”
“House Republicans’ sad stunt shows that their only focus is to delay and obstruct urgently-needed action to meet the needs of American workers and families during the coronavirus crisis,” she said.
“The House’s position that remote voting by proxy during a pandemic is fully consistent with the Constitution is supported by expert legal analyses. Further, the Supreme Court made clear over a century ago that the Constitution empowers each chamber of Congress to set its own procedural rules,” she continued, referencing the GOP claim that the rule change was unconstitutional.