Some 230 Members vote by proxy to spend $1.65 trillion.
by The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, December 23, 2022
The House of Representatives spent Friday passing the $1.65 trillion omnibus spending blowout, and the bill is loaded with earmarks and pet priorities from healthcare to public lands that few Members have bothered to read. This is no way to run a government, and compounding the embarrassment is that half of the lawmakers had already ditched Washington for the holidays.
The House had roughly 230 “active proxy letters” on Friday. Speaker Nancy Pelosi through a rule change allowed Members to vote by proxy in 2020, a putatively temporary measure to mitigate the risks of Covid-19. But the reprieve has been renewed every 45 days for more than two years and is now an all-purpose excuse to go AWOL.
Members sign a letter, available on the House clerk’s website, that says they are “unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency,” and designate a colleague to cast their vote. But no one even bothers anymore to fake a cough or pretend the absence has anything to do with Covid-19. Mrs. Pelosi told a CNN reporter on Friday that the mass sick day is “related to the weather more than anything else.”
Members sometimes missed votes pre-Covid, and voters can judge for themselves whether a snowstorm is a fair reason for their Representative to leave Washington early. But it should give Americans more pause that so many Members of Congress are so cavalier about misrepresenting the reason they won’t be at roll call.
he abuse is bipartisan, and Members from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene availed themselves of proxy letters this week. Business Insider reports that Ms. Greene is vacationing in Costa Rica.
An October CQ Roll Call analysis found that a dozen House Democrats cast more than half their votes by proxy. Retiring members are particular offenders, and a joke in the press is that they are “quiet quitting.” The Roll Call report noted that voting by proxy is more common on days Members are showing up or leaving town. Is it easier to get Covid on a Friday?
GOP leader Kevin McCarthy said on Friday that the Republican House in January would repeal “proxy voting once and for all,” though it may not be easy to herd his colleagues back into the chamber now that they’ve grown accustomed to weighing in from afar.
But the $1.65 trillion spending bill touches every corner of policy from education to national defense. The least elected officials could do is show up to debate the merits.