Several House Republicans used the pandemic as an excuse to skip work and go to a conservative conference in Florida.
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney is publicly criticizing more than a dozen members of her own caucus who skipped work last week and lied about it. The GOP Congress members claimed in official filings that they were absent due to the coronavirus pandemic, but they actually were attending a right-wing political convention.
"No member should be filing false statements," the Wyoming representative told CNN on Friday. "When you get into a situation where members are signing letters, no matter if they're Republicans or Democrats, saying that they can't be here in person because of the public health emergency and then going someplace else, I think that raises very serious questions and I think it's an issue that has got to be addressed."
Thirteen House Republicans took advantage last Friday of proxy voting rules — designed to let members work from home to curb the spread of the pandemic — to attend the CPAC conference in Orlando, Florida.
Reps. Jim Banks (IN), Lauren Boebert (CO), Ted Budd (NC), Madison Cawthorn (NC), Matt Gaetz (FL), Paul Gosar (AZ), Mark Green (TN), Darrell Issa (CA), Ronny Jackson (TX), Mike Kelly (PA), Ralph Norman (SC), Devin Nunes (CA), and Greg Steube (FL) each filed a letter last week with the House clerk certifying that they were "unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency."
Each designated a colleague to serve as their proxy, skipping Friday's lengthy debate on whether to pass the American Rescue Plan, President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package.
According to CNN, each also attended the Orlando conference.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) told the network on Friday that he had hoped to take a vacation in Tucson, Arizona, and considered using the proxy voting system, but felt that it would be dishonest to do so. "Trust me I was tempted, but I didn't think it would be right because I knew in the end I would have to answer was it COVID related? No, it's not."
Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) also questioned whether it was a legitimate use of the rule. After learning that Gosar would be skipping votes for CPAC, she told CNN she urged him to "find someone else to carry your proxy," explaining, "I was not going to vote anyone's proxy who was traveling for other reasons and not to come vote."
Last year, House Democrats adopted the temporary proxy voting system — over the fervent opposition of the Republican minority — after several members tested positive for the coronavirus.
At the time, the House Republican caucus filed a lawsuit to stop the proxy voting system, arguing that it was unconstitutional. The majority of GOP members signed on as named plaintiffs.
Since the start of this year, all but 21 of the plaintiffs have withdrawn their names from the suit. Several of the lawmakers who previously signed on as plaintiffs have since taken advantage of the proxy rules themselves — either when they themselves were absent or to cast votes on behalf of absent colleagues.
Cheney's position as the No. 3 House Republican has been on tenuous ground since she voted to impeach Donald Trump in January. She survived an attempt to remove her from the leadership post on Feb. 3, but has since faced more criticism inside the GOP for her comment that Trump has no "role in the future of the party or the country."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.