GOP congressmen use pandemic as excuse to skip work and attend CPAC instead

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Rep. Madison Cawthorn decried others as 'cowards' last year for 'not showing up to work.'

Four Republican lawmakers filed letters with the House Clerk this week, saying they were unable to attend their congressional session due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rather than working from home, however, they're all reportedly traveling to Orlando, Florida, for a right-wing political conference.

Reps. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Darrell Issa and Devin Nunes of California each wrote letters giving GOP colleague's their proxy votes, claiming to be "unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency."

They did so under a rule, adopted last year by the Democratic majority — over strong objection from the GOP minority — intended to let lawmakers work remotely to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

All four representatives are listed as speakers at the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference — commonly known as CPAC — which began Friday. Cawthorn and Gaetz addressed attendees Friday afternoon, while Issa and Nunes are scheduled to speak on Saturday.

Spokespeople for the lawmakers did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Last year, the House Republican caucus filed a thus-far-unsuccessful lawsuit to stop the proxy voting system, arguing that it was unconstitutional. Nunes was a named plaintiff in the case.

“You have Democrats, about a third of them, who are now proxy voting," he complained on Fox News last July. "They’re hiding in their basement, just like their candidate [Joe Biden] ... [and] not even showing up in Washington, D.C., to work."

Cawthorn, then a House candidate, tweeted that month, "Leaders show up no matter how uncertain the times are. The Democrats are cowards for hiding and not showing up to work. I guess we can label them as ‘Nonessential personnel’?"

Last May, Gaetz also spoke out against proxy voting, saying on his "Hot Takes" podcast that it was one of many "super partisan mechanisms" of "Nancy Pelosi's Rule."

"Anything that gets the representatives of the people further away from the decision-making process is something that I do not support," he said, warning that the rule change would create "super legislators," with more power than others.

But last November, Gaetz penned an op-ed in the Washington Examiner claiming he changed his mind because "if we cannot drain the swamp, we should at least spend less time in it."

In December, he was caught attending a gala for the right-wing group Turning Point USA at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort — the same day he said he couldn't be in the House chamber due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In their apparent absence, the House of Representatives spent Friday debating a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill.

At least one GOP lawmaker — Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) — canceled his plans to speak at CPAC, opting instead to be present for Friday's House votes.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.