House GOP demands members risk their lives instead of working from home


Republican leaders continue to oppose proposals to allow proxy voting or remote hearings of the House of Representatives during the pandemic.

Three House Republicans on Wednesday attacked a Democratic plan to let some House members work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that working from home would constitute what they termed abandoning ship.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy; Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, the ranking member of the Committee on House Administration; and Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the ranking member of the Committee on Rules, released a joint statement opposing the proposal to temporarily allow proxy voting and remote hearings.

"Across our nation, Americans of all stripes are making sacrifices and doing their part to defeat this virus — and they expect Washington to do the same," the Republicans wrote. "Unfortunately, far from being 'captains of this ship' as Speaker Pelosi recently proclaimed, the Democrats' proposal calls for the House of Representatives to abandon ship — potentially for the remainder of the session."

McCarthy, Davis, and Cole rejected a rule change, proposed by Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern and unveiled by Democratic leaders on Wednesday, that would allow absent lawmakers to designate a colleague to cast votes on their behalf on the House floor during the "public health emergency due to a novel coronavirus." The plan also allows committees to meet remotely via online systems.

If the resolution on the change is approved, members of Congress will have the option to practice social distancing to help curb the virus's spread while still doing their jobs. Millions of Americans have been doing the same since the pandemic shut down much of the nation in March.

McCarthy, Davis, and Cole are not the first GOP lawmakers to suggest that a proxy plan for members of Congress is an abdication of duty. Last month, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks accused his "#Socialist #Democrat" colleagues of proposing remote voting so they could "GET PAID IN FULL without showing up for work at Capitol Hill."

Republicans have demanded the House reopen for business immediately, even after House physician Brian Monahan expressed concern about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the District of Columbia.

"The American people need to see Congress in action and not sitting on the sidelines," Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) tweeted in late April. "'Where's Waldo'? No, it's 'Where Are The Democrats?'"

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) mocked the Democratic majority for listening to medical advice, posting on Facebook: "In which Article of the Constitution does it mention that a 'House Physician shall direct members of Congress when they shall convene'?"

At least six members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Late last month, the House held two roll-call votes with only a few members allowed on the floor to vote at a time. Each vote was scheduled for 15 minutes but took more than an hour to complete.

The Republicans on Wednesday also claimed that the teleworking proposal "facilitates only legislative theater while enabling the most significant power grab in the history of Congress, leaving our constituents' voices shut out of the real lawmaking process" and "disregards rights of the minority at all levels, a failure of leadership that will have lasting consequences for our institution beyond the current pandemic."

It is not clear how permitting voting by proxy, which does not interfere with any member's ability to vote in person, or conducting hearings remotely "disregards rights of the minority."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.