The Florida Republican cited the 'ongoing public health emergency' to utilize a House rule allowing another member to cast a vote for him on the House floor.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) was at a black-tie gala at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort on Friday night, the very same day he said he was unable to physically vote from the floor of the House due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to photos posted to social media, Gaetz attended the right-wing group Turning Point USA's winter gala on Friday night, the very same day he wrote a letter to the clerk of the House saying he was "physically unable to attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency."
The gala — at which guests were photographed in a packed indoor room without masks on — started at 5:30 p.m. Friday night, according to an invitation posted to Turning Point USA's website.
At 6:10 p.m. that very same night, Gaetz used his proxy vote to cast a "nay" on a bill to keep the government funded as Congress continued to debate coronavirus relief legislation. Voting no meant that Gaetz would have been OK with the government shutting down until a deal on relief was passed.
Gaetz's office did not immediately return a request for comment about why he would use his proxy vote in the House to attend this gala. Nor did his office respond to a request asking why he would cite the ongoing pandemic as a reason to proxy vote, even though he was fine to attend a political event far from his district, and one where coronavirus prevention measures were not followed.
Getting to Mar-a-Lago takes 3.5 hours of travel via plane from Gaetz's home district, which is located in and around Pensacola, Florida, according to Google Maps. That's an hour shorter than the flight from Pensacola to Washington, D.C.
Gaetz had originally railed against the use of proxy voting, which the House adopted this new rule to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on Capitol Hill. More than two dozen members of Congress have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began, according to NPR.
"Anything that gets the representatives of the people further away from the decision-making process is something that I do not support," Gaetz said at the time.
Other Republicans have also condemned the practice of proxy voting, which allows members to vote from their districts rather than travel long distances in the middle of the pandemic between their homes and the Capitol, which could help further spread the deadly virus.
"We have work to do in Washington, yet 84 Democrats decided to stay home and vote by proxy yesterday," Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) tweeted the day before Gaetz announced he was going to use proxy voting. "We should be working together to extend the Paycheck Protection Program and support American workers."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.