May 27 (UPI) — Nearly two dozen Republicans have sued House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, seeking to block the House of Representatives from proxy voting, a measure instituted by Democrats to allow congressmen to vote remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, the 21 Republicans, led by House minority leader Kevin McCarthy of California, argued the measure was not only unprecedented but unconstitutional under the Quorum Requirement that mandates a majority to be present to conduct Congress’ business.
The measure, passed earlier this month mostly along party lines without a single Republican backer, allows a House representative to vote on behalf of up to 10 other lawmakers for the first time in the U.S. Congress’ more than 230-year history.
By early Wednesday when the House was to allow a vote by proxy for the first time, more than 60 lawmakers had informed the House clerk by letter of their intention to utilize the measure and who they authorize to act as their surrogate.
McCarthy, in a statement Tuesday, lambasted the measure as a “brazen violation of the Constitution.”
“The speaker’s reckless and partisan decision to adopt proxy voting was done despite unified opposition from the minority and even members of her own party,” he said, referring to the three Democrats who voted against the move. “This is a serious matter that will damage the integrity of the House’s actions now and in the future.”
In the lawsuit, the Republicans said not the Civil War, the burning of the Capitol during the War of 1812, the terrorist attack on 9/11 nor the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 or the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 had forced the U.S. Congress to vote by proxy, asking the court to enjoin it from doing so now.
“Never before has either House of Congress purported to authorize a quorum by proxy and/or proxy voting by members on legislation and similar matters, even in times of national crisis and grave danger to the safety of the assembled members,” the court document reads.
In a statement, Pelosi, D-Calif., called the lawsuit a “sad stunt,” rebutting that the measure is consistent with the Constitution as each chamber of Congress has the right to set its own procedural rules.
“As our nation approaches the heartbreaking milestone of 100,000 lives lost to COVID-19, House Republicans must stop their dangerous obstruction and join Democrats to save lives, defeat the virus and grow the economy,” she said.