Coronavirus: House proxy voting is latest assault on the Constitution

During the debate phase of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act a few months ago, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) blasted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for refusing to let him speak on the House floor before voting on the legislation.

Massie’s goal was a simple one — force Congress to comply with Article I of the Constitution. Massie was insisting that a roll-call vote on the measure be held that would force members of Congress to be present and on-the-record in order to pass the largest bailout in U.S. history. Unfortunately, Pelosi and McCarthy found a way to work around a roll-call vote and passed it on a voice vote.

Massie’s effort failed, but it managed to earn him the indignation of Donald Trump and members of Congress who wanted the CARES Act passed early enough to get money into the hands of voters before the November election.

Massie’s motivation was the Constitution and representative government. Trump and his fellow tyrants in Congress were motivated by their self-interests and the insatiable need to preserve their iron-fisted power over the people.

These despots have become so successful at using coronavirus hysteria as an end-run around the Constitution that they’re ready to do it again by essentially voiding Article I, Section 5, Clause 1 “temporarily” until the so-called health crisis is over.

Hidden in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act passed in the House earlier this month was a rule change that allows members to vote via “proxy” for the first time in U.S. history. Under the rule, members will not be required to be present to vote, but can instead send their “yes” or “no” vote to a colleague who will submit it on their behalf.

Each of these “colleagues” can submit up to 10 votes at a time. And when you do the math, this means votes that would normally require at least 218 members to pass could realistically be decided with only 21 members physically present.

Though allegedly temporary, the rule can be extended if necessary. When you consider Congress’ track record on temporary legislation (the PATRIOT Act, for example), proxy voting will most likely be used again for the next “emergency” now that the precedent has been set.

Proving the truth of the “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while” idiom, some Republicans are rightly calling proxy voting unconstitutional, and they’re right. The House can make rules regarding voting procedures, but they can’t make rules regarding voting requirements (i.e. Article I requiring a Quorum be present for Congress to do business).

Impotent Republicans have proven themselves to be just as disinterested in the Constitution as their Democrat comrades, so the end result of this new rule remains to be seen. But the effort to pass it in the first place proves how our “representatives” in Washington have adopted the Rahm Emanuel “never let a crisis go to waste” playbook to do the things they couldn’t do otherwise.

Constitution be damned!


David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable and promotes conservative principles over political parties.

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