Now that the House has pushed through their highly dubious proxy voting scheme, it appears that some of the Democrats have been champing at the bit to give it a try. One such member is Congressman Charlie Crist (D (formerly R)) of Florida. There was supposed to be a vote scheduled on the FISA renewal yesterday, but even though it didn’t wind up happening, debates were taking place and work was going on. The former Florida Governor was, however, unavailable for the business at hand.
As Minority Leader McCarthy pointed out on Twitter, Crist had sent a note to the Clerk of the House informing her that he was “unavailable” to do his job because of “the ongoing health emergency.” As such, he authorized one of his Democratic colleagues to cast his vote by proxy. So what aspect of the pandemic was keeping Crist at home? He was attending the SpaceX rocket launch.
Democrat Charlie Crist said he couldn't show up for work in Washington today "due to the ongoing public health emergency."
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) May 28, 2020
Strangely enough, Crist wasn’t even attempting to hide this episode of playing hooky. He proudly announced his excitement about seeing the launch on social media.
Looking forward to attending today’s historic manned @SpaceX launch to @Space_Station – the first from American soil since 2011 and first ever on a commercial spacecraft. Huge step for space exploration and Florida! pic.twitter.com/EHhF5U8F5M
— Rep. Charlie Crist (@RepCharlieCrist) May 27, 2020
As most of you probably already know, the launch didn’t even wind up happening (scrubbed for bad weather) so Crist wound up skipping work for nothing. But that’s not even the main lesson we should take away from this episode.
First of all, we still don’t even know if this proxy voting scheme will pass constitutional muster. The GOP is going to court to challenge the rule already. I’m not sure what that means in terms of the validity of any votes taken this way if the rule is overthrown, but that’s a matter to be hashed out in the future.
Let’s just say that proxy voting is allowable. Even if that’s the case, the reason for this temporary measure was clearly stated to be the need to keep people safe and healthy while avoiding travel during the pandemic. And that’s the precise reason Crist cited in his letter to the Clerk. But then he turns around and shows up in the middle of the sizable, festive crowds who were gathered to watch the Crew Dragon lift off? In case you were wondering, social media users were commenting on the size of the crowds.
Why my sister was going to sit on her roof for the launch. pic.twitter.com/OSns44DT8l
— The Georg (@thegeorg) May 27, 2020
The proxy voting was supposed to be an option for any members who were unable to physically attend the proceedings because of the pandemic. If Crist had come down with COVID-19 or been exposed to a friend or family member with the disease and decided to self-quarantine, then we could forgive him, at least until the courts sort out this proxy question. But if he was well enough to go to the Cape for the launch, then he was well enough to go to work. And if that’s the case, then he could have just skipped the vote and answered to his constituents for his absence.
As I wrote when the measure was first being considered, this entire proxy question stinks on ice. And Crist is quickly proving how easily the system can be abused.