Why is Congress refusing to do its job in person?

Some of the problems with proxy voting are constitutional. One of our several concerns includes the fact that lawmakers cannot be counted “present” during official House business if they are not physically in the Capitol. Another defect of proxy voting is that designating a proxy constitutes an unconstitutional delegation of voting power to another member. As my colleagues and I argued in the lawsuit, “the Congress of the United States has never before flinched from its constitutional duty to assemble at the Nation’s Capital and conduct the People’s business in times of national peril and crisis. So it was for more than two centuries. Until now.”

In addition to these constitutional concerns, there are practical problems with proxy voting. First, proxy voting concentrates even more power in the hands of House leadership. Under proxy rules, a single member can represent up to ten others by proxy — meaning the House majority could unilaterally pass legislation with only 20 members present. Second, proxy voting sends the clear signal that Congress cannot lead by example during the pandemic. While businesses across the country have been forced to shut down and workers have been separated into arbitrary “essential” and “nonessential” buckets, Congress effectively declared itself to be nonessential by allowing proxy voting. Third, members of Congress are abusing proxy voting and lying in the process. The rules governing proxy voting made clear that members could only designate a proxy if they were “unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber” due to “the public health emergency.” Yet members have voted by proxy simply to pursue extracurricular activities, such as attending space launches.