Donald Wolfensberger at The Hill:

On Jan. 20, the Brookings Institution released an updated study on proxy voting on the floor of the House of Representatives. The report reviewed votes through the first session of this 117th Congress. Coauthored by Emily Larson, Naomi Maehr and Molly E. Reynolds, the study highlights the fact that an increasing number of Republicans are using proxies, despite their initial rejection of the device when it was first introduced in May 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

According to data I have been compiling since proxies were introduced in mid-2020, the average number of proxies cast per roll call vote in the 116th Congress was 46.5, and in the first session of this Congress, 41.6.  So any marked increases from those averages is worth noting.  My cursory review of the measures voted tends to confirm the Brookings finding that important measures do attract a larger number of members voting by proxy. The major COVID relief, supplemental appropriations package passed the House on Dec. 21, 2020, by a vote of 359 to 53, with 98 Members voting by proxy. That was the highest number of proxies cast since the procedure’s inception in May, though a week later, on Dec. 28, that record was exceeded by 122 proxies cast on overriding the president’s veto of the defense authorization act. 

As I observed in a piece published here last year, “Yesterday’s emergency mandates become today’s convenient necessities.” The proxy voting option appeals both to leadership, from the standpoint of certainty and control, and to rank-and-file members from the standpoint of freedom and flexibility. Left on the losing side are the democratic values of debate, deliberation and interpersonal relationships and cooperation. Let the debate begin.