The House Rules Committee is to be commended on holding a day-long hearing March 17 on proxy floor voting and remote committee proceedings — two emergency pandemic procedures initiated in the last Congress. All told, 16 House members testified, ten Republicans and six Democrats, including the majority leader, two committee chairs and four ranking minority members. …[E]even some of the Democratic witnesses and committee members conceded that the proxy voting system is being abused by some members. Under the terms of the rule, in order to designate and instruct proxies, members must sign a statement affirming they are unable to attend the session due to the pandemic health emergency. And yet, it is not unusual for floor attendance to be sparser at the beginning and end of each week and closer to a full House in the middle of the week when more important legislation is being considered and more votes are being cast. To paraphrase one Republican witness, this is incontrovertible proof that these members are lying about the reason for their absence.
The most persuasive argument for continuing proxy voting in some form beyond the pandemic was delivered by two women, one a Rules Committee member and the other a witness. They recounted their personal experiences as new mothers, and the difficulty of balancing their congressional and maternal responsibilities. One compromise rule floated by Rules member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) was that proxy voting be allowed only for those members having “a compelling personal medical or family matter” to deal with.
However, if Republicans retake control of the House in this year’s midterm elections, most observers predict they will abolish proxy voting, no matter how valid a member’s reasons may be. Remote committee proceedings, on the other hand, have a much better chance of surviving a change in party control. Ranking Rules Republican Tom Cole (Okla.), for instance, expressed his support for continuing the practice. At least it does not allow for committee proxies — a practice abolished back in 1995.