Updated May 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

House Republicans to sue Nancy Pelosi in effort to block proxy voting

Nancy pelosi wearing a face mask

Photo: Michael Brochstein / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

20 House Republicans plan to file a lawsuit late Tuesday against Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an effort to block the chamber's new proxy voting system amid the coronavirus pandemic, three congressional sources tell Axios.

The big picture: The lawsuit, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, alleges the rules are unconstitutional because the Constitution requires a quorum, or a majority, of lawmakers to be physically present in order to conduct business. The lawsuit was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

  • The historic rule allows Pelosi to initiate remote operations for 45 days and for House members to direct another member vote on their behalf if they can't make it to the Capitol
  • No Republicans voted in favor of the temporary remote voting.

What they're saying: "Our guidance is either vote in person if you can or, if unable to travel to be physically present, use the other options already available to House members to make your position known," one House GOP leadership aide told reporters on Tuesday.

  • "This week, House Democrats will break over 230 years of precedent and allow Members of Congress to vote by proxy on the House floor," House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote in a statement. "This is not simply arcane parliamentary procedure. It is a brazen violation of the Constitution, a dereliction of our duty as elected officials, and would silence the American people's voice during a crisis."
  • The other side: “The House’s position that remote voting by proxy during a pandemic is fully consistent with the Constitution is supported by expert legal analyses. Further, the Supreme Court made clear over a century ago that the Constitution empowers each chamber of Congress to set its own procedural rules," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

The state of play: GOP leadership aides say they do not expect the suit to be able to stop proxy voting this week.

  • 54 Democratic members have already sent a letter designating another member to vote on their behalf this week. No Republicans have done so, per one of the aides.
  • "We believe the majority rule is unconstitutional. And so, the remedy there is for us to go to court and ask for them to confirm our reading of the Constitution, and that will take a little bit of time," a second Republican leadership aide said.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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