A judge has dismissed House Republicans’ lawsuit to invalidate a House rules change allowing members to vote remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled that federal courts have little power to regulate strictly legislative acts. The, filed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in D.C. District Court, contended that proxy voting in the House is unconstitutional.
“The Court can conceive of few other actions, besides actually debating, speaking, or voting, that could more accurately be described as ‘legislative’ than the regulation of how votes may be cast,” Contreras wrote in his opinion Thursday evening. He also noted that none of the rules in question deprive members of their votes, but merely change the way votes may be cast.
Ato change House rules to allow for members to vote from home temporarily passed largely along party lines in May. Republicans argued that representatives are essential workers and should be present at the U.S. Capitol to vote, but Democrats say that it was safer to limit travel amid the pandemic. Many House members are older than 65 and part of a demographic particularly vulnerable to the virus. Several House members have tested positive for the virus and have subsequently quarantined.
In a statement after the ruling, Pelosi said the dismissal of the lawsuit was “welcome news and hopefully the end of this sad Republican effort to obstruct the House from meeting the needs of the American people during the coronavirus crisis.”
“Remote voting by proxy is fully consistent with the Constitution and more than a century of legal precedent, including Supreme Court cases, that make clear that the House can determine its own rules. The nation is in the middle of a dangerous pandemic and the House of Representatives must continue to work,” Pelosi said.
Several lawmakers have already chosen to vote by proxy since the rule change was enacted. The rule change requires members choosing to stay in their districts to submit letters to the clerk of the House designating a colleague as their proxy. Members would have to provide exact instructions for how their proxy should vote on their behalf, and the proxy would carry out those orders accordingly.
Rob Legare contributed to this report.