U.S. House to Consider Proxy Voting Proposal This Week, Members Told

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(Bloomberg) -- The House will decide this week on a rule change to let members cast future votes by proxy for colleagues who don’t travel to Washington because of coronavirus-related concerns.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said in a statement to members early Tuesday that the chamber was “expected to vote on a rule change related to remote voting by proxy.”

The proxy voting proposal will be brought up for approval on the same day House members vote on an expected deal to provide more economic stimulus funds for small businesses and other needs resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that lawmakers have a tentative deal with the Trump administration, though an administration official and a Senate Republican aide cautioned that some final details have yet to be settled.

Hoyer told members a House vote on the stimulus package could occur “as early as Thursday,” and that the chamber also plans to vote on a proxy voting proposal. In a later statement, he suggested the House also begin considering remote electronic voting.

Democrats were initially told about possible a vote-rule change during a caucus-wide call on Monday afternoon, according to several people who listened in, and who asked for anonymity because the discussion was private. It’s intended to be a temporary solution to protect the health of lawmakers and congressional employees.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that the rule change must be approved by a vote of the full House before proxy voting can be used for future votes.

Under the proxy plan, explained last week by Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, a House member casting a vote on behalf of another member would be required to have exact direction on how to vote and would have to follow that direction, including for procedural votes. There would be no limit to how many members’ proxies a lawmakers appearing in person on the House floor to vote could hold.

Hoyer, in a letter Tuesday to McGovern and House Administration Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren of California, called proxy voting only a first step. He urged them to continue looking into the potential use by Congress in emergencies of video conferencing or other technology to allow remote voting and remote committee work.

“We ought to use this time as an opportunity to prepare for Congress to be able to work according to its full capabilities even with social and physical distancing guidelines in place,” Hoyer said in the letter.

“While any distance-voting is less optimal than in-person voting or debating in committee or on the floor of the House, the sound and image of the member doing so virtually is far superior to the utilization of proxies,” he wrote.

Pelosi and others have expressed concern that remote voting technology may not be secure or could present constitutional challenges.

How often proxy voting may be used is uncertain. House members have been told they likely will not resume regular business in Washington again until May 4 at the earliest.

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