WASHINGTON – House Republicans were furious over the summer when the House made unpresented changes allowing lawmakers to designate a proxy and vote on their behalf amid traveling concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They held news conferences. They lobbied their members against using the proxy function. House Republican leadership even led a lawsuit over the change, calling it unconstitutional.
But now it appears quite a few members of the GOP have changed their tune. And a host of Republicans designated proxies, each citing the “ongoing public health emergency,” to travel to Florida for the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Since Thursday, when CPAC began its annual conference, nearly two dozen House Republicans have written letters to the House clerk to notify they would be absent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and designated a proxy to vote on their behalf. Others, including several CPAC speakers, designated proxies to cast their vote before Thursday.
Democrats railed about the move, criticizing what they call hypocrisy by Republicans.
“Apparently hypocrisy has become a tenant of the Republican Party,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., wrote on Twitter, noting the months the GOP has complained about proxy voting. “Let me get this straight: these Members can’t vote in person because of the pandemic, but they manage to attend CPAC?…They were even maskless at this super spreader event! It’s outrageous.”
Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., agreed, writing on Twitter that these Republicans were skipping a vote on a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package to be at the annual conservative conference.
“My Republican colleagues here called us ‘cowards’ for voting by proxy during the pandemic, filed a lawsuit to stop it, and even introduced a bill to strip pay from Members who vote by proxy,” Beyer wrote. “Now they are in Orlando proxy voting from CPAC while we debate and vote on Covid relief.”
Members of both parties have taken advantage of the proxy rules, which the House established last summer as the pandemic ravaged the country – including spreading in the halls of Congress. Republicans for months had criticized Democrats for using proxies as a way to take a day off work, including attending a space launch in Florida over the summer.
“This isn’t Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s the United States Congress,” Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., said in May as he railed against several Democrats who attended a launch after signing a letter saying their absence was due to the public-health crisis.
The list of Republicans who wrote letters appointing a proxy include speakers at CPAC on Friday, such as Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.; Greg Steube, R-Fla.; Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.; and Ted Budd, R-N.C. Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., who is speaking Saturday at the conference, signed onto a lawsuit against proxy voting.
Several others speaking Saturday at CPAC also signaled they would vote by proxy, including Reps. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.; Devin Nunes, R-Calif.; Mike Kelly, R-Penn.; Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.; and Jim Banks, R-Ind.
Many of these lawmakers were among the Republicans who railed against the proxy rules when they were established and criticized Democrats for using them.
“Leaders show up no matter how uncertain the times are. The Democrats are cowards for hiding and not showing up to work,” Cawthorn wrote on Twitter in July. “I guess we can label them as ‘Nonessential personnel’?”
Banks also voiced opposition on the policy, writing on Twitter last year that he wouldn’t be using proxy rules to cast his vote. “I won’t be passing off my constitutional duty and voting by proxy – especially when we expect millions of workers to get up each day and go to work to keep our nation moving,” he wrote on Twitter in May.
Both Banks and Cawthorn did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Republicans sued over proxy voting, now use it to attend CPAC