Pelosi Slams McConnell for Comments on House Remote Voting Rules

May 22, 2020 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday of “deliberately misleading” the public about House remote voting rules adopted by the chamber last week.

Speaking on the floor of the Senate on Thursday, McConnell said Democrats have “jammed through” the rules change which had passed on a party line vote last Friday, and said it would allow “one member to cast 10 additional votes.”

“There are several problems with this,” he said. “One of them happens to be Article 1, Section 5 of the US Constitution, which says a majority of each house shall constitute a quorum to do business.”

McConnell warned “there will be enormous constitutional questions around anything the House does if they fail to demonstrate a real quorum, but plow ahead anyhow.

The Constitution, he said, “requires a physical quorum.”

Pelosi pushed back a short time later, telling reporters that “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.

“As legal scholars have concluded, the ‘Constitution bestows on each House of Congress broad discretion to determine the rules for its own proceedings. This authority is expansive and would include the ability to adopt a rule to permit proxy voting.'”

She calls McConnell’s comments “deliberately misleading,” adding. “Simply and sadly, he is trying to find every excuse not to meet the needs of the American people.”

Under the new proxy and remote voting rules, the speaker can trigger the processes only after receiving notification from the sergeant-at-arms in consultation with the Capitol physician that there is a public health emergency due to the coronavirus.

Lawmakers unable to travel to the Capitol to cast votes in person could then authorize a colleague to serve as a proxy to vote on their behalf.

Also rising to defend the new emergency procedures was House Rules Committee chairman Rep. James McGovern, D-Ma., who bluntly said McConnell was “flat out wrong” in his assertions on the Senate floor

“The House has the authority to determine its own rules. Leader McConnell should get his own house in order instead of worrying about the procedure used on the other side of the Capitol,” McGovern said. “It’s a disgrace that he is telling struggling Americans to hurry up and wait as the Senate refuses to take up additional coronavirus relief in the middle of a global health and economic emergency.”

Earlier this week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said despite the new rules, House Democrats expect a good turnout of members on both sides of the aisle when the body meets.

“We do know, however, there are members who [may not be here] for health reasons — either their own health or the health of one of their family members — or transportation issues, which, as you know, are more difficult now with the pandemic going on,” he said. “But our expectation is there will be a good number of members. We do not expect there to be 20 members here. We expect there to be many more.”

“When asked to come to the House to pass critically important legislation, members on both sides of the aisle have been here in large numbers,” Hoyer said.

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