The Slatest

More Than a Dozen House Republicans Skip COVID Relief Vote due to Pandemic but Speak at CPAC

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference being held in the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference being held in the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

There was a time when Republican lawmakers made a big stink about new rules that allowed members of he House of Representatives to designate a proxy to vote on their behalf amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They were so outraged that Republican leaders in the House even filed a lawsuit over the issue, claiming it was unconstitutional. But now it seems things have changed and Republican lawmakers like the ability to designate a proxy to vote for them, especially if it means they can travel to Florida to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference. In all, at least 13 House Republicans said the pandemic would force them to be absent and designated a proxy to vote on their behalf when they were scheduled to speak at the CPAC conference in Orlando.

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Democratic lawmakers took note of the contradiction and characterized the moves as hypocritical. “Apparently hypocrisy has become a tenant of the Republican Party,” Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts  wrote on Twitter. “Let me get this straight: these Members can’t vote in person because of the pandemic, but they manage to attend CPAC?” He wasn’t alone. “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,” Rep. Don Beyer from Virginia wrote. “Now they are in Orlando proxy voting from CPAC while we debate and vote on Covid relief.”

The Republican lawmakers who appointed a proxy and were also scheduled to speak at CPAC includes Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Jim Banks of Indiana, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Mark Green of Tennessee, Darrell Issa of California, Ronny Jackson of Texas, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Devin Nunes of California, and Greg Steube of Florida.

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A few months ago, Cawthorn was blasting the use of proxies. “Leaders show up no matter how uncertain the times are,” Cawthorn tweeted in July. “The Democrats are cowards for hiding and not showing up to work. I guess we can label them as ‘Nonessential personnel’?”

Some sought to justify their actions and blamed Democrats. “After Democrats rearranged the House schedule with extremely late notice, Rep. Budd was forced to proxy vote for the first time,” a Budd spokesman said. “Rep. Budd remains philosophically opposed to proxy voting.” Issa’s spokesperson also justified the move. “Congressman Issa complied with all House voting rules in lodging his opposition to what the Democrats labeled as Covid relief, but that devoted more than 90 percent of its total to non-Covid spending,” Issa’s spokesperson Jonathan Wilcox said in a statement.

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