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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday extended the period by which House vote by proxy through May 14 as the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic wanes and more municipalities across the United States relax restrictions.
In her announcement, Pelosi, a California Democrat, cited a memo from Sergeant at Arms William Walker, who consulted with the U.S. Attending Physician Dr. Brian Monahan, for the move. Walker wrote “public health emergency due to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 remains in effect.”
“In light of the attached notification by the Sergeant-at-Arms, in consultation with the Office of Attending Physician, that a public health emergency is in effect due to a novel coronavirus, I am hereby extending the ‘covered period,'” Pelosi wrote.
Pelosi has extended proxy voting several times during the pandemic. The move allows House members to vote on another person’s behalf if they aren’t physically present to do so, an exception that became commonplace as COVID-19 cases began to surge across the country.
Republicans argued the Constitution requires a quorum, or a majority, of lawmakers to be physically present in order to vote on measures.
The House voted on 103 days last year during the first half of the 117th Congress and was on track to vote only 100 days in the second.
Weeks into the pandemic, House Republicans filed a lawsuit against Pelosi to block the proxy voting system. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California called the new voting rules “a dereliction of our duty as elected officials,” and argued that “a small number of members dictating the businesses of the whole House while the people’s voice is diluted” would be a dangerous precedent to set.
In February, Monahan rescinded the House mask mandate after guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a phased re-opening of the Capitol began this month.