Nancy Pelosi will extend proxy voting to the fall with the spread of the Delta variant worrying lawmakers on Capitol Hill
- The possible new extension comes after Nancy Pelosi said proxy voting would be in place until August 17th, which she announced at the beginning of July
- It was first enacted in May 2020 due to the pandemic’s health emergency
- A slew of recent COVID cases at the Capitol have alarmed lawmakers
- One House Republican said over the weekend he got COVID for a second time
- Pelosi’s thin majority means she likely cannot risk older Democrats falling ill
- The move would allow lawmakers to focus on events in their home districts
- It comes as US COVID infections surge, fueled mostly by the Delta variant
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reportedly expected to let lawmakers continue proxy voting through fall as fears over the Delta variant and new COVID cases electrify Congress, halting international trips and even resurfacing debate over a mask mandate in the Capitol.
The emergency measure was enacted in May 2020 in response to surging infections both in the US and within the Capitol itself. It allows members of Congress to designate another person to vote in their place.
Pelosi leads a thin 220-211 majority in the House and with a median age of 60, members being sidelined or falling dangerously ill to the virus threatens to shift the delicate balance of power.
Pelosi is expected to extend the emergency proxy voting measure after already extending it at the beginning of July (pictured July 25)
‘Extending the proxy-voting process is the only rational course forward,’ Texas Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela told Axios, who first reported Pelosi’s potential move.
‘Hopefully, the surge will subside sooner than later, and if so, then perhaps life can get back to normal.’
The move would also allow lawmakers to focus on events in their home districts ahead of votes on Joe Biden’s landmark infrastructure spending and increasing the debt ceiling.
A Pelosi aide told the outlet that no decisions have been made and that Pelosi would follow the advice of the Capitol doctor.
However, with the Delta variant already wreaking havoc among lawmakers and their staff, it’s not the first change to procedure the House would see in recent days.
The extension is likely fueled by concerns over the Delta variant and recent reports of vaccinated Pelosi and White House staffers testing positive (pictured: Pelosi followed by a masked staffer on July 22)
The recent outbreak of COVID cases at the Capitol has encouraged many lawmakers to return to wearing masks, even if they are already vaccinated (pictured: Senator Tammy Duckworth entering the Capitol ahead of a vote on July 21)
A news conference held by the Congressional Black Caucus on July 21 saw every participating member wearing a mask as some lawmakers float the possibility of reinstating the mandate
A GOP trip to Israel led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was postponed last week because of concerns over the variant.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the body will ‘have to talk about whether we’re going back to masks’ when the recent outbreaks began.
Republican Rep. Clay Higgins (pictured May 14) announced over the weekend that he tested positive for COVID after allegedly already having the virus in January 2020
The number of lawmakers seen wearing masks by their own volition has already increased in recent days.
One of most recent positive cases in the Capitol was Louisiana Republican Clay Higgins, who announced his diagnosis over the weekend despite saying he already had COVID in January 2020.
Higgins has been silent on his vaccination status.
His case comes after a vaccinated member of Pelosi’s staff and a vaccinated staffer at the White House both tested positive. Both had attended an event with the Speaker and state Democratic lawmakers from Texas, who fled the state to stop a controversial voting security measure from passing.
News of Pelosi’s potential proxy voting extension comes on the same day as the CDC readies to release new guidance recommending fully vaccinated Americans wear masks indoors if they live in COVID hotspots.
It would reverse guidance from May where the medical body said vaccinated people do not need masks, CNBC reports.
However COVID cases in the US have surged 376 percent in the past month, with the Delta variant accounting for 83 percent of new infections.
US coronavirus cases have exceeded 35.5 million since the pandemic began
Over the past month, the average new daily cases across the country have increased by 376 percent, from 11,887 on June 26 to 56,635 on July 26.
When the House first enacted the emergency order last year allowing lawmakers to vote by proxy without a special exclusion, 161 Congressional Republicans sued to block the measure.
Since then GOP representatives have used voting proxies in order to attend events with then-President Donald Trump and more recently to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Data from the Brookings Institute also reveals more lawmakers use proxy voting on days they are scheduled to fly in and out of the capital, extending their weekends at home.