House Republicans filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an effort to block sweeping rule changes that would upend more than 200 years of precedent and present serious risks to chamber security systems.
Filed Tuesday evening by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California in the D.C. District Court with 20 more GOP lawmakers and four constituents, Republicans argue the new rules granting widespread proxy voting are unconstitutional and fly in the face of how the nation’s founders intended its legislature to operate.
“In the 231-year existence of the United States Congress, neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate has ever permitted a member to vote by proxy from the floor of the chamber,” the lawsuit opens. “Through the Civil War; through the burning of the Capitol during the War of 1812 and the terrorist attack on Washington on 9/11; and through the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 and the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, the Congress of the United States has never before flinched from its constitutional duty to assemble at the Nation’s Capital and conduct the People’s business in times of national peril.”
Republicans assert that a clear and honest reading of the Constitution explicitly rejects the idea that, by definition, the nation’s assembly must actually assemble. Almost 60 Democrats have already delegated their constitutional responsibilities to other members slated to cast ballots in their place for an upcoming floor vote Wednesday.
“Those numbers can and will grow, while the number of members who cast votes in person shrinks,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Ultimately, as few as 20 members could control the vote of over 220 members under this rule for the foreseeable future.”
The rule change allowing for proxy voting was passed earlier this month as part of a larger package dictating the lower chamber’s coronavirus operations that also provide for the rushed creation of new technology to allow the House to conduct virtual business.
Considering the more than 1.6 billion cyber-attacks the House receives on an average month, however, widespread concerns remain over the use of such technology so rapidly developed, especially less than five months after the dramatic technology-induced breakdown of the Iowa Democratic caucuses in early February. A winning candidate wasn’t declared for days following the critical first-in-the-nation contest wiping out the victor’s spoils moving onto New Hampshire just one week later.
The app engineered ahead of the caucuses was created in just the two months leading up to the contest and had not been tested statewide. Nor was the app vetted by the Department of Homeland Security, according to The New York Times. ProPublica found that while there is no evidence to suggest the app’s failure on caucus night was a result of malicious cyber-activity, it lacked “key safeguards” to protect the integrity of the election that easily could have been compromised. In contrast, the current technology used in the House chamber took three years to design, test, and implement.
Republicans’ concerns over the House voting by proxy mirrors those in the upcoming debate on what the November elections will look like this fall when millions of Americans flock to the polls. House Democrats want to federalize this year’s elections with universal “no-excuse” absentee voting offered to every voter in every state. The electoral calendar, however, makes for little time to safeguard the integrity of the election with such sweeping alterations.