The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) demanded an investigation Friday into seven Democratic lawmakers who allegedly abused the proxy voting system put in place during the pandemic to vote while attending a political event with President Joe Biden.
As a non-partisan watchdog group dedicated to combating corruption, FACT filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to investigate Michigan Reps. Debbie Dingell, Dan Kildee, Brenda Lawrence, Andy Levin, Elissa Slotkin, Haley Stevens, and Rashida Tlaib.
On May 15, 2020, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi authorized the ability to vote by proxy “at any time,” after being “notified by the Sergeant-at-Arms that a ‘public health emergency due to a novel coronavirus [was] in effect.’” Due to the public health emergency caused by the China virus, members of Congress were allowed to vote remotely by proxy.
In letters dated about a year later, the aforementioned seven representatives all granted their votes by proxy to another representative. According to FACT, all seven members directly claimed that they couldn’t “physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency” caused by the China virus.
Recent media reports suggest this was a lie. While the seven Michigan representatives missed in-person voting, they were willing and able to meet in-person for political purposes, just not in Congress.
The members appear to have missed votes to attend an event with Biden in Dearborn, Michigan where he toured a Ford Motor facility and delivered an address.
So glad to be able to huddle with my colleagues before the F150 Lightning event begins with @POTUS.@RepHaleyStevens @RepDanKildee @RepLawrence @RepRashida @RepDebDingell @RepSlotkin pic.twitter.com/6f4ken22bb
— Rep. Andy Levin (@RepAndyLevin) May 18, 2021
Kildee’s own spokesperson admitted that, “Unfortunately due to the pandemic, members of Michigan’s congressional delegation were unable to travel on Air Force One with the President to Dearborn.” “As a result,” the spokesman said, “Members had to take a commercial flight, hours after the presidential visit ended, that required them to vote by proxy.”
While the spokesman attempted to blame the pandemic for Kildee’s failure to vote in person, FACT finds his explanation unsatisfactory. Kildee seems to have missed in-person voting because he was on a poorly-timed and presumably crowded commercial flight. They landed after votes had concluded.
“It appears obvious that Reps. Dingell, Kildee, Lawrence, Levin, Slotkin, Stevens, and Tlaib abused the proxy vote system by making an affirmative choice to physically attend an in-person political event,” Executive Director of FACT Kendra Arnold said. “Clearly, if they were able to spend the day in public with President Biden, then they were more than capable of doing their elected duty of voting in person.”
“[T]he true reason they did not attend was because they were physically present at another event—and a highly political one at that,” Arnold continued. “[…] The abuse of the proxy vote is evident because each Member made an affirmative choice to ‘physically attend’ another event, and had they not done so they were clearly capable of attending the House proceedings.”
Voting by proxy for merely political purposes violates the House resolution, which mandates that proxy votes are only permissible when due to the “public health emergency.” The proxy voting system clearly “was not authorized for any other purpose.”
The system has been allegedly abused by both Democrats and Republicans, such as when some Republicans reportedly used a proxy to vote while in CPAC attendance. The system has drawn backlash from concerned Americans, ever since Pelosi authorized it last year.