More than 50 Republicans, who once joined a lawsuit alleging that voting on a House of Representatives power of attorney in the pandemic era was unconstitutional, themselves voted on a power of attorney this year, remotely, without appearing.
Across the aisle, spokesman Kai Kahele, a Hawaiian Airlines pilot as well as a congressman from Hawaii, used proxy voting in all but five of 125 of this year’s rollbacks. Three his fellow Democrats used the power of attorney procedure for each vote.
They are among 303 lawmakers from both parties who voted by power of attorney at least once this year, according to the Associated Press, looking at records showing how cross-party differences over voting elsewhere have diminished.
In all, 191 Democrats, nearly 9 out of 10, and 112 Republicans, just over half, used this year’s power of attorney vote filed by colleagues present in the House.
Of the Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted remotely this year, 54 once signed a 2020 lawsuit alleging that ignoring the Constitution’s requirement that lawmakers vote in person is “simply impossible.”
This trial was initiated by 160 Republicans of the House of Representatives led by a minority leader Kevin McCarthyR-California McCarthy later told colleagues that if they vote remotely, they should not be plaintiffs, and ultimately only one remained in the lawsuit with him, Chip Roy of Texas.
The Supreme Court refused to hear the case in January after it was dropped by lower courts.
Across the aisle, Representative Kai Kahele, Hawaii, used a power of attorney vote in 120 of 125 of this year’s roll calls to the House of Representatives. His congressional website says he is an “active pilot of the commercial airline Hawaiian Airlines”, which travels domestically and internationally on Airbus A330 wide-body aircraft.
A statement from the aides said Kahele had flown three flights this year. Like all those who voted by proxy, he submitted the necessary letter confirming that he “physically cannot” vote in the Capitol. He referred to the “current health emergency”.
Because of the threat of COVID-19, 48-year-old Kahele “cares about the health and safety” of his communities and the family with whom he lives in a “multi-generational home,” the statement said. A freshman who expressed interest in running for governor, Kahele cut short his trip to the Capitol but did not miss a vote and “maximizes return time” by meeting with voters, the report said.
The House of Representatives approved a power of attorney vote almost along party lines in May 2020, as COVID-19 began to change everyone’s activities. In conflicting views on the deadly virus, Democrats called the move a way for Congress to function safely, while Republicans despised it as a refusal to do so.
In that first year, seven Republicans in the House of Representatives and 175 Democrats used proxies, according to data collected by the Brookings Institution. And for now GOP participation has grown, Democrats continue to use this procedure more actively.
Of the 125 registered calls to the House of Representatives this year, Republicans who voted by power of attorney did so an average of 19 times on each, AP the numbers show. Democrats have an average of 28.
McCarthy has repeatedly expressed a desire to end the power of attorney if Republicans get a majority in the House of Representatives in the November election, saying it was time for lawmakers to “get to work.”
Democratic speaker Nancy Pelosi recently extended the power of attorney until May 14.
The procedure helped Pelosi, California, lead a narrow majority in his party, reducing the likelihood that Democrats will miss votes, even if senior Republicans call on their members to vote in person.
Louis Homer, Texas MP, who is now running for state attorney general, this year cast 61 votes for the proxy, the largest number among Republicans who joined McCarthy’s lawsuit. Assistants did not respond to messages requesting comment.
It is also evolving why lawmakers used this process.
MP Colin Allred, Texas, took childcare leave after the birth of his second child in the spring of 2021. Leader of the 3rd House of Representatives Regional Party Elise Stefanick of New York was at a fundraising event in Florida with former President Donald Trump in January.
Minnesota MP Ilhan Omar was one of several Democrats at a demonstration of racial justice in her state in April 2021 during a power of attorney vote. That February, MP Madison Cowthorne, RN.C., was in a group of tough right-wing lawmakers who voted remotely during a conservative political conference in Florida attended by Trump.
Cawthorne criticized the proxy vote in July 2020, tweeting, “Leaders are, no matter how indefinite. Democrats are cowards for hiding and not coming to work. ”
This year, Cowthorne voted by power of attorney 57 times, according to the AP count. According to Brookings, in 2021 he did it 69 times in his first year in Congress. The assistant declined to answer questions.
Three Democrats used proxies for each vote in 2022: Representative El Lawson of Florida, Lucille Roybal-Allard of California and Alba Sires of New Jersey. Roybal-Allard and Sires are not seeking re-election.
Roybal-Allard’s nearly 77-year-old husband has weakened immunity, the assistant said in a statement. Roibalu-Allard 80.
Spokeswoman Eric Dottra said the 71-year-old Cyrus remained in New Jersey this year, citing health issues including age, wife’s surgery and upcoming knee replacement.
Lawson’s aides did not respond to a message asking for comment.
77 votes for proxy this year MP Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., The most among Republicans. In a statement, she said she is the only child and chief caregiver of her 86-year-old mother, who fell ill last year.
“Not knowing how much time we have left together, I want to be with her,” Salazar added.
Aides to Kahele, a lawmaker and pilot, provided an email exchange in which staff from the House Ethics Committee said employment outside was allowed as long as it did not interfere with his duties in Congress and his income exceeded his income.
E-mail exchanges show that Kahele has been warned that he can vote on matters in which he has no “direct personal or monetary interests”.
Honolulu Civil Beat, a non-profit news organization, first reported in detail on the Kahele vote and the work of the airline.
AP data reporter Aaron Kessler contributed to this report.