In a historic occasion today, six Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives from the Texas delegation cast their ballots by proxy for the first time.
The vote was on the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, which requires the president to impose sanctions on any individuals or entities involved in human rights abuses in Xinjiang, China, where the Chinese Communist Party has actively oppressed Muslim minorities.
Both Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) cosponsored the legislation in the Senate, where it was passed by unanimous consent.
The House of Representatives approved the measure in a 413-1 vote, with only Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) opposing.
Massie has opposed similar measures in the past, explaining, “When our government meddles in the internal affairs of foreign countries, it invites those governments to meddle in our affairs.”
But despite widespread agreement on the bill that was voted upon, the manner in which it passed has stirred partisan divisions.
In total, 74 Democrats voted by proxy, a system wherein the members delegated other members to cast a vote for them.
Representatives from Texas to vote by proxy included Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35), Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30), Marc Veasey (D-TX-33), and Filemon Vela (D-TX-34).
No Republican voted in favor of the proxy-voting measure, but it passed with only three Democrats opposing it.
Gonzalez and Johnson were the only two Texas members who were both absent for the May 15 vote and voted by proxy today. Gonzalez injured his back during a fall from a ladder in early May.
Republicans have been vocal in their opposition, and party leadership has filed a lawsuit against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that questions the constitutionality of the measure.
GOP leaders argue that Article I of the U.S. Constitution repeatedly requires Congress to meet in person in order to conduct business. They cite the Constitution’s use of terms such as “shall assemble,” “attendance,” and the “presence” of a majority needed for a quorum.
Three members from Texas joined the lawsuit, Reps. Chip Roy (R-TX-21), Michael Cloud (R-TX-27), and Ron Wright (R-TX-06), as well as one constituent from Roy’s district, Bella Rubio.
“The American People send their representatives to Washington to represent them, which in no small part means casting votes for them. By adopting the new rule, they are allowing Representatives to delegate away something that is un-delegable. Our constituents delegate to their elected member, and their elected member alone, the duty to decide votes on their behalf,” said Roy.
“If my colleagues on the other side of the aisle expect our truckers, grocers, farmers, and health care workers to go into work every day, they should do the same. Instead, Democrats jammed through a rule change allowing 22 Members of Congress to be the voice for 330 million Americans, upending 200 years of precedent, not to mention the severe constitutional repercussions,” said Wright.
Pelosi and Democratic leadership have contended that the proxy-voting measure is necessary amidst the coronavirus pandemic because of health concerns.
On Wednesday, the House will also be voting on a FISA reauthorization bill that includes an amendment passed in the Senate.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.