Now, almost two years after the change, Democrats and Republicans alike have taken advantage of proxy voting, with only a quarter of Texas’ 36-member delegation refraining from the practice.
To date, the eight Texas members who have not voted by proxy include Reps. Jodey Arrington (R-TX-19), Kevin Brady (R-TX-08), Michael Cloud (R-TX-27), Jake Ellzey (R-TX-06), Lance Gooden (R-TX-05), Chip Roy (R-TX-21), Randy Weber (R-TX-14), Roger Williams (R-TX-25).
In contrast, out of only the 141 votes in the lower chamber this year, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30) has voted the most by proxy at 102 times.
The next members who have voted by proxy the most since January are Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) with 98 proxy votes, Van Taylor (R-TX-03) with 69, Louie Gohmert (R-TX-01) with 62, and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35) with 55.
When the change to voting practices was made official by Democrats in Congress, the underlying justification for proxy voting was to limit person-to-person interaction as a safeguard against the spread of COVID-19.
Those health concerns are still cited by some members, such as Johnson.
“As someone considered high-risk for severe COVID-19 illness, and with the safety of my family, staff, and fellow Members in mind, I have and may continue to vote by proxy when necessary,” said Johnson when asked about her proxy votes.
But it is one of the House’s worst-kept secrets that proxy voting is frequently used by members, primarily for reasons that have nothing to do with the pandemic.
For instance, according to The Dispatch, Congressman Charlie Crist (D-FL), a Democratic candidate in Florida’s gubernatorial election this year, has frequently voted by proxy and been absent from committee hearings while attending other events on the campaign trail.
While Johnson is retiring, the other four members who have voted by proxy the most this year have also had busy campaign seasons.
Cuellar faced a competitive primary from returning Democratic challenger Jessica Cisneros and is now headed to a runoff election against her.
Gohmert is not returning to Congress but was campaigning for a bid against Attorney General Ken Paxton, though he fell short of the votes needed to win or advance to a runoff election.
And Doggett, though well established with one of the largest war chests in the delegation, sought the nomination to a new congressional district in Austin.
Almost all of Doggett’s proxy votes and two-thirds of Gohmert’s came before the primary election on March 1.
Notably, though, Taylor did not vote by proxy a single time before the primary election, despite facing stiff competition and being pulled into a runoff election. But beginning a few weeks after Taylor dropped out of the race, effectively handing the GOP nomination to Keith Self, Taylor has voted completely by proxy.
The offices of Cuellar, Gohmert, Doggett, and Taylor did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publishing.
Among Republicans in the state’s delegation who have made use of proxy voting this year, the average number of proxy votes has been 23. For Democrats, the average has been 30.
The broad use of the measure by GOP members is a stark contrast to the broad opposition when it was first introduced.
Gohmert, for instance, is now practicing what he preached against in 2020.
In heated remarks on the House floor shortly before the measure was adopted, Gohmert shouted, “You can’t pass a bill on this floor with proxies and have it upheld unless you change the Constitution, and this doesn’t do it.”
“If you’re gonna destroy 40 million lives and livelihoods, at least have the courage to come here and do it in person,” said Gohmert.
But Roy, one of the most vocal critics of the policy, has not wavered in his opposition.
House GOP leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) alongside many other congressional Republicans filed a lawsuit in federal court against Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) when the change was adopted.
But the trial court and appellate court refused to consider the challenge on the grounds that it was an issue outside of their jurisdiction.
By the time McCarthy filed a petition to bring the suit to the U.S. Supreme Court, only one other congressman — Roy — remained on the suit as a plaintiff.
Though the Supreme Court also declined to take up the case without comment, Roy has continued to push back against the rule.
In March, the House Rules Committee held a hearing regarding the practice as well as the practice of allowing participation in committee proceedings remotely.
Roy called the practice a “legitimate constitutional question,” arguing that language used throughout the Constitution “clearly requires members of Congress to be actually present in the House or Senate chamber.”
On a practical level, he also contended that the use of proxy voting puts “immense pressure” on members, pointing to an example of a time when he was waiting on leadership to inform him whether or not a key vote would take place in order to decide if he could attend another planned event.
“It makes it a lot easier to force votes at Friday night at whatever [time] without having any advance notice if half the damn body is voting by proxy,” said Roy.
“What we do here is important,” said Roy. “But I think sometimes we have a heightened sense of our own importance. There’s 435 of us. There’s 535 if you count the Senate. At the end of the day, this country is gonna plod along and we’re all gonna come and go, and we’re all gonna be pushing up daisies soon enough.”
“If it was that important of a vote, then give up whatever that thing is — sacrifice for the good of the country, and get your butt to Washington, and vote,” said Roy. “If you can’t do it, think about not running again.”
A full chart of how often Texas members have voted by proxy since the beginning of the year can be found below.
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Daniel Friend is the Marketing and Media Manager for The Texan. After graduating with a double-major in Political Science and Humanities, he wrote for The Texan as a reporter through June 2022. In his spare time, you're likely to find him working on The Testimony of Calvin Lewis, an Abolition of Man-inspired novel and theatrical podcast.