House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced on Monday that she is extending remote voting for lawmakers through July 3. The measure was originally passed early on in the pandemic and Republicans have called it unconstitutional and an overreach of power.
Pelosi claims that her announcement is based on a notice sent from Acting House Sargeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett that a public health emergency still remains in effect. Republicans have pushed back against the mandate since its inception and with the CDC’s new guidelines reducing restrictions, they are incensed that the speaker would extend the proxy voting.
“In light of the attached notification by the Acting Sergeant-at-Arms, in consultation with the Office of Attending Physician, that a public health emergency is in effect due to a novel coronavirus, I am hereby extending the ‘covered period’ designated on January 4, 2021, pursuant to section 3(s) of House Resolution 8, until July 3, 2021,” Pelosi stated in a letter to House members.
Initially, remote voting was put in place via a party-line vote that took place in May of 2020. It was the first time that lawmakers were allowed to cast their votes while off the House floor. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise both proclaimed it was unconstitutional and accused the Democrats of conducting a power grab concerning congressional proceedings.
House Republicans believe that normalcy should return to the lower chamber. Thirty GOP lawmakers sent a letter to Pelosi earlier in May calling on her to revert to normal procedures and to drop the mask mandate.
The letter reads:
In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance released on May 13, 2021, we urge you to immediately return to normal voting procedures and end mandatory mask requirements in the House of Representatives.
CDC guidance states fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting except where required by governmental or workplace mandate. It is time to update our own workplace regulations. Every member of Congress has had the opportunity to be vaccinated, and you have indicated about 75 percent have taken advantage of this opportunity.
The United States Congress must serve as a model to show the country we can resume normal life through vaccination. Let’s follow the science and get back to work.
After the letter went out, Congressman Bob Gibbs of Ohio released a statement calling for a return to normalcy.
“For all the talk from President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and the mainstream media telling us to follow the science, political leaders should be setting an example for getting back to normal, not cowering in fear in defiance of common sense,” the Republican lawmaker said.
“Based on sound science, the CDC says those who are vaccinated have an incredibly low risk of becoming infected with coronavirus. With that data, there is no reason the House of Representatives should not be fully open and returned to normal operations. It’s time to end the House’s mask mandate and staggered voting,” he continued. “The House of Representatives is filled with enough political drama. The last thing we should be doing is contributing to vaccine hesitancy with the same Mask-erpiece Theater Congress engaged in during Biden’s address to the joint session. I and my colleagues are calling on Speaker Pelosi to reverse these restrictions and allow the People’s House to resume regular operations.”
(Video Credit: Fox News)
Last week, Pelosi declared that her mask edict, as well as penalties for not wearing one, would stay in place despite the CDC’s new guidelines. Her spokesperson told Bloomberg that the mandate would remain in effect because it was unknown how many lawmakers and staffers had been vaccinated. In April, Pelosi had estimated that approximately 75 percent of House members had been inoculated.
Brian P. Monahan, who is the attending physician for Congress, declared that the requirement should remain in effect “until all members and floor staff are fully vaccinated.”
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