Washington, D.C. — Today, Representative Jamie Raskin (MD-08), along with Representatives Deborah Ross (NC-02), Linda Sánchez (CA-38), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), introduced an amendment to the House Rules for the 118th Congress that would allow Members to proxy vote if they, their spouse, or their dependents are experiencing serious medical conditions, including a pregnancy-related condition.
House Democrats instituted proxy voting in the 117th Congress to keep people safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Proxy voting became a critical tool to ensure constituents’ voices were heard despite a Member of Congress contracting COVID-19. Republicans’ elimination of proxy voting in the 118th Congress has restricted the ability of lawmakers to perform one of their core duties and represent the people they are elected to serve in the event of unexpected personal or family illnesses that prevents them from travelling to the Capitol to vote in person.
This amendment would allow proxy voting in narrow medical circumstances to prevent the abuse of proxy voting that occurred in the 117th Congress. The amendment allows members to vote by proxy due to a serious medical condition, including any pregnancy-related condition, or if they are the primary caretaker of a spouse or dependent with a serious medical condition if a doctor has recommended that they not travel. It also allows for remote committee participation under the same conditions.
“When Democrats were in the majority, I used proxy voting when I had COVID-19 – and only when I had COVID,” said Congresswoman Ross. “This sensible accommodation allowed me to represent my constituents while keeping my colleagues safe. This year, like millions of other Americans, I experienced COVID again and was also forced to contend with a life-threatening family medical issue. Unfortunately, under rules passed by the Republican leadership, the option to vote by proxy was no longer available. That simply doesn’t make sense. We should allow any Member of Congress – Democrat or Republican – who is either experiencing a serious medical condition or is caring for a loved one with significant health issues to cast proxy votes in the House and in committee. We introduced this amendment because Members of this body should be allowed to do their jobs and represent their constituents even when acute medical problems arise.”
“As one of the eight women in our nation’s history to give birth while serving in Congress, I can tell you first-hand the rules in the House of Representatives weren’t written with expecting parents in mind,” said Congresswoman Sánchez. “Proxy voting during the pandemic let Members recover from COVID-19 safely, prioritized the health and safety of our families, and prevented further spreading of the deadly virus. There is no question that we should maintain that commitment to health and safety when it comes to other medical conditions – especially pregnancy. This amendment would allow Members who are expecting a child or experiencing serious medical conditions to focus on their health and families while fulfilling their obligations to their constituents.”
“Proxy voting helped Congress deliver for the American people throughout COVID-19 and enabled Congress to pass monumental recovery legislation like the American Rescue Plan,” said Congressman Raskin. “A good faith restoration of proxy voting would empower Representatives to advance the priorities of their constituents even through serious medical diagnoses. I want to thank my colleagues Representatives Ross, Sánchez, Jacobs and Watson Coleman for their leadership on this effort to restore public health common sense to the House.”
“Members of Congress are real people too! Sometimes life intervenes and prevents us from returning to D.C., but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our jobs and vote on legislation impacting the American people,” said Congresswoman Jacobs. “We should be doing everything possible to modernize Congress and make it more inclusive and accessible to all people – whether they’re parents, soon-to-be parents, dealing with a serious medical issue, or caring for a loved one. That’s why I’m proud to support the proxy voting amendment to the House Rules so that Members of Congress don’t have to choose between their health and family – or their job.
"During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic House members of both parties used proxy voting to simultaneously keep themselves and their colleagues safe while not sacrificing their duty to represent their constituents,” said Congresswoman Watson Coleman. “The decision by Republican leadership to rescind the proxy vote puts people's representation at the whim of the health of their representative. I experienced this myself when a family medical emergency kept me from voting on significant legislation. My constituents were left without a voice because House rules had not kept up with the times. I thank Congresswoman Ross for introducing this amendment to ensure Members can do their jobs and the people can be heard."
Amendment text is available here.