Nearly 30% of the House Democratic caucus was absent ahead of a critical vote on U.S. Postal Service funding Saturday.
New House rules allow proxy voting, which allows lawmakers to cast votes on behalf of absent members.
Saturday’s vote on a procedural measure so far included proxy votes by 68 Democrats and one Republican. The 69 absent lawmakers, who cast their vote by proxy on a procedural measure, represent 16% of the entire House, which consists of 431 lawmakers.
The House voted on legislation Saturday to provide the USPS with $25 billion in additional funding. The measure also blocks Postmaster General Louis DeJoy from implementing service changes during the coronavirus outbreak.
The missing lawmakers who voted by proxy include Rep. Joseph Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat who is campaigning in the Bay State to defeat incumbent Democratic Sen. Ed Markey in a Sept. 1 primary.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, also voted by proxy.
Grijalva announced earlier in August he had contracted the coronavirus.
Democrats voted in May to allow proxy voting on floor legislation, breaking two centuries of tradition requiring in-person voting.
Democrats cited the coronavirus pandemic and the risk of having 435 lawmakers traveling to the Capitol from districts nationwide, which could increase the spread of the virus.
A dozen House lawmakers and more than 80 Capitol employees have tested positive for the coronavirus since the outbreak began. Two Republican senators, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Rand Paul of Kentucky, have contracted the coronavirus while others, including Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, have tested positive for the virus antibodies.
While Democrats hailed the rule change as important for safety and the continuity of Congress, Republicans oppose it and have almost entirely avoided proxy voting. One Republican, Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida, who is retiring, voted by proxy Saturday.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, said proxy voting undermines constituent representation in Congress by concentrating power in the hands of fewer lawmakers.
In many instances on Saturday, Democrat lawmakers on the House floor each voted on behalf of several missing House Democrats.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, voted for himself and six other Democrats: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, Rep. Pete Visclosky of Indiana, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas, Rep. Cindy Axne of Iowa, and Rep. Gerald McNerney of California.
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