The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Supreme Court declines to hear McCarthy’s challenge to House proxy voting during pandemic

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had proposed the system in May 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Republicans have used it despite their lawsuit against it.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at a tree-lighting ceremony outside the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 1. (Stefani Reynolds for The Washington Post)

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s challenge to House proxy voting rules, which were proposed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The rules allow absentee voting procedures, meaning House members can cast votes remotely because of the ongoing pandemic.

The Supreme Court, as is typical, did not comment on why it declined to hear McCarthy’s case.

McCarthy (R-Calif.) has long opposed the rules, asking the Supreme Court in September to overturn them, despite nearly 100 Republicans making use of them. The minority leader has blasted proxy voting as a “power grab” and a “raw abuse of power” by Pelosi and other Democrats. The rules were adopted in May 2020 on a 217-to-189 vote along party lines.

A spokesman for McCarthy did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday on the court’s decision to not take up the case.

Pelosi, in a statement, welcomed the court’s decision to turn away Republicans’ “frivolous lawsuit,” describing it as “a victory for the Congress, the rule of law and public health.”

“With this failed lawsuit, Republicans have worked to recklessly endanger the health of colleagues, staffers and institutional workers,” Pelosi said. “In doing so, they have fought harder to try to score political points than they have fought to help struggling families during the pandemic. They do so with great shame and hypocrisy, as last year alone more than half of the Members of their conference designated a proxy so that they could vote remotely.”

In September, when he took the case to the high court, McCarthy argued that, although “the Constitution allows Congress to write its own rules, those rules cannot violate the Constitution itself, including the requirement to actually assemble in person.”

“Since its adoption 14 months ago, proxy voting has shattered 231 years of legislative precedent and shielded the majority from substantive policy debates and questions, effectively silencing the voices of millions of Americans,” he said.

McCarthy and House Republicans had sued to try to block the protocols soon after the House adopted them. That lawsuit was dismissed by a lower court, and the dismissal was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in July.

Republicans have said that the proxy voting protocols will end if they win the House in November.

“We believe in in-person voting. When Republicans win back the House, that’s what we are committed to,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), chair of the House Republican Conference, said during a news conference last week.

Stefanik has been vocal about her opposition to proxy voting, even though she has cast votes remotely, most recently so she could attend a fundraiser with former president Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.