Federal judge says House’s use of proxy voting to pass spending bill in 2022 unconstitutional

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A federal judge in Texas ruled Tuesday that the US House of Representatives violated the Constitution in how it used proxy voting to pass a major spending bill in late 2022.

US District Judge James Wesley Hendrix ruled that the House violated the Constitution’s Quorum Clause when it did not have enough representatives physically present for a vote on the legislation and instead passed it by allowing lawmakers to vote by proxy, using a voting protocol that was put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Court concludes that, by including members who were indisputably absent in the quorum count, the Act at issue passed in violation of the Constitution’s Quorum Clause,” wrote Hendrix, an appointee of former President Donald Trump.

Hendrix’s courthouse in Lubbock, Texas, has been the site of multiple lawsuits against the Biden administration brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the challenger in this case. With his ruling, Hendrix granted Paxton’s request to block the federal government from enforcing in Texas a provision in the massive funding bill known as the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which mandates that some employers provide certain accommodations to pregnant workers.

The House ended its use of proxy voting when Republicans took the majority after the 2022 election.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling. If appealed, it would be reviewed by the very conservative 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Paxton said in a statement that Congress had acted “egregiously by passing the largest spending bill in U.S. history with fewer than half the members of the House bothering to do their jobs, show up, and vote in person.”

“This was a stunning violation of the rule of law. I am relieved the Court upheld the Constitution,” Paxton said.

A federal trial and appeals courts in Washington, DC, previously rejected a lawsuit challenging proxy voting in the House, brought by then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The US Supreme Court declined to take up McCarthy’s case.

Earlier in Paxton’s lawsuit, the Justice Department sought to transfer the case to either a federal court in Washington, DC, or Austin, the state’s capital. Hendrix declined that request.

CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz contributed to this report.

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