Supreme Court turns away GOP appeal of House rule that permits proxy votes

FILE - In this April 22, 2021, file photo, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks during his weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington. McCarthy is leading his party to an inflection point. House Republicans are preparing to dump Rep. Liz Cheney from the No. 3 leadership position. If so, McCarthy will have transformed what's left of the party of Lincoln more decisively into the party of Trump. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California speaks in 2021 during his weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Associated Press )

The Supreme Court on Monday said it turned down an appeal from House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) seeking to strike down a rule set by House Democrats that allows members to cast proxy votes during the pandemic.

Without comment or dissent, the court dismissed the case of McCarthy vs. Pelosi and let stand a special rule set by the House when some members feared traveling to Washington.

McCarthy argued this new rule violates the Constitution and a 231-year tradition of members of Congress casting their votes in person in the House.

"Nothing shook that tradition — not the Yellow Fever epidemic, not the burning of the Capitol in the War of 1812, not the Civil War, not the Spanish Flu, not two World Wars, not the 9/11 terrorist attack," his lawyers said in the case.

In May 2020, House Democrats adopted a resolution that members could cast votes for up to 10 of their colleagues who were not present.

Opponents argued this absentee voting conflicts with a provision of the Constitution which says "a majority of each [chamber of Congress] shall constitute a quorum to do business."

But another equally long-standing tradition is that the House makes its own rules. A federal judge and the D.C. Circuit Court in a 3-0 decision rejected McCarthy's lawsuit.

Lawyers for the House had urged the court to turn away the case. They said the rule allowing proxy votes was adopted when it became apparent it was unsafe to travel in the early months of the pandemic.

They also noted the Constitution says: "Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.