(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court rejected House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s challenge to the chamber’s use of proxy voting, sealing a legal victory for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a system put in place during the early months of the pandemic.
The justices without comment left intact a federal appeals court ruling that the rule change is an internal legislative matter that under the Constitution’s speech-or-debate clause can’t be challenged in court.
The House set aside two centuries of precedent when it voted along party lines in May 2020 to let each member serve as a proxy for as many as 10 colleagues who are in quarantine or otherwise unable to cast floor votes.
At the time, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the new proxy system was necessary because Covid-19 represented a “mortal danger.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants called it temporary, although it remains in effect.
In their appeal, McCarthy and six other Republicans argued that the Constitution’s quorum requirement and other provisions oblige Congress to meet in person.
“Face-to-face deliberation is part of the House’s very DNA,” the Republicans argued in their appeal. “The never-before-seen proxy voting scheme is at odds with that, at odds with the Constitution’s plain text, and at odds with 231 years of unbroken tradition.”
Pelosi urged the Supreme Court to reject the appeal. Even if the speech-or-debate clause didn’t block the suit, the appeals court was right to defer to the House on its internal rules, she argued.
“The procedures established fall well within the House’s broad rulemaking authority and accord with the Constitution’s text and historical practice,” she argued. “There is no reason for this court to address the issue.”
Despite McCarthy’s legal action, some House Republicans have also embraced voting by proxy. Among the Republicans who have used proxy voting is the No. 3 House GOP leader, Elise Stefanik of New York, who gave birth last year.
The case is McCarthy v. Pelosi, 21-395.
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