Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) issued the following statement announcing he is filing a lawsuit against Speaker Pelosi for violating the United States Constitution.
Congressman Byrne said: “The Constitution is clear that a majority must be present for the House to conduct business. Speaker Pelosi’s attempt to allow Democrats to cast multiple ‘proxy’ votes for their colleagues is a blatant violation of the Constitution. Under rules adopted last week, as few as 22 Democrats could claim a quorum and win a vote against all 197 Republicans. This scheme gives Pelosi and her lieutenants complete and dangerous unconstitutional powers. If Democrats won’t show up to vote, they should turn the speaker’s gavel over to Leader McCarthy and the Republicans who are actually willing to show up and work for the people they represent.”
The lawsuit is to be filed by 21 Republican Members of Congress and led by GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy. The complaint alleges that proxy voting, never before authorized by the House, is unconstitutional, violating the Quorum and Yeas and Nays Clauses contained in Article I, Section 5, among other provisions. Proxy voting was authorized over the objections of all Republicans in the House due to a number of Democrat members not wishing to travel to Washington during the coronavirus pandemic. Without the proxy voting scheme, Speaker Pelosi would have trouble maintaining a majority over Republicans. So far, at least 58 Democrats have indicated they will ask another member to proxy vote for them this week in Congress.
Over 231 years, the House of Representatives has never permitted a Member to vote by proxy from the floor of the chamber. Through the Yellow Fever of 1793, the Civil War; the burning of the Capitol
during the War of 1812, the Spanish Flu of 1918, and 9/11, Congress has never flinched from its constitutional duty to assemble at the Nation’s Capital and conduct the People’s business. Congress assembles. Defying this unbroken record, Democrats, over unified Republican opposition, voted on May 15, to adopt H. Res. 965 authorizing Members to vote by proxy. Voting by proxy is flatly prohibited by the Constitution. It is impossible to read the Constitution and overlook its repeated and emphatic requirement that Members of Congress physically assemble:
Article I, Section 4, Clause 2 states: “The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall . . . .
Article I, Section 5, Clause 1 states: “Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections . . . and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; . . . and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent
Article I, Section 6, Clause 1 states: “The Senators and
Representatives . . . shall . . . be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses”
The constitution clearly contemplates the physical gathering together of representatives as a deliberative body. As the Supreme Court has held, to constitute a “quorum” necessary to “do business,” the Constitution requires “the presence of a majority, and when that majority are present the power of the house
arises.” United States v. Ballin, 144 U.S. 1, 6 (1892) 18 Democrats have already written a letter to the House purporting to give their vote to a different Member of Congress. The Democrats in the House may be willing to ignore what the Constitution demands of them, but we will not. We have joined with concerned constituents to file a constitutional challenge in the D.C federal district court seeking to enjoin the
use of proxy voting in the United States House of Representatives.
On May 15, Democrats voted to authorize Proxy Voting on the floor of the House. On May 20, Speaker Pelosi claimed that we were in a “covered period” allowing
for the proxy voting authorized in H.Res. 965 to proceed. Beginning on May 20, Democrat members of Congress began writing letters to the
Clerk of the House giving their vote to different members of congress. We will file suit in the D.C. Federal District Court to enjoin the use of proxy