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Rep. Suozzi, other House Democrats vote by proxy under new rules

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) speaks at a

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) speaks at a Memorial Day ceremony Sunday at Long Island National Cemetery in Pinelawn. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

WASHINGTON — Long Island Rep. Thomas Suozzi voted by proxy on a series of measures Thursday, a day after the House Democratic leadership put the procedure into effect despite Republicans’ objections and their lawsuit claiming it’s not constitutional.

Suozzi, a Glen Cove Democrat, cast votes in person in Washington Wednesday and said he planned to stay Thursday to vote on a reauthorization of the federal surveillance law. But after President Donald Trump said he would veto the bill, House leaders withdrew it from a final vote.

After authorizing Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) late Wednesday to vote aye for him on a bill to fix and extend the small-business Paycheck Protection Program and other noncontroversial measures expected to easily pass, Suozzi headed home midday Thursday.

“When I learned that the calendar today would only be suspension votes, I wanted to get home for some family obligations,” Suozzi said in a phone interview. “So instead of just missing the votes, which I could do that too, I decided I would just file a proxy vote.”

Suozzi said he supports the use of proxy votes in extraordinary situations such as the coronavirus pandemic but not during normal times.

Meanwhile, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) wore a face covering as she stood on the House floor to cast proxy votes for two absent congressmen, Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Scott Peters (D-Calif.), on Wednesday and Thursday.

Rice said her good friends Deutch and Peters each authorized her in a formal letter to the House clerk to cast their votes by proxy and emailed her how they wanted her to vote for them shortly before every vote. She defended the proxy system.

“If we're asking everyone to stay home, if there's a way we can do that as well and stop the spread, then we should do that,” Rice said. Proxy voting can be used only “for a unique set of circumstances,” she added, “something like a pandemic, and it’s for a limited time period.”

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On Wednesday, 69 Democrats cast votes by proxy Wednesday for a resolution calling for sanctions against Chinese officials for its harsh treatment of the Uighur ethnic minority, which passed in a lopsided 413-1 tally. On Thursday, 71 Democrats said they would vote by proxy.

New York Democrats voting by proxy included Nita Lowey of Rye, Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan, Paul Tonko of Amsterdam and Jose Serrano of the Bronx.

Meanwhile, Reps. Grace Meng (D-Queens), Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) and Max Rose (D-Staten Island) also cast proxy votes for other members.

One member of the House can cast proxy votes for up to 10 others under the new rules that went into effect for a 45-day period to limit health risks during the coronavirus pandemic.

No Republican voted by proxy.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.), who filed the lawsuit against proxy voting, urged members of his caucus to show up to vote or to file a statement with the House clerk saying how they would have voted. He told them not to use a proxy to cast a vote.

“It’s playing a baseball game under protest. At the end of the game, we’ll figure out who’s right,” McCarthy said.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who along with Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) cast votes in person, tweeted Wednesday that he opposes the new voting process.

“For the 1st time ever, the House of Reps voted today by proxy. Dozens of Members gave their votes away to others who then cast multiple votes. What happened to ‘one person, one vote?’ ” Zeldin tweeted. “This is absurd & unconstitutional.”

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