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The U.S. House of Representatives made history Wednesday by conducting its first proxy vote since Congress first met in 1789 — as Republicans raised alarms over the temporary voting system implemented because of coronavirus.

It came as the House voted Wednesday afternoon 413-1 on imposing sanctions against Chinese officials for the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China.

More than 70 House Democrats — about a third of the Democratic caucus — alerted the House clerk they would be absent from Washington for the roll call votes but designated another member to vote on their behalf. No Republicans voted by proxy.

The unprecedented vote occurred in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic after House Democrats passed May 15 a temporary resolution to allow absent members to still cast votes in an effort to stop the spread of the virus and protect public health.

New for the proxy vote arrangement was a steady stream of lawmakers standing up on the House floor and verbally announcing the names of their colleagues they are voting proxy for and how each person votes on the legislation. For example, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., was the designated proxy voter for Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif.

“I inform the House that Ms. Bass will vote ‘yea,'” Cicilline announced on the House floor and her vote was recorded into the roll call tally.

Currently, there are 431 members in House and 74 Democrats were to vote by proxy. That means 17 percent of all members were voting remotely Wednesday in the history-making tally.

Meantime, House Republicans marked the occasion by filing a lawsuit against Democrats, claiming the proxy voting plan is unconstitutional and argued any vote cast by proxy should never become law.

“Today is a sad day that we have got to be in the position where we’re bringing suit against the speaker,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said earlier Wednesday before the planned vote. “We’re bringing suit against the Democrats in order to prevent them from pushing this proxy vote through.”

But House Democrats said a remote voting plan was necessary to keep Congress moving during the pandemic when members could be unable to travel to Washington due to sickness, quarantine and stay-home orders. Health experts across the country have advised against large gatherings to stop the spread of the contagious virus that’s already killed about 100,000 Americans.

“The House made its will clear two weeks ago when it voted to implement remote voting by proxy and other necessary measures to ensure that Congress can continue to protect lives and livelihoods,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday night ripping the lawsuit as a “sad stunt.” “The House’s position that remote voting by proxy during a pandemic is fully consistent with the Constitution is supported by expert legal analyses.”

As Washington, D.C. is still considered a hot spot and under stay-home orders, the House resumed for a brief two-day session this week to consider FISA reforms, condemn human rights violations against ethnic Turkic Muslims in China known as Uyghurs, and vote on small business coronavirus legislation and other bills.

Meanwhile, lawmakers were scrambling on a new FISA plan as Republicans suddenly withdrew their support.

Republicans have rejected the proxy vote option and showed up to Washington arguing that members of Congress are essential workers.

“For 231 years, never have we seen a proxy vote on the floor of the House,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif, said Wednesday morning. “…We look at the history of America through the Yellow Fever of 1793, the Civil War, the burning of this Capitol during the War of 1812, the Spanish Flu of 1918, and even 9/11. Congress has never flinched from its constitutional duty to uphold and assemble inside this body.”

Other countries have adopted rule changes during the coronavirus pandemic to allow for some remote and virtual proceedings, such as Canada, Brazil and the European Union. The British House of Commons broke 700 years of history last month by convening parliament with Zoom.

Other aspects of the U.S. government have already changed.

The Supreme Court is now holding oral arguments via telephone conference. And the U.S. Senate May 12 held a hybrid video conference hearing where the chairman and witnesses were zoomed into the room from their homes, including Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The House’s remote voting plan allows for absent members to cast votes by proxy for 45 days. One member can vote proxy on behalf of up to 10 colleagues. The special provisions can be renewed for the remainder of the congressional term that ends in January.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

Author: Marisa Schultz

Source: Fox News: House of Representatives conducts first proxy vote in its 231-year history

The White House’s plans for a speedy impeachment trial were thrown into doubt Tuesday with Senate Republicans floating competing proposals on how to deal with new explosive revelations from ex-national security adviser John Bolton — and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telling Republicans he doesn’t yet have enough votes to block the calling of impeachment witnesses.

GOP senators were all over the map on Tuesday as President Trump’s defense team called Bolton’s manuscript “inadmissible” and warned against opening the door to new wild-card information in the ongoing trial. Democrats have repeatedly called for Bolton to testify.

A source with knowledge of McConnell’s comments confirmed to Fox Business that the Kentucky Republican told people in a private meeting Tuesday that the GOP did not have the votes to block impeachment witnesses. A second source stressed that McConnell said he didn’t yet have the votes, with other sources saying Senate GOP leadership didn’t think the fight was over, and conversations were ongoing. The Wall Street Journal first reported McConnell’s comments.

Later Tuesday night, a Senate leadership source told Fox News that Republicans were assessing the viability of two alternative options, in the event there is majority support for additional witnesses. “Plan B,” the source said, is to amend any resolution calling for a particular witness to also include a package of witnesses that wouldn’t win enough support of the Senate. For example, if the Democrats seek to call Bolton, Republicans might seek to question Hunter Biden or Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., over his panel’s contacts with the whistleblower.

That proposal could afford moderate Republicans the political cover of voting in favor of witnesses, while ultimately rejecting a witness package.

Additonally, the White House retains the option to exert executive privilege to block witnesses, including Bolton, the source emphasized. That might end up in a court battle, and could prove dicey if Bolton opts to defy the White House’s assertion of privilege.

Meanwhile, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., called for Bolton’s unpublished manuscript to be made available for senators to read in a classified Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) to understand what Bolton was alleging. His proposal got an ally in influential Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who called the idea a “reasonable solution.”

Some senators suggested that Bolton just spill the beans in a news conference on the sidelines of the impeachment trial.

“The Wall Street Journal has called for John to just come forward — just tell the public what you know,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said. “I think that actually [would] be a smart thing. I’d encourage John to do that without involving the trial.”

The creative suggestions came after The New York Times reported Bolton’s manuscript included a claim that Trump explicitly linked a hold on military aid to Ukraine to an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden. Trump told Bolton in August, according to a transcript of Bolton’s forthcoming book reviewed by The Times, “that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens.”

The stunning leak — which Johnson called “suspicious” — has allowed House impeachment managers to ramp up their calls for Bolton to testify. The Democrats warned that if Senate Republicans quashed witnesses, they’d engage in a “cover-up,” especially since they said the book eventually would come out.

That left some Republicans searching for an off-ramp that would allow Bolton’s allegations to air out while not derailing the entire Senate impeachment trial. A Bolton news conference or a manuscript reading seemed like two potential middle grounds floated Tuesday.

Other senators, including Pat Toomey, R-Pa., re-upped the idea of witness reciprocity as a way to hear from Bolton but also gain testimony from Hunter Biden or Joe Biden in return. But, Democrats have repeatedly shut down making any deals with the GOP for any of the Bidens, saying the father and son were just a distraction from charges against the president.

Other battle lines seemed to harden. On one end, the calls for witnesses — led by Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah — only got stronger. Meanwhile, Trump loyalists were quick to shut down the talk of prolonging the trial a minute longer than necessary.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he’s not in favor of subpoenaing the Bolton manuscript: “I think we know all we need to know,” he said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Tuesday suggested that Bolton was a disgruntled fired employee with the motive of money.

“The Democrats have spent a lot of time imagining what the president’s motives are,” Paul said. “Someone ought to spend some time imagining what John Bolton’s motives are other than making millions of dollars to trash the president.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said opening the door on even the manuscript could lead to more nonsense.

“I think whatever we do that opens the door to more information just means that Adam Schiff’s appetite will never be satisfied, and we have to have some discipline on how long we extend this nonsense,” Cramer said.

Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, said Republicans are still reeling from the revelations in Bolton’s book and noted the “abrupt” end Tuesday to Trump’s defense case.

“I don’t think, frankly, that we could have made as effective a case for John Bolton’s testimony as the president’s own lawyers,” said Schiff, D-Calif.

Republican senators have bashed the House for not subpoenaing Bolton and other witnesses up front and said it’s not the Senate’s job to remedy an incomplete case. But, Schiff said there was little to gain on subpoenaing Bolton because a court fight could have tied up the case for years.

Trump’s defense team finished its arguments before the Senate much quicker than expected Tuesday before GOP senators huddled in a room in the Capitol on a path forward. The trial is set to resume Wednesday with 16 hours of questions to both sides. That would set up a vote likely on Friday on the big looming question of whether to open the trial up to new witnesses or documents. Democrats would need four GOP votes.

“The witness vote I think could easily be close,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said. “We just came from a conference in which there was vigorous discussion and debate on the question of whether additional witnesses are needed.”

As the manuscript viewing was floated as a way around seeing Bolton testify, some senators argued nothing replaced taking testimony from Bolton under oath.

“I’d like to hear from Mr. Bolton,” Romney said when asked if the manuscript would satisfy him.

He added that he could not predict whether three other GOP senators would vote for witnesses and signaled Tuesday it’s still a volatile situation. “I don’t think they’re all settled as a group or as individuals as to exactly how they’re going to vote,” Romney said.

While Graham would prefer to conclude the trial without witnesses, he said if the door was open to witnesses, there was “consensus” Republicans wanted more than just Bolton, but the Bidens, the whistleblower and more.

“If you call John Bolton, we’re calling everybody,” Graham said.

Fox News’ Jason Donner, Gregg Re, Mike Emanuel, Liz Friden, Chad Pergram and Fox Business’ Hillary Vaughn contributed to this report.

Author: Marisa Schultz

Source: Fox News: McConnell says GOP doesn’t have votes yet to block impeachment witnesses, as Bolton book disrupts trial script

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