COVID doesn't care what political party you belong to -- it's an equal opportunity infector. But when it comes to how the virus is impacting both sides, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has reaped more than her share of benefits. Having control of Congress when a pandemic sweeps through the country has been unusually kind to the Democratic Party, as far as pushing their agenda goes. Turns out, setting the House rules during COVID has its advantages -- especially when you're clinging to the slimmest majority since World War II.
When House Democrats made the ridiculous decision to reinstate masks in the Capitol, you can't blame Republicans for being frustrated. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) almost broke Twitter on Wednesday when she refused to comply during an abortion debate. At some point, a staffer offered her a mask, and she refused it, sliding the offending cover down the table. Later, when the incident started getting so much attention, she fired back that she wasn't complying with Pelosi's "anti-science, totalitarian mask mandate." "Americans shouldn't succumb to the bully tactics from extreme Leftists," she argued. "If members of Congress cede our freedoms here, what hope is there for the people we represent?"
While Joe Biden is busy shaming unvaccinated people as stupid, what's actually stupid -- Republicans insist -- is urging people to get the vaccine and then turning around and pretending it doesn't work. The Democratic hypocrisy, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) agrees, is stunning. "If you want to get people to get vaccinated, a mask mandate gets in the way, because people say, 'Well, what good does it do me to get a vaccine if I'm still going to have to be six feet away from people, and I'm going to have to wear a mask everywhere I go?' Then what is the benefit?" Good question -- one a lot of Americans are asking.
Meanwhile, Pelosi, who's threatening steep fines for members who don't comply, made plenty of her own headlines when she called Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) a "moron" for fighting the edict. (Civility, as we've learned, not being the Democrats' strong point.) Let's just be honest, McCarthy said. The Left's mask game isn't about science. It's not even about the pandemic. This is "a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state." Why? For the same reason Democrats haven't dropped their outrageous proxy voting scheme: because it benefits them politically.
With a razor-thin majority in the House, Democrats can't afford to lose a single vote -- especially when it comes to these extreme bills their own moderates oppose. So, Pelosi instituted a rule that lets members vote from somewhere other than the U.S. House floor. And while the policy was supposed to be a temporary measure last year to keep members safe, it's extended well beyond the point of rationality now that most of the House is vaccinated. It's "heavy-handed partisan maneuvering," Republicans have complained. "Our founders intended that Congress convene and deliberate. The Constitution requires a majority of members be present to constitute a quorum to conduct business."
That might change in a public emergency, but, as Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) pointed out on "Washington Watch," we're all well past that point. "With proxy voting," Scalise said, Pelosi "is able to control all of her members and get all of her votes in. And I think a lot of [this mask theater] has to do with controlling that, trying to keep people shut down. We don't need another shutdown... People should be able to live their life. This is about government control." McCarthy took it one step farther, wondering if this was the Left's plan to keep schools closed. Or maybe, as others have suggested, to get the upper hand in next year's midterms.
As the New York Times chronicled this week, proxy voting has been exploited for months as members decide it's "too dangerous" to go to Washington, but perfectly fine to attend packed-out local political fundraisers. "It's a huge scandal," agreed Republican Mike Gallagher (Wisc). "Members have been signing their names to a straight-up lie." "It indulges the worst impulses of the modern congressman," he insisted, "which is to spend all their time flying around the country, raising money, and avoiding all the nuts and bolts of legislative work."
When Pelosi first announced a proxy voting system back in May of 2020, the idea was so controversial that 161 Republicans sued. Now, with the public health threat mostly behind us, it makes even less sense. According to CNN, almost three in four House Democrats have voted remotely at least once under the current rules. Six Democrats haven't bothered to vote in person since January. And yet, the no-show voting is "a potent tool" for the Left, the Times agrees, "as they try to wrangle one of the narrowest majorities in decades."
It also makes the Democrats' phony goal of bipartisanship that much harder. "Congress is like a small town -- you miss the whole relationship," lamented Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who says the changes are "the first step on a very slippery slope." "I didn't run for Congress to sit on Zoom in my district office or to have one of my colleagues cast votes on my behalf," Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) wrote in a scathing op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. Proxy voting was supposed to be a way to protect Congress, he argued. "It's become a way of ducking responsibility."
If the Left truly wants Americans to get vaccinated, then they need to show them it works. Make members do their jobs in person the way the founders intended. If they don't have enough commitment to exercise that sacred trust, then they don't belong in Congress in the first place.