House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., on Tuesday blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for holding regular Senate sessions during the pandemic and defending the use of proxy voting in the House to protect members and staff from the coronavirus.
"Senator McConnell has ignored, in many respects, the advice of our health experts, the advice of the Capitol physician, the advice of Dr. Tony Fauci [and] the advice of the [White House coronavirus task force coordinator] Dr. [Deborah] Birx," Hoyer told reporters Tuesday.
McConnell called his members back to Washington earlier this month to take votes on non-coronavirus legislation, including the confirmation of new Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe. McConnell has blasted the House for not resuming normal business and said "there will be enormous constitutional questions" around passing legislating by proxy voting.
But Hoyer slammed McConnell failing to take up the House's $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill that will give struggling families another round of cash assistance, expand food aid and infuse states and local governments with money.
“The Heroes Act was passed … and we believe that it was a very necessary and very important piece of legislation," Hoyer said. "It is sad that the Majority Leader of the United States Senate has dismissed it as dead on arrival. I would tell Senator McConnell there are too many people who had been dead as a result of the coronavirus."
McConnell said Tuesday while speaking at the University of Kentucky that the Senate would likely pass another round of coronavirus relief "in the next month or so," but not the $3 trillion bill put forth by the House.
While the Senate has largely tried to resume regular business, the House has treaded more cautiously given the greater size of its elected membership and staff and heeded safety warnings of the capitol physician on the health risks of gathering.
For the first time in the House's history, members Wednesday will be allowed to vote remotely on legislation on the House floor by designating another member, their "proxy," to vote on their behalf. Democrats approved the temporary plan earlier this month, and now House Republicans intend to challenge its legality in court, Fox News has learned.
House Republicans were expected to file a lawsuit Tuesday against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to block the proxy plan, which they deem is unconstitutional and leads to “dilution” of members’ votes and “dilution” of constituents’ representation.
So far, 58 House members have alerted the House clerk they intend to vote by proxy this week.
Hoyer defended the proxy plan as a necessary way to keep the House running when members may have health and transportation challenges getting to Washington to vote. He said McConnell's objections are just politically motivated because Democrats have a real shot at taking back control of the Senate in November.
"I think that's what he's worried about," Hoyer said. "I think we stand a good chance of taking back the majority of the United States Senate.”
"I see it as disingenuous," Hoyer added, noting that the Senate uses "proxy" voting on a "regular basis" by passing bills with only a few members present by unanimous consent. "I see it as a political posture, without merit."