Author: Orion Donovan-Smith, Spokesman Review

Members of Congress from the Inland Northwest are backing a lawsuit challenging a rule change that let representatives vote for the first time this week on behalf of their absent colleagues, fueling an ongoing debate over how lawmakers should work amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The House of Representatives used the new proxy voting system to pass bills on Wednesday and Thursday, but Republicans contend that the move violates the Constitution, which requires a majority of legislators to be present to pass legislation. Democrats counter that Congress has the authority to set its own rules and the temporary change is necessary as legislators, like other workers, take precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Idaho Rep. Russ Fulcher is one of 21 Republican members suing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and two nonpartisan House officials in D.C. federal court over the measure. In an interview Friday, he said the rule change makes it harder for legislators to do their jobs and shifts power to a handful of party leaders.

“Nothing is being done,” Fulcher said. “We’re not working on health care issues. We’re not working on immigration issues. We’re not working on homeland security issues. The only governance is coming from the executive branch. People just need to know that the U.S. Congress is not at work.”

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