The so-called proxy vote is not legal. The House of Representatives condemned China’s treatment of Muslim Uyghur minorities on Wednesday with dozens of lawmakers voting by proxy for the first time in history. Democrats authorized proxy voting this month due to the coronavirus pandemic, arguing it was a wise move to protect the health of members. Republicans oppose the reform and are suing to have it ruled unconstitutional. Although the legislation is likely to further sour relations between the US and China, it was uncontroversial among lawmakers, passing 413-1. It passed the Senate unanimously this month.
The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act authorizes the Trump administration to sanction Chinese officials responsible for censorship or detaining large numbers of Uyghurs in western China in what the Chinese government claims is an antiterrorism campaign. Republicans supported the bill authored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) despite warning that they believe any legislation passed using proxy votes ultimately will be struck down by a Supreme Court decision. “For more than 231 years, never have we seen a proxy vote on the floor of the House,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday morning. “Whatever the Democrats move forward will probably never be held up to be law.”
Before lawmakers voted, McCarthy noted that 71 Democrats sent letters to the Clerk of the House authorizing lawmakers to vote for them, whereas just 12 Democrats missed a vote this month on a doomed $3 trillion coronavirus package. Four New York Democrats voted by proxy: Reps. Nita Lowey, Carolyn Maloney, Jose Serrano and Paul Tonko. Rep. Grace Meng, a Democrat who represents Queens, removed her mask at a lectern as she announced that she was voting in favor of the bill on behalf of Lowey, Serrano and Tonko.