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Three House Democrats joined protesters in Minnesota but used proxy voting instituted during Covid to vote in Washington

CNN logo CNN 4/20/2021 By Annie Grayer and Ryan Nobles, CNN
a close up of Ilhan Omar, Sheila Jackson Lee, Joyce Beatty taking a selfie © AP/Getty

Three House Democrats were in Minnesota Monday participating in protests around the Derek Chauvin murder trial while the House of Representatives was in session back in Washington, DC. All three used a new option to vote by proxy to cast ballots remotely, citing the "ongoing health emergency."

Reps. Ihan Omar of Minnesota, Joyce Beatty of Ohio and Shelia Jackson-Lee of Texas were all seen at protests Monday and visiting with protesters and activists.

The proxy voting option is a special Covid-related provision that was specifically tailored to cut the risk of the spread of the coronavirus.

To vote by proxy, lawmakers must sign a letter with the House clerk and allow another member to vote at their direction and on their behalf. The letters, which are filed with the House clerk's office, say: "I am unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency."

CNN has reached out to Omar, Beatty and Jackson-Lee's offices.

While the House was scheduled to take up a series of "suspension bills," non controversial pieces of legislation that are often unanimously passed through voice votes, Republicans forced full roll call votes on many of the proposed bills. On Monday night two of those bills were subject to a roll call vote and Omar, Jackson-Lee and Beatty cast their ballots via proxy.

In late February, several Republicans were criticized for using proxy votes to leave Washington to attend the CPAC conference in Florida.

The move by Republicans was especially surprising at the time given that they were furious critics of the system to vote by proxy during the coronavirus pandemic, even suing over it and often ridiculing Democrats for staying at home and demanding they return to Washington.

Democrats in the past have signed similar letters, saying they couldn't attend because of the public health emergency, voting by proxy instead even though their failure to show up had nothing to do with the pandemic.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy last year criticized two Florida Democratic congressmen -- Charlie Crist and Darren Soto -- for attending a SpaceX Launch while signing the letter saying they couldn't attend the votes.

"Another Democrat caught claiming he couldn't come to DC to vote 'due to the ongoing public health emergency,'" the California Republican tweeted at the time. "But he was OK to attend a rocket launch."

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