Political Insider: McClain voted by proxy while at southern border with Trump

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

U.S. Rep. Lisa McClain was at the southern border Wednesday with a group of House Republicans for an event with former President Donald Trump, casting votes remotely by proxy citing the “ongoing public health emergency.”

McClain cast roll-call votes by proxy both Tuesday and Wednesday, saying she couldn’t attend in person in the House chamber because of the pandemic, according to records filed with the House clerk.

McClain did a TV interview with the Fox Business show "Varney & Co." from South Texas, where the Macomb County lawmaker was among about two dozen House Republicans who joined Trump. 

Her proxy votes came weeks after McClain, a freshman legislator from Bruce Township, had criticized seven Michigan House Democrats for using the proxy voting system while they participated in an event with President Joe Biden in Dearborn.

In this March 5, 2021, file photo The Capitol is seen just before sunrise in Washington.

“Proxy voting must end, and lawmakers should return and do their jobs," McClain tweeted with a link to The Detroit News report on her Michigan colleagues' proxy votes. "We are here to represent the people, voting by proxy takes away that representation."

A spokeswoman for McClain said Friday that McClain’s views on proxy voting haven’t changed, but “it’s time Democrats and Republicans play by the same rules, and right now those rules allow for proxy voting.”

“Nancy Pelosi and President Biden refuse to address the crisis at our southwest border, and the only way to bring awareness to the crisis is for our leaders to visit and share what’s happening,” spokeswoman Stacey Daniels said. “There’s a big difference in proxy voting so you can stay home, and proxy voting to do official business.”

Voting by proxy was offered by Democratic leaders starting in May 2020 as an option for members who wanted to avoid traveling to Washington due to the coronavirus pandemic to protect their health or others. 

Members of both parties have been singled out for using the proxy voting system to their advantage — attributing their absence at votes to the health emergency while out of town for reasons seemingly unrelated to the pandemic.

Republicans have begun exercising the option more in recent months, according to reporting by CNN, despite a lawsuit that leaders filed last year calling the practice unconstitutional.

But Democratic leaders appear reluctant to do away with the practice, as it can guarantee their narrow majority even when all members can't physically be in the House chambers for votes. 

Meijer passes first bill

Michigan's other freshman member, U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, this week passed his first piece of legislation through the U.S. House. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. 

Meijer's bill would repeal the Eisenhower-era authorization for the use of military force — known as AUMF — which was originally designed to defend Middle East nations “against armed aggression from any country controlled by international communism.”

"This decades-old AUMF no longer serves any purpose, but instead has the potential for abuse by current and future administrations to launch an unwarranted military operation in the Middle East without approval from Congress," the Grand Rapids Township Republican said on the House floor. 

“Its repeal would have no impact on ongoing operations and should be taken off the books immediately."

Meijer served with the U.S. Army in Iraq and campaigned for office on ending "forever wars." His bill passed the same day as legislation to repeal another AUMF that many consider long outdated — the 1991 authorization for the Gulf War in Iraq. 

Both bills followed on the heels of the House vote to repeal the 2002 AUMF that authorized the Iraq War, which split the Michigan delegation. That repeal was supported by all the Democrats in the delegation, as well as Meijer and U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph. 

Ahmed to arts council

Biden recently nominated Michigan's Ismael Ahmed to be a member of the National Council on the Arts. 

Ahmed co-founded the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) in 1971 and the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, where he is an executive member of its advisory board.

He has been the associate provost for Metropolitan Impact at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and previously was part of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration as director of the Michigan Department of Human Services. He also has led Detroit's Concert of Colors, a music festival, since 1984. 

Ismael Ahmed, former director of the Michigan Department of Human Services, has been nominated by President Joe Biden to be a member of the National Council on the Arts.

mburke@detroitnews.com