(CNN)More than a dozen of former President Donald Trump’s closest Republican allies in the House have skipped Friday’s votes and enlisted their colleagues to vote on their behalf, signing letters saying they can’t attend “due to the ongoing public health emergency.”
But those members are actually expected to be in Orlando and listed as speakers at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual meeting aimed at energizing conservative activists and boosting their own profiles.The members include Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who addressed the conference on Friday, as well as others who were listed as scheduled speakers — such as Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona, Jim Banks of Indiana, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Mark Green of Tennessee, Darrell Issa of California, Ronny Jackson of Texas, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Devin Nunes of California and Greg Steube of Florida. Freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado also signed a letter saying she couldn’t attend votes and was listed as a CPAC speaker, though CNN spotted her in the Capitol earlier in the day Friday and it was unclear if she planned to skip evening votes, including on the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package. While aides to 12 of those members didn’t respond to requests for comment, an Issa spokesman contended that his boss did nothing untoward.Read More”Congressman Issa complied with all House voting rules in lodging his opposition to what the Democrats labeled as Covid relief, but that devoted more than 90 percent of its total to non-Covid spending,” Issa’s spokesperson Jonathan Wilcox said in a statement.The move is especially surprising given that Republicans 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.”Leaders show up no matter how uncertain the times are,” Cawthorn tweeted last summer. “The Democrats are cowards for not showing up to work.”Top Democrats on Friday reacted strongly to the news, first reported by CNN.”Apparently hypocrisy has become a tenant of the Republican Party,” said House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, a Democrat of Massachusetts. “Let me get this straight: these Members can’t vote in person because of the pandemic, but they manage to attend CPAC? They were even maskless at this super spreader event. It’s outrageous!”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.”Friday is a critical day in the House, where Democrats are pushing through a massive Covid relief plan — though all the Republicans at CPAC are expected to oppose the measure. There have been other votes in the House through the course of the day.Republicans aren’t the only ones who have misused this process.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.Indeed, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy last year whacked 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.”This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Friday.