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Thursday, September 15, 2022

Quiet Quitting the House

 Sam Brodey at The Daily Beast:

Since January, 370 members of Congress, roughly 83 percent of the chamber, have cast a remote vote. Combined, those members have voted remotely 23,154 times—greatly surpassing the 17,263 remote votes that were cast in 2021. A sizable minority of the House has voted remotely on a regular basis. Seventy-sevenlawmakers—overwhelmingly Democrats—have voted remotely on 100 or more of the year’s 420 recorded roll call votes. That means roughly one in every six lawmakers has not been present in the U.S. Capitol for at least 25 percent of the roll call votes taken in the House this year. Among a small handful of members, remote voting is the rule, not the exception. Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), for example, has voted remotely 398 times, or 94 percent of all votes, making him the undisputed champion of remote voting. Together, the 10 lawmakers who have used proxy voting the most have taken advantage of the privilege for a combined 2,353 votes. The year’s proxy voting numbers are “stark,” said Josh Chafetz, a professor of law at Georgetown University who studies the workings of the U.S. House. “It’s obviously not great for the institution to have so many members not around,” he said


While a few of the most frequent absentee voters have legitimate COVID-related reasons to stay clear of Capitol Hill, many do not. Since 2020, members have voted by proxy in order to free up their schedules for everything from hitting the campaign trail and doing interviews to pursuing side hustles in commercial aviation and making unauthorized trips to Afghanistan.  A policy that was originally intended as a way to keep members of Congress working in a pandemic has, ironically, turned into a way for them to avoid showing up in Washington for work.


With a recent Gallup survey finding that more than half of the U.S. workforce is “quiet quitting”—barely meeting the minimum expectations for a job while psychologically detaching from their work—it appears the House may not be immune.


“In general, it’s really bad for the institution,” said Matt Glassman, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute [and who teaches in the CMC Washington Program]. Proxy voting, he said, takes members out of the policymaking process. “If you aren’t there for votes, who the hell wants to do the committee work?” Glassman said. “It’s bad for the output of Congress, and it’s bad for the institution of Congress."