20th Congressional District — Liz Joy, the Republican challenger for the 20th Congressional District, wants U.S. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, to either return to Washington to vote in-person or quit.
“If Mr. Tonko feels that going to work is too risky, he should step aside right now and let me do the job for him,” Joy stated in a news release issued on Thursday.
Tonko is one of 50 members of the House of Representatives who has written a letter designating another member of Congress to act as his proxy starting Wednesday.
Tonko, age 70, has designated U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, D-6th-Queens, age 44, to be his proxy and vote on his behalf and according to his instructions.
“I am unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency,” Tonko wrote in his May 22 letter designating Meng his proxy.
The proxy voting system, House Resolution 965, passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on May 15 in a party-line vote 217 to 189. The new House rule allows, for the first time in history, members of Congress to vote on legislation, question witnesses and issue subpoenas from home rather than in-person.
House Republicans, led by minority leader U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, have filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the proxy system. Previously, the courts have typically granted each chamber of Congress broad latitude to enact its own rules for how to conduct business.
While U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has allowed remote witness testimony during the coronavirus pandemic, he has drawn the line at remote voting, requiring senators to conduct regular business in Washington D.C., despite some senators being forced into quarantine due to exposure to the virus. McConnell has suggested he might not allow any House votes conducted via the proxy system to be considered by the Senate.
Joy, age 51, a real estate salesperson who lives in Glenville, said she believes Congress should be able to conduct business safely despite the coronavirus pandemic.
“Congress can very effectively implement a plan for our representatives to be there in person and vote in-person, and I think that’s what we deserve in NY-20,” she said.
Joy said she also disagrees with local governments conducting business via the video conferencing app Zoom and other virtual meeting technology. She said if people can go to department stores like Walmart, Home Depot and Lowe’s, local officials should be able to hold meetings.
“Why is it safer to be in a big box store than to be in Congress? Why is it safer to be in a big box store than in town hall?” she said.
Tonko campaign spokesman Sean Magers disputed Joy’s criticism of the Congressman’s use of the proxy system.
“Congressman Tonko is working every day to make sure those affected by the pandemic see relief and those who have lost their jobs can get back to work. Politicizing that does nothing to help,” he said.