Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) has taken advantage of the House COVID-19 rules by voting remotely by “proxy” 90% of the time since the procedure was installed in 2020. At the same time, Rush has spent almost $61,000 of taxpayer and donor money on travel and event expenses.
The House approved “proxy” voting as a “necessary and immediately feasible low-tech option” at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as an accommodation for members who could allegedly not be physically present on the House floor to vote as normal.
Rush’s use of the proxy procedure has been the third-highest among all 435 House members according to a report issued in April. Since then, he has continued to use the pandemic rule to avoid appearing in person at the House chamber.
He voted by proxy on June 21, just a day after speaking to a crowd at a Juneteenth rally in Chicago. On June 13, Rush spoke at a “Juneteenth flag-raising ceremony” in Chicago, where he appeared without a face mask. The same day he voted by proxy on three House bills.
Between May 2020 and March 2022, Rush claimed about $49,600 for travel expenses from his Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA). During the same period, his campaign committee spent over $12,300 on his flights, hotels, and assorted event expenses.
On March 29, his campaign spent almost $500 with United Airlines for travel. The same day, Rush sent a proxy letter allowing another House member to cast his vote. On March 17, he incurred almost $600 in charges at the four-star Washington Hyatt Regency hotel. He also voted by proxy that same day because of the “COVID emergency.”
Foundation of Accountability and Civic Trust executive director Kendra Arnold told the Daily Caller that the rules are only in place because of a public health emergency, and “that is why a member who votes by proxy must file a statement to the clerk stating the reason for it.” She cited Rush as an example of members routinely voting by proxy while attending public campaign events at virtually the same time in contradiction to the purpose of the rule.
Protect the Public’s Trust director Michael Chamberlain said that although the proxy voting system was designed “for a very narrow purpose, there appear to be few limits on its use.”
Rush is retiring from Congress this year after serving 15 terms in Washington.