Stefanik votes by proxy to fundraise with Trump

Democratic candidates say she lied about absence due to COVID, but Stefanik staff say this is common

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, speaks prior to introducing Vice President Michael Pence at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum on Jan. 17, 2021. (Provided photo — Sydney Schaefer, Watertown Daily Times)

North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik was one of 108 House members who voted remotely by proxy this week as the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus rapidly spreads around the country, but while voting by proxy, she spent her time away from the capital at a fundraiser, largely unmasked, with former President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort Tuesday.

In a letter to the House Clerk earlier that day, Stefanik said she’d be unable to physically attend the proceedings because of “the ongoing public health emergency.”

This brought condemnation from some of the Democrats running against her in the Nov. 8 election.

“Elise Stefanik outright lied when she claimed a public health emergency prohibited her from showing up to work but then appeared at a political event with former President Trump in Mar-a-Lago that day,” Matt Castelli, a Democrat running against Stefanik for New York’s 21st Congressional seat, wrote in a statement. “On only the second day of the new session, she once again chose to put her own party and political ambition ahead of her constituents and then lied about it in an official letter to Congress.”

Stefanik staff said the congresswoman is a hard worker and was back in Washington the next evening for a late-night vote.

“(On Wednesday, she) was on the House floor voting from approximately 10:30 p.m. until midnight,” Stefanik Senior Advisor Alex deGrasse wrote in an email.

“For her to cite a global pandemic as a reason for missing work, but then to go to Florida for a fundraiser for herself is just wrong,” Matt Putorti, another Democrat challenging Stefanik, wrote in a statement.

Congressional members are required to wear masks on the house floor.

DeGrasse pointed out that both Democrats and Republicans have used the “ongoing public health emergency” explanation for proxy voting for non-pandemic-related reasons.

In October, Democratic New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski voted by proxy on the debt ceiling while fundraising in California.

“The people of the North Country don’t care what a Congressman from California does,” Castelli responded in an email. “Elise Stefanik was elected by NY21 voters to represent them in the House, not to lie to the House Clerk and her constituents regarding her reasons for failing to attend proceedings in the House Chamber so she could fly to a fundraiser in Mar-a-Lago.”

Trump praise at fundraiser

At the fundraiser, Stefanik shook hands with the former president and he said if she continues on the path she’s on, he believes she could hold the seat he once held as commander-in-chief by 2028.

Stefanik became the House Republican Conference chair in May 2021, replacing Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney in the party’s third-highest party seat after Cheney was removed by the GOP for not being loyal to Trump.

“I want to congratulate Elise on her success. Man, is she moving fast. That means at this rate she’ll be president in about six years,” Trump said. “She’s always been a friend and people would say she’s upwardly mobile. She goes to Washington as a young, beautiful woman who took over and all of a sudden she becomes a rocket ship. She’s the boss. She’s been a great boss, a strong boss.”

He himself hinted at a run for his old seat again in 2024.

The event, Stefanik said, raised $3.2 million for GOP candidates around the country. It was attended by around 200 people who paid $1,000 each for a seat there, and by around 30 people who paid $25,000.

Attendees participated in a “Fire Pelosi” roundtable, Stefanik said, and got a photo-op with Trump.

“One of the top priorities of her constituents is to fire Nancy Pelosi once and for all, and Congresswoman Stefanik is proud to be a leader in that effort while the Far-Left Democrats are so desperate because, once again, they will get outraised, outworked, outmatched and lose in this district,” deGrasse wrote. “We can’t wait to see more abysmal fundraising numbers showing virtually no support for the phony Socialist Democrats who just moved to the district from New York City and Poughkeepsie.”

Stefanik invited New York Conservative Party Chairman Gerry Kassar to the event.

“It was really a New York crowd,” he told the New York Post.

Empire state residents there included John Hendrickson, the owner of the historic 36,000-acre Whitney estate in Long Lake who is subdividing the property and has put it up for sale; Liz Joy, a Republican running for New York’s 20th Congressional District in Albany; and Nicholas Vaugh, a Northwood School and Clarkson University graduate living in Albany who is now a lobbyist for U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Proxy voting

Stefanik gave her proxy vote to Dan Meuser, a Republican representative from Pennsylvania. She told him how to vote and he cast her vote for her.

“She will always work to ensure her district is represented at the highest levels which is why she made sure the district had a vote,” deGrasse wrote.

There were three hearings on the agenda Tuesday — one on Capitol security after the Jan. 6 2021 attack, one on a Navy investigation into a drinking water contamination at one of its storage facilities and another on cybersecurity.

NBC5 News reported that Stefanik was absent for two votes — both related to a bill to “expand eligibility for post-9/11 GI Bill educational assistance.” Another bill would “require the Department of Veterans Affairs to automatically enroll veterans eligible for health care.”

Proxy voting was introduced in May 2020 to allow Congress to vote safely during the pandemic, and since then, lawmakers have made thousands of proxy designations.

Stefanik opposed proxy voting at the time, saying the new rule was “a total punt on this critical issue to ensure Congress is able to remotely legislate.”

She said the House should use remote virtual voting instead, which would allow representatives to cast their own votes from anywhere.

In June 2021, she signed a letter with 133 other Republicans calling for an end of proxy voting.

“Proxy voting remains in place and lengthened voting blocs impedes Congress’ ability to get work done in an efficient manner,” the letter reads.

Stefanik has filed 14 proxy letters in the past year, according to the House Clerk.


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