U.S. Representative Mike Johnson (LA-04), Ranking Member of House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, today joined House Republicans to discuss the details of the lawsuit that he and 20 of his Republican colleagues filed Tuesday to overturn Speaker Pelosi’s proxy voting rule.
Pelosi’s rule runs counter to both the Constitution and the over 230-year precedent of members of the House assembling in-person to consider legislation. Under the rule, as few as 20 members can control the votes of 220 members.
Johnson made the following remarks as delivered:
“Listen, for 20 years before I got to Congress, I litigated Constitutional law cases at federal courts around the country. I had some difficult cases on occasion- this is a really easy one. I brought along a little visual aid here for our Democratic colleagues. I want them to take a look at the manual that each of us get each Congress. It even has our name on the front here. It has all the rules and the all the procedural goings-on in the House incorporated here and published. But it is preceded by the U.S. Constitution. I know many of them don’t carry one around with them in their lapel pocket like we do, but they do have a book. I would just refer them to the actual language of the Constitution. It’s been said this lawsuit and this effort is about politics. This is about the Constitution itself.
“Let me read you three excerpts. You just have to look at Article I, the first article of the Constitution, and look at Section 4 it says. ‘The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall be on the first Monday in December.’ Now we know that one, that provision was superseded by the 20th Amendment in 1933, but they echoed and adopted that same language.
“You flip over to Article I Section 5, it says ‘A majority of each House shall constitute a Quorum to do business, and a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each House may provide.’
“Flip over to the next section, Section 6, it says ‘The Senators and Representatives of each House shall be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the Session of their respective Houses.’
“Now this is the 1780’s of course with the Constitution was drafted and ratified, but 100 years later the Supreme Court looked at that very specific question – we recited this in our lawsuit. U.S. v. Ballin 1892, the Supreme Court said the Constitution requires ‘the presence of a majority and when that majority is present, the power of the House arrives.’
“Look, this is very simple for folks back home. We have the greatest, most powerful, most free nation in the history of the world. We celebrate that on Memorial Day, as we all did this last weekend. Those who have given their lives to preserve that, to preserve this Constitution. But in only 243 years into this, we have to remember we’re still are a very young country. We’re still a grand experiment in the ideas of liberty and self-governance.
“Our constitution, that is based upon the idea that we have a government of, by, and for the people. Is based on very particular foundations and presuppositions. One of those is really important, that the members who are elected, the representatives who are elected to represent all the people throughout the country, will come together physically and arm wrestle over public policy.
“You’ll have very different ideas, very different principles, philosophies represented. That is kind of the point. But the idea is that we would all get together and work together to find consensus to move the ball forward for the most people. That’s the premise of our Constitution. That’s premise of our republic. You can’t have a republic operate any other way. We don’t have a king who’s a sovereign, the people are the sovereign.
“Of, by and for the people. That’s what meeting together and assembling and having a physical presence is all about. You can’t do it by video, and you certainly can’t do it by proxy.”