Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) will cast his vote on extending debt ceiling by proxy this week, using emergency rules set in place during the coronavirus pandemic to vote while on a week-long fundraising trip to California.
Malinowski has events set up in Los Angeles today and tomorrow, in Santa Barbara on Thursday, Palo Alto on Friday, Berkeley on Saturday and San Francisco on Sunday, according to his campaign finance director, Brooke Zindulka.
“I am unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency,” said Malinowski in a letter to the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. He designated Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-Long Branch), the senior Democrat in the New Jersey delegation, as his proxy.
The language in the letter is boilerplate text for all letters invoking the proxy rule.
The vote today will determine whether Congress approves a short-term extension to the debt ceiling that will allow the federal government to cover its expenses for another two months.
Malinowski’s office downplayed the significance of not being in Washington for the vote.
“Today Congressman Malinowski and the Democratic Majority will vote to avoid defaulting on the nation’s debts and the Republican party will overwhelmingly vote in favor of an impending economic catastrophe,” said a spokesperson, Naree Ketudat. “We can understand why the Republicans don’t want to focus on the substance of this vote — because it’s embarrassing to them.”
Right now, Malinowski is viewed as the most vulnerable of the ten Democrats who represent New Jersey in the House. He narrowly won re-election by just one percentage against Republican Tom Kean, Jr. in 2020 and the House Ethics Committee is looking at a complaint filed against Malinowski over his failure to properly disclose multiple stock transactions since last year.
“Congressman Malinowski continues to bend and break the rules as he sees fit,” said Kean, the minority leader of the New Jersey Senate. “New Jersey deserves to be represented with integrity and his actions are an embarrassment.”
Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics at Rider University, thinks that Malinowski needs to avoid any mistakes if he wants to hold on to a seat in next year’s mid-term election.
“When you’re already asking voters to look past something, the last thing you want to do is throw more in the way. It certainly makes sense that he knows he’s facing a tough race and is raising as much money as he can,” Rasmussen said. “But at this point, it’s becoming fair game to ask whether he thinks the House rules apply to him.”
The trip to California follows Malinowski’s appearance on Fox News on Sunday where he stressed the urgency of passing an infrastructure bill.
The Democratic congressman, who unseated a five-term incumbent in 2018, is one of eight New Jersey House members who filed proxy letters for the debt ceiling vote.
One, Rep. Albio Sires (D-West New York), says he is recovering from hip replacement surgery.
Malinowski will be at an event hosted by Roger and Ann McNamee and Michelle Kraus on October 15, Lucy Aghadjian and James and Shari Ough on October 16, and Andrea and Ryan Steele and Darian and Rick Swig on October 17.
The House began allowing proxy voting in May 2020 to avoid the risk of travelling during the height of the pandemic. Proxies allowed Members of Conrgess to continue work even if they were under quarantine.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has extended proxy voting multiple times. Republicans had initially opposed the policy, but some GOP lawmakers have also taken advantage of it. Earlier this year, a number of House Republicans voted by proxy while attending the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida.