Last year, the House of Representatives gave its members the option to vote by proxy by designating another member to cast a vote in their absence if the member’s absence was due to the “ongoing public health crisis.” But Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) voted by proxy on Friday so he could also appear at the far-right AFPAC, the right-wing extremist answer to CPAC. And a number of Republicans joined Gosar in playing fast and loose with the rules of this new option. More than a dozen GOP members of Congress skipped votes on the Covid-19 relief package Friday to attend CPAC.
AFPAC is the America First Political Action Committee and it was founded by Nick Fuentes, a far-right conservative who the SPLC describes as a “white nationalist.” Fuentes and Gosar also met on Sunday, and Fuentes tweeted a photo of the two together, bragging that they “uncancelled” America, whatever that means.
Rep. Paul Gosar, after speaking at AFPAC on Friday night, and then saying he denounces “white racism” at CPAC on Saturday morning, is now meeting with white nationalist and Unite the Right attendee Nick Fuentes with a CPAC lanyard around his neck. pic.twitter.com/Dv0XIEqtaJ
— Zachary Petrizzo (@ZTPetrizzo) February 27, 2021
Following Gosar’s speech, Fuentes spoke to AFPAC, where the Daily Beast’s Will Sommer reported he said “white people are done being bullied” and said the Capitol riot on January 6th was “awesome.” Before the riot, Fuentes said on a live stream, “What can you and I do to a state legislator, besides kill them? Although we should not do that, I’m not advising that, but what else can you do?”
After he spoke at AFPAC Gosar also sat on a CPAC panel, where he decried “white racism,” perhaps attempting to distance himself from the views of the people hosting the event he just attended. “I want to tell you, I denounce… white racism,” Gosar said on the panel, according to Sommer. “That’s not appropriate.”
Joining Gosar in playing hooky were at least 13 House Republicans, including Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who cited the pandemic as reasons they could not be present on Friday and then traveled to Florida to speak at or attend CPAC. It’s particularly rich that Republicans are manipulating the vote-by-proxy system, considering they were vehemently opposed to it when Democrats implemented it last year and even sued to block it, claiming it was unconstitutional.
In order to vote by proxy, members are required to sign a letter saying they can’t attend “due to the ongoing public health emergency,” and traveling to another state to appear maskless at an event with thousands of people doesn’t seem to fit that situation.
“Apparently hypocrisy has become a tenant of the Republican Party,” House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) told CNN in reaction to the members’ actions. “Let me get this straight: these Members can’t vote in person because of the pandemic, but they manage to attend CPAC? They were even maskless at this super spreader event. It’s outrageous!”