Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican running for New York governor, is taking a notably different approach to balancing his responsibilities than another congressman also making a bid for the state’s top job: Rep. Tom Suozzi.
While Suozzi, a Democrat, frequently uses a pandemic-era rule to free up time from his day job to campaign for governor, Zeldin has shown up in person for most of the votes in the House so far this year.
Zeldin has been present for 107 of the 125 roll call votes cast in the House since Jan. 10.
As for the votes he missed, social media posts show that on at least two days where he skipped votes, he was at campaign related stops, including attending the state’s GOP convention and marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City.
Contrast that with how Suozzi is balancing his day job and his campaign.
A Spectrum News NY1 analysis published just last week shows Suozzi has had someone else vote for him 118 times this year alone through a process known as “proxy voting.”
Proxy voting is a House rule enacted when the pandemic erupted, allowing lawmakers to vote without having to be on the House floor or even in Washington. The purpose was to allow members to quarantine or avoid congregating in order to reduce the coronavirus risk.
Other House members have also used proxy voting to conduct fundraising and other political activities, instead of physically voting on the House floor, according to Molly Reynolds, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
Zeldin, for his part, has cast no proxy votes so far this year, according to our analysis.
In a statement, a spokesman for Zeldin said that, “Since joining the House of Representatives in January 2015, Congressman Zeldin has one of the highest attendance records for floor votes in all of Congress.”
"His Committee hearing and voting records are also nearly 100%,” the spokesman added.
Why does it matter if lawmakers are in fact in Washington, D.C.?
“It’s not just that members miss out on that deliberation when they’re not working together. But it feeds a perception among the public that Washington is a bad place,” Reynolds said.
His office did not respond to a request for comment on why he was not physically present at those times.
Spectrum News producer Sam Lisker contributed to this report.