Anna Paulina Luna, a Republican congresswoman from Florida, recently crossed party lines to call for proxy voting in the House – after previously considering it unconstitutional.
The cause for her change of heart? Becoming a mother.
When giving birth to her first child in August, Luna had to abandon her plans of a drug-free “granola” delivery when she suffered from a host of complications that led her doctor to prescribe her blood-pressure medication and antibiotics, as per The New York Times. She was also prohibited from traveling, which meant she was stranded in St. Petersburg while her colleagues in the House voted on a variety of issues, including the decision to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Being shut out of such crucial decision-making appears to have inspired the 34-year-old to draft a bill that would grant new mothers in Congress the right to vote by proxy while on a six-week maternity leave. Typically, “vote by proxy” means designating a colleague to cast votes in-person on their behalf.
“I was told when I was recovering from birth that I could not vote,” Luna wrote on X. “I physically could not travel and had a brutal recovery. When the rules were written, women were not in Congress. I’m going to change this.”
Proxy voting was first established in Congress at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 as a way of allowing representatives to continue voting. Both parties have taken advantage of the protocol since its implementation. However, a number of Republican representatives – including Luna – began to express concerns about some members exploiting what was initially designed as a health-related alternative to in-person voting. So when the GOP took control of the chamber at the beginning of 2023, the practice was eliminated.
While Luna supported the decision at the time, she changed her mind after witnessing firsthand how it affects mothers.
“You’re being forced to choose between your career and having a family,” she told The New York Times. “We’re in way too much of a tech age for that even to be acceptable. What happens if I have to vote on war?”
Luna is only the 12th member in the history of Congress to give birth while in office, worth noting as it speaks volumes about the demographic of the country’s leadership. The House is and has always been made up of mostly men, with the average age being 58. At the moment, only one current member of Congress has announced she is pregnant: Jenniffer González-Colón, the Republican resident commissioner of Puerto Rico. She is also one of six members who are not allowed to vote on legislation.
Even though Luna’s proposed legislation, which she introduced Tuesday, would not have a tangible effect on most sitting House members, it has opened up the floor for conversations about how easily women-centric issues can fall through the cracks in male-dominated institutions.
Lunas pointed out that congressional aides have access to maternity leave, whereas for lawmakers themselves, “there’s nothing.”
To date, her bill has garnered support from 20 representatives, a surprisingly bipartisan mix that includes Democrat Rashida Tlaib and Republican Matt Gaetz.
“It’s time that Congress gets with the times and new mothers are given an equal seat at the table,” Luna wrote on X.