Just days after House members returned to Capitol Hill from their August recess, Michigan Democrat Haley Stevens skipped hearings on President Joe Biden's record-setting budget to take a vacation.
Fresh from a month-long recess, Stevens married software engineer Rob Gulley in a September 3 ceremony. According to the Democrat's wedding registry, the couple planned to "head up north right after the wedding" and accepted cash contributions to fund "boating, couples massage, [and] dinner" on the honeymoon.
The trip coincided with two House Committee on Education and Labor markup sessions during which members voted on an array of amendments to Biden's $3.5 trillion spending plan. Stevens, who has served on the committee since she joined Congress in 2019, missed votes on at least a dozen amendments, including one that would prohibit funds in the bill from going to universities that host Chinese government-funded Confucius Institutes.
Stevens did not return a request for comment.
Stevens is not the first House member to miss votes for a honeymoon in 2021. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R., N.C.) faced criticism in May after he missed 21 votes to honeymoon in Dubai. Cawthorn defended his absence, telling Real America's Voice that he "was doing the only thing I find more important than my service here in Congress, and that was my service as a husband."
Stevens held the wedding just days after the Centers for Disease Control said the entire state of Michigan should wear masks when indoors in public. While the Detroit News noted that Stevens's ceremony took place outdoors, Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel (D.)—who officiated the wedding—shared a photo of the subsequent, indoor reception. Attendees were not wearing masks. Nessel defended the photo by saying that "vaccinations and proof of Covid negative tests were required to attend the wedding."
In addition to the Confucius Institute amendment, which was proposed by Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), Stevens skipped votes on amendments that would prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving Pell grants and require local education agencies that receive funds under the bill to offer in-person instruction to vulnerable students.
After she served on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's presidential campaigns, Stevens, a Michigan native, in 2017 moved back to the state to run for the House seat vacated by retiring Republican Dave Trott. She defeated GOP challenger Lena Epstein by 6 points. Stevens's 2020 reelection battle proved more contentious: She narrowly defeated Republican Eric Esshaki by less than 3 points. Her district is considered a top GOP target in 2022.