After scrapping plans to consider remote voting last week, House Democrats announced Monday on a caucuswide call that they would move ahead on addressing the issue next week. Though they did not commit to an exact timeline, Democratic leaders said they expect to hold a vote as early as next week on a rules change that will allow members to vote on bills by proxy due to the coronavirus epidemic, according to The Hill. Members who are unable to be physically present in the Capitol will be able to authorize colleagues who are there to vote on their behalf.
Democrats had originally planned to hold a vote on the matter during a floor vote last week on a $484 billion pandemic relief bill for small businesses and hospitals. But they delayed consideration of the issue after Republicans objected to the rules change, saying that lawmakers should be doing their jobs in person just like many essential workers do.
Now the feeling in the caucus seems to be that they must take responsible action regardless of GOP objections. “As we urge the public to observe social distancing practices, comply with shelter-in-place orders, and telework as much as possible, Congress must adapt itself to the public health threat our nation faces,” members of the New Democrat Coalition wrote in a letter urging their leadership to act.
House Rules Committee chair Jim McGovern, who first unveiled the remote voting proposal last week, also penned an op-ed this week in the Washington Post stressing the urgency of the matter. McGovern said having all members go home to their districts—some of which are hotspots—then return to Washington to congregate in the Capitol was a “recipe for disaster.”
“The status quo has become unacceptable and dangerous—not just to members of Congress, but more importantly, to everyone we come in contact with,” he wrote. “I have always believed that whenever possible, any changes to House rules should be bipartisan. I still believe that today. Inaction, however, is simply not an option. The need to adapt is urgent.”
Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has been trying to find a way forward with GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Democrats are also anxious to conduct some committee business virtually, such as interviewing Trump administration officials.
On the phone call, Democratic leaders said the House would reconvene Monday.