House majority leader open to remote voting: 'All options' being considered

No big push in Congress for remote voting, despite two members with coronavirus, others self-quarantined

Image
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) speaks on March 13.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) speaks on March 13.
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Last Updated:
March 19, 2020 - 10:57pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Thursday that he expects the chamber to "adjust" its "voting procedures" to comply with the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention coronavirus recommendations.

However, the leaders of the House or Senate have made no public effort toward electronic voting, despite two members being infected and several other members and staffers self-quarantined for fear of having been infected. 

"No decisions have been made on exactly what these changes will be, but we will be discussing all options," Hoyer, the House's No. 2 Democrat, wrote in a letter to chamber colleagues. 

The letter also stated that members will be consulted and apprised about next steps "well in advance" of a next vote. 

Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida) and Ben McAdams (D-Utah) each said earlier this week that they have tested positive for coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Some lawmakers are calling for remote voting during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I’ve been very vocal about trying to change the rules in the House during an emergency,” said Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Florida). “We need to have a way to continue to legislate and we need to consider remote voting.”

The office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) did not return a request for comment about the possibility of remote voting.

Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) have proposed a resolution that would allow senators to vote remotely during a national emergency.

“It is something that would be up to the majority leader and the minority leader to jointly agree upon," Portman said on the Senate floor Thursday. 

He said that if the leaders agree, Congress would vote 30 days later and that the Senate would have to vote to continue the change

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has previously taken remote voting off of the table, and it's unclear whether he'll reconsider with the bipartisan, Portman-Durbin proposal.  

“We’ll not be doing that," the Kentucky Republican said on Wednesday. "There are a number of different ways to avoid getting too many people together."