Pelosi delays her coronavirus bill, says will try to pass Senate's without most members present 

House speaker: 'Put aside some of our concerns for another day, and get this done'

Published: March 24, 2020 11:40am

Updated: March 24, 2020 12:39pm

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that she will attempt to pass the Senate's coronavirus economic stimulus package – putting aside the alternative, projected $2.5 trillion measure that she proposed. 

The California Democrat said she'll try to pass the Senate's projected $1.8 trillion measure by unanimous consent, meaning House members can say yes without having to come to Capitol Hill to vote. 

"The easiest way to do it is for us to put aside some of our concerns for another day, and get this done," Pelosi told CNBC. "If it has poison pills in it, and they know certain things are poison pills, then they don't want unanimous consent – they just want an ideological statement."

The stimulus package in the GOP-controlled Senate has failed two procedural votes over objections from chamber Democrats. Vice President Pence said Tuesday afternoon during a Fox News town hall that the Senate is close to passing its measure. 

Pelosi and House Democrats unveiled their own 1,400-page stimulus plan on Monday evening.

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) released a report cautioning members against voting remotely at this time but he recommended "unanimous consent and voice votes" as alternatives during the coronavirus pandemic.

"It may be prudent to consider the feasibility of remote voting for certain emergency situations, but that decision should be a multi-committee effort with substantial study and development. This change cannot be implemented overnight, and likely cannot be accomplished in time to address the current crisis," McGovern said in the report. 

"Without complete consensus, which we do not currently have, it would also require us to come back to Washington to vote to change House rules to allow for remote voting. However, there are several other routes the House may take in order to pass legislation addressing COVID-19," he also wrote.

McGovern warned that there are security concerns with remote voting.

"Although off-the-shelf products exist to allow a Member to videoconference their vote, for example, they have not been tested under the sort of pressure they would face from enemy states or other bad actors trying to force the system offline or prevent individual Members from accessing it," he wrote. "Such a system has to be extensively tested, not used for the first time on must-pass legislation."

McGovern suggested unanimous consent instead since it "does not require a quorum" or a voice vote "where the House presumes a quorum is present unless a point of order is made," which would prevent the House from having to travel to Washington to cast a vote in-person.

"Members could submit a statement for the Congressional Record stating how they would have voted had there been a recorded vote. Congress could even vote on a symbolic resolution supporting the legislation after the crisis passes and Members return to Washington," he wrote.

Another option in McGovern's report is recorded votes.

"The House could pass legislation by a recorded vote but limit Member and staff exposure by holding votes open longer than normal and having Members vote in shifts, sanitizing voting stations between uses, and controlling how many people are in the chamber and their proximity to each other," he wrote in the report.

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