Schiff: Remote voting would not compromise national security

Schiff: Remote voting would not compromise national security
© Greg Nash

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Friday that a shift to remote voting amid the coronavirus crisis would pose no risk to national security.

"I am confident that the logistical and security questions could be addressed if the House decided to move ahead with remote voting for a period of time," Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffCoronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner Texas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill Schiff: Remote voting would not compromise national security MORE (D-Calif.) told The Hill in an email.

Schiff emphasized that he's been averse to the idea of allowing members to vote from outside the Capitol, a proposal being pushed by a growing number of lawmakers amid rising fears of public travel and congregating in large crowds. But he left open the possibility that House leaders might have to take that extraordinary step given the unique threat posed by the pandemic.

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"While I have been resistant to the idea of voting at a distance, we are all forced to consider new ways of doing our work that seemed unthinkable even a week ago," said Schiff, a leading figure in the House's examination of Russian election interference in 2016.

"Given the urgency of responding to the needs of the nation and the inherent risks of moving 435 legislators back and forth across the country to meet in a confined space, we must adapt as the exigency requires," he added.

The push for remote voting has gained new urgency this week after a pair of House lawmakers — Reps. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartNJ lawmaker tests negative for COVID-19 Coronavirus in Congress: Lawmakers who have tested positive Pennsylvania congressman tests positive for coronavirus MORE (R-Fla.) and Ben McAdams (D-Utah) — tested positive for the virus. A number of members have self-quarantined, citing contact with lawmakers, staffers or members of the public who have contracted the virus. Schiff is among those taking special precautions, following news that a former Intelligence aide was among those infected.

Despite the concerns, the appetite for remote voting remains limited on Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner Struggling states warn coronavirus stimulus falls short Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike MORE (R-Ky.) shot down that proposal this week. House GOP leaders have also been opposed, citing the absence of an established mechanism and concerns over security. Some of them have pointed to Iowa's recent primary debacle as a cautionary tale.

And even some Democrats have been wary of adopting such a system, noting Russia's interference of the 2016 elections and Moscow's ongoing effort to influence the process again this year.

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Still, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: Lawmakers, state governors talk coronavirus, stimulus package and resources as pandemic rages on Attacking the Affordable Care Act in the time of COVID-19 DC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill MORE (D-Calif.), after initially being cold to the idea, announced Thursday that Democratic leaders are now weighing all options. She's asked Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Rules Committee, to solicit lawmaker suggestions and prepare "a report on House Rules regarding voting for members' review."

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill Lysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House The Hill's 12:30 Report: House to vote on .2T stimulus after mad dash to Washington MORE (D-Md.) has made clear that if lawmakers are called back to Washington amid the crisis, it won't happen before the third round of coronavirus relief — a massive economic package currently being negotiated in the Senate — has passed the upper chamber and is ready for a House vote. In that case, Hoyer announced Thursday, party leaders will adopt new procedures to curb overcrowding on the House floor.

"We were assured ... that when we're brought back, they're going to go the extra mile to ensure that there are protocols to keep everybody safe," said Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanDemocrats call for stimulus to boost Social Security benefits by 0 a month Schiff: Remote voting would not compromise national security House Democrats eyeing much broader Phase 3 stimulus MORE (D-Calif.).