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 SchiffHillicon Valley: Intel heads to resume threats hearing scrapped under Trump | New small business coalition to urge action on antitrust policy | Amazon backs corporate tax hike to pay for infrastructure Intel heads to resume worldwide threats hearing scrapped under Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden tasks Harris on border; news conference today 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.


"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-BalartGOP lawmakers ask Biden administration for guidance on reopening cruise industry The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Facebook — Biden delivers 100 million shots in 58 days, doses to neighbors Biden grants temporary legal status to thousands of Venezuelans in US 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 McConnellTrump: McConnell 'helpless' to stop Biden from packing court Senate GOP opens door to earmarks McConnell sidesteps Trump calling him 'dumb son of a b----' 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.


Still, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAgainst mounting odds, Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan Charles Booker launches exploratory committee to consider challenge to Rand Paul Top academics slam Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act 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 HoyerDemocrats face mounting hurdles to agenda This week: Congress returns with lengthy to-do list House to vote on DC statehood, gender pay gap 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 ask Biden to reverse employee policy on past marijuana use Give postal EVs a quick stamp of approval House Oversight Committee demands release of B USPS vehicle contract MORE (D-Calif.).