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 SchiffTop Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence Overnight Defense: Top admiral says 'no condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' | Intelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings Overnight Defense: House to vote on military justice bill spurred by Vanessa Guillén death | Biden courts veterans after Trump's military controversies 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-Balart'Trump show' convention sparks little interest on K Street Rep. Dan Meuser tests positive for COVID-19 Watchdog calls for probe into Gohmert 'disregarding public health guidance' on COVID-19 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 McConnellOcasio-Cortez to voters: Tell McConnell 'he is playing with fire' with Ginsburg's seat McConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Video shows NYC subway station renamed after Ruth Bader Ginsburg 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 PelosiAs families deal with coronavirus, new federal dollars should follow the student Sunday shows - Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death dominates Hypocrisy rules on both sides over replacing Justice Ginsburg 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 HoyerHouse Democrats postpone vote on marijuana decriminalization bill Democrats scramble on COVID-19 relief amid division, Trump surprise The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep 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 HuffmanOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' COVID-19 complicates California's record-setting wildfire season  Congress should investigate OAS actions in Bolivia MORE (D-Calif.).