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 SchiffCIA says 'Havana syndrome' unlikely a result of 'worldwide campaign' by foreign power The Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta Democrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit 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-BalartAnother voice of reason retires Defense contractors ramp up donations to GOP election objectors Bottom line 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 McConnellThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 WATCH: The Hill recaps the top stories of the week Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum 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 PelosiThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems look to repackage BBB into salvageable bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden clarifies his remarks on Russia Democrats hope to salvage Biden's agenda on Manchin's terms 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 HoyerPelosi says she's open to stock trading ban for Congress Former Maryland rep announces bid for old House seat Fury over voting rights fight turns personal on Capitol Hill 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 HuffmanIn their own words: Lawmakers, staffers remember Jan. 6 insurrection Overnight Energy & Environment — Manchin raises hopes on climate spending Energy & Environment — Advocates look for Plan B climate legislation MORE (D-Calif.).