Pelosi rejects remote voting amid coronavirus scare – again

Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday again rejected the notion that the House might adopt a system of remote voting to protect the health of lawmakers during the coronavirus crisis.

“As we all become more savvy in terms of technology, one would say we could transfer that to remote voting,” she said on a press call. “But it’s not that easy.” 

A number of Capitol Hill lawmakers have urged leaders in both parties to establish an arrangement where members could cast votes from afar, as national health officials continue to press the public to avoid unnecessary travel and gatherings.

Pelosi has tasked Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Rules Committee, to examine the various options that might mitigate the health threat to lawmakers as pieces of legislation — including imminent bills providing more coronavirus relief — come to the floor. 

Remote voting “is something that is being pursued,” Pelosi said, but there’s no system yet in place to guarantee that the technology will be up to speed and the security airtight.

“Let us hope that the blessings of technology will give us more options sooner to review,” Pelosi said. “We aren’t there yet.” 

The comments came just hours after Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.) announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, becoming at least the sixth Capitol Hill lawmaker to become infected.

Leaders in both parties have sought to keep members away from the Capitol, with both chambers in recess and not expected to return to Washington until the week of April 20, at the earliest. As part of that strategy, they’re aiming to pass the next round of coronavirus relief — the fourth emergency bill since the start of last month — by unanimous consent, precluding the need for all but a handful of lawmakers to appear on the floor.

Yet that plan was upended late last month by Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, who attempted to force a floor vote on a massive $2.2 trillion relief bill, which forced more than 200 House lawmakers into the chamber to overcome the blockade.

On Wednesday, Massie threatened to apply the same tactic to the next round of emergency coronavirus aid — unless Pelosi adopted remote voting.

“Once again, they’re recommending that just let Nancy Pelosi pass it on her own, that we could all stay home,” Massie said in an interview with Fox Business. “And I’m saying that’s not going to fly — doesn’t fly with the Constitution, doesn’t fly for accountability to the taxpayers.” 

Massie is not alone in citing the Constitution amid the debate. 

“There is a constitutional requirement that we vote in person,” Pelosi said Thursday, voicing strong concerns that any legislation passed by remote voting would be an easy target for lawsuits challenging its legitimacy.

“We just have to figure out how we can continue the operation of government without undermining the integrity of it, the legitimacy of it, and that we do not pass legislation that ends up in the courts,” she said.

Pelosi noted that after the 9/11 attacks, Congress came together to adopt new rules establishing contingency plans for voting in the event of a major disaster. Those changes took years to approve, however, and she cautioned that any new reforms would require bipartisan support — and a vote on the House floor. 

“The rules are what they are,” she said. “Now if the rules need to be changed, it has to be done carefully.”

In the meantime, Pelosi is offering assurances that lawmakers will not be forced to return to Washington prematurely.

“I’ll be very frank with you: We don’t want anybody coming back at any time that might not be healthy for them,” she said.

Tags Coronavirus Nancy Pelosi Neal Dunn Thomas Massie
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