House expected to vote on changing rules to allow remote voting

House expected to vote on changing rules to allow remote voting
© Greg Nash

The House is expected to vote this week on changing its rules to allow members to vote remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerWhite House opposes House energy bill as Democrats promise climate action This week: Supreme Court fight over Ginsburg's seat upends Congress's agenda House Democrats postpone vote on marijuana decriminalization bill MORE (D-Md.) announced late Monday that a vote is planned on proxy voting, which would allow an absent member to authorize another member physically present in the chamber to cast a vote on his or her behalf.

“The House is expected to vote on a rules change related to remote voting by proxy,” Hoyer’s office said in a notice advising the imminent floor action.

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House members in both parties have grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of alternatives to conduct legislative business during the pandemic and called for a way for Congress to operate remotely if members can’t be physically present in the Capitol.

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) made a recommendation last week that allowing proxy voting would be the easiest way to allow a form of remote voting without the kind of extensive security testing that electronic technologies would require.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMcCarthy's Democratic challenger to launch first TV ad highlighting Air Force service as single mother Trump asked Chamber of Commerce to reconsider Democratic endorsements: report The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - White House moves closer to Pelosi on virus relief bill MORE (R-Calif.) has previously expressed opposition to the idea of proxy voting, saying that it “puts too much power in one hand.”

But Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeBottom line House approves .3 trillion spending package for 2021 Multiple lawmakers self-quarantine after exposure to Gohmert MORE (Okla.), the top Republican on the House Rules Committee, said last week that proxy voting may be “the best of a series of bad options.”

Proxy voting has precedent in House and Senate committees, but not on the floor of either chamber.

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Congressional leaders are negotiating an interim coronavirus relief package with the Trump administration to refill the coffers of a small-business loan program that ran out of funds last week. Democrats have also been pushing to include funding for hospitals and state and local governments.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump puts Supreme Court fight at center of Ohio rally CDC causes new storm by pulling coronavirus guidance Overnight Health Care: CDC pulls revised guidance on coronavirus | Government watchdog finds supply shortages are harming US response | As virus pummels US, Europe sees its own spike MORE (D-Calif.) told CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” on Monday night that negotiators had “come to terms on the principles” and were finalizing text of the aid legislation.

Hoyer’s office said that if the Senate passes the bill on Tuesday, the earliest the House could consider it would be Thursday morning as members will need time to travel back to Washington from their districts.

Conservative Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieGOP lawmaker praises Kyle Rittenhouse's 'restraint' for not emptying magazine during shooting Rep. Dan Meuser tests positive for COVID-19 Liz Cheney wins Wyoming GOP primary in reelection bid MORE (R-Ky.) has threatened again to prevent any legislation related to addressing the coronavirus crisis to pass by voice vote or unanimous consent.

Massie similarly demanded a roll call vote last month on the $2 trillion coronavirus relief legislation. House leaders had to scramble to ensure at least 216 members were physically present in the chamber to establish a quorum and override Massie so that the bill could still pass by voice vote.

But this time, Hoyer’s office has indicated that the interim relief bill will be taken up with a roll call vote.

Having members in Washington also provides House leaders with an opportunity to vote on changing House rules so they can vote from their districts during the pandemic and reduce the risk of contagion in the Capitol or during their travels across the country. That means members will have to vote in person at least one more time before they can vote remotely.

At least six members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus, as well as a handful of staff and Capitol Police officers.