Top Republicans blast Democratic rule change on remote committee work

Top Republicans blast Democratic rule change on remote committee work
© Greg Nash

The top Republican on each House committee blasted a Democratic effort to allow for remote committee work during the coronavirus pandemic, arguing the rule change would "jeopardize" their ability to represent constituents.

In a letter sent to House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi: Democrats to unveil sweeping criminal justice proposal Monday Calls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress Hoyer wins Maryland House primary MORE (D-Md.) on Thursday, the GOP ranking members said the chamber should be conducting committee work in person and that it's possible to do so safely if the proper precautions are taken. 

“Upending more than 200 years of precedent through partisan fiat will jeopardize the deliberative process of the House of Representatives and our ability to represent our constituents," the lawmakers wrote, with the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - DC preps for massive Saturday protest; Murkowski breaks with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Floyd eulogies begin; Trump-Esper conflict emerges The Hill's Morning Report - Protesters' defiance met with calls to listen MORE (R-Calif.).

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"The House will be in session this week with debate being held and votes being cast. If the whole House can conduct business while adhering to health guidelines, then so too can our Committees,” they added.

Democrats unveiled a measure Wednesday that would allow for proxy voting in addition to virtual committee work. It is expected to pass in a party-line vote Friday alongside Democrats' $3 trillion coronavirus relief legislation.

Under the proposed rule change in the measure, House committees would be authorized to hold virtual hearings, markups and depositions using platforms cleared by the chief administrative officer.

The GOP lawmakers raised concerns over whether depositions could be conducted securely in a virtual format.

“The issuance of a subpoena and conducting a deposition are serious matters," they wrote. "A deposition is an important tool for committees to use and it should not be subject to the uncontrolled environment of an untested virtual setting."

House Republicans have been outspoken in their desire for Democrats to call the lower chamber back into session, arguing lawmakers should be treated as essential workers. While the Republican-controlled Senate was brought back into session last week, House Democratic leaders opted to have members work remotely after consulting with the Capitol's attending physician, who raised safety concerns about having the House back in session.