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House sets up 'separate enclosure' for votes from members exposed to COVID-19

House sets up 'separate enclosure' for votes from members exposed to COVID-19
© Greg Nash

House members who have been exposed to the coronavirus are being provided with a section in the House gallery to allow them to participate in the vote to elect a new Speaker.

Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician, released a statement saying that a “secure enclosure” has been put in place to allow members who are quarantining to “fulfill their Constitutional duties.”

While Democrats implemented proxy voting last year amid the pandemic, all members have to be present in the chamber to partake in the vote to select the next Speaker of the House. 

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“Upon the direction of the Office of the Attending Physician and the House Sergeant at Arms, a secure enclosure has been erected in Gallery 4 of the House Chamber to allow Members who are in quarantine status to fulfill their Constitutional duties,” the statement from Monahan said. 

“Under federal guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), essential workers, in order to ensure continuity of operations of essential functions, are permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19 provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community. The highest possible safeguards have been implemented including separate holding facilities for any Members utilizing Gallery 4. This step will only be necessary until proxy voting resumes as an option for impacted members,” the statement said.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer placed on administrative leave: reports Budowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Biden taps career civil servants to acting posts at State, USAID, UN MORE (D-Calif.) faces a razor-thin margin, leaving her little room for error as she looks to retain her gavel. The section allowing quarantining members to vote provides her the ability to obtain critical votes needed to remain in her leadership position. 

The news of Gallery 4 in the chamber being utilized for members to take part in the vote came shortly after Rep. Gwen MooreGwen Sophia MooreMcMorris Rodgers floats vacating Speaker's chair over Democrat's in-person vote after COVID diagnosis House approves rules package for new Congress Top House Appropriations Republican tests COVID-19 positive MORE (D-Wis.), who announced she tested positive on Dec. 28, said she would be present for the vote. 

“Thank you all for the well wishes. I am feeling good! My quarantine is over and I am medically cleared to travel and work on behalf of Wisconsin’s Fourth Congressional District,” Moore tweeted on Sunday. 

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Republicans wasted no time hammering Pelosi for constructing the enclosure, framing it as a purely political move designed to ensure Pelosi's victory while endangering everyone else in the chamber.

"The lack of communication with the minority makes this 100 percent political," Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisMore than half of House GOP commits to vote for resolution calling for Cheney to step down from leadership GOP divided over Liz Cheney's future Trust between lawmakers reaches all-time low after Capitol riots MORE (R-Ill.), senior Republican on the House Administration Committee, told reporters in the Capitol. "To build a structure like that, in the dark of night, to only protect the votes that Speaker Pelosi needs to get reelected Speaker, is shameful."

Moore’s announcement had already sparked criticism from the GOP.

"Well, that would be wrong. I mean, we have two members who have COVID and we kept them home. I couldn't imagine that she [Pelosi] would bring somebody in here that could cause people problems,” Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear Congressional leaders present Biden, Harris with flags flown during inauguration Biden urges Americans to join together in appeal for unity MORE (R-Calif.) told The Hill.