McConnell rejects remote voting
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday rejected the prospect of the chamber voting remotely in the event of a prolonged recess over the coronavirus.
“We’ll not be doing that. There are a number of different ways to avoid getting too many people together,” McConnell told reporters.
McConnell said potential changes to allow senators to avoid congregating on the Senate floor could be lengthening the amount of time allowed for a vote, or having senators come to the floor to vote individually or in pairs.
“We will deal with the social distancing issue without fundamentally changing Senate rules,” he added.
The question comes as the growing spread of the coronavirus has upended the congressional schedule.
The House is currently out of town. It’s unclear when they will return, with leadership indicating they could extend the break until there is a third coronavirus package ready.
Democrats, including Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), have floated changing the Senate’s process to allow for remote committee hearings and even remote voting.
“Amy Klobuchar is looking at that for us,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters. Klobuchar (Minn.) is the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee.
Currently senators vote by coming to the floor and physically indicating to staff, frequently by the point of a finger, if they will support or oppose a measure or nominee.
Part of the concern on Capitol Hill is the age of the lawmakers; the coronavirus is thought to more severely impact older individuals.
The coronavirus is changing behavior on Capitol Hill in various ways. Senate Democrats have been holding leadership and caucus meetings by conference call. Senate Republicans have moved their gatherings to larger rooms in an effort to give lawmakers more space.
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