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Senators push to allow for remote voting during national crisis

Senators push to allow for remote voting during national crisis
© Greg Nash

Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenate poised for all-day brawl over sweeping elections bill Biden-McConnell cold war unlikely to end at White House Amazon blocks 10B listings in crackdown on counterfeits MORE (D-Ill.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHouse conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill Strengthen CBP regulations to reduce opioid deaths House panel advances bipartisan retirement savings bill MORE (R-Ohio) are reviving their push to allow for remote voting during national emergencies. 

The two introduced a resolution to change the Senate's rules to allow for "reliable and secure" remote voting when both the majority leader and minority leader determine that a national crisis makes it "infeasible" to vote in person in the Senate chamber.

After the two Senate leaders make a joint determination, remote voting would be allowed for 30 days. After that, the Senate would need to renew it every 30 days. 

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“We live in an age where national emergencies, public health crises, and terrorism can threaten the ordinary course of Senate business. We need to bring voting in the Senate into the 21st century,” Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said in a statement. 

Portman added that the coronavirus pandemic had "shown that the Senate must be able to convene and complete our constitutional duties for the people we represent, even if we can’t be in the Capitol."

While Portman noted that the Senate implemented remote hearings last year, "Now we must take the next step and allow for remote voting during national emergencies."

The push for remote voting comes as the House adopted, and continues to use, proxy voting. The voting method allows a lawmaker to name a colleague to cast their vote for them on the House floor. 

While the Senate has allowed for remote hearings, Senate leadership hasn't taken a similar step for floor votes. Senators are required to vote in person from the Senate chamber, where they tell their vote — either verbally or frequently with the point of a finger or thumbs down — to Senate floor staff. 

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Then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill Senate descends into hours-long fight over elections bill Republican governor of Arkansas says 'Trump is dividing our party' MORE (R-Ky.) rejected calls to allow for remote voting last year, instead lengthening votes and encouraging members to social distance while on the Senate floor. 

“We’ll not be doing that. There are a number of different ways to avoid getting too many people together,” McConnell told reporters at the time. 

McConnell also blocked an effort by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Health Care: Biden announces 1M have enrolled in special ObamaCare sign-up period | Rand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins | Biden vows to get 'more aggressive' on lifestyle benefits of vaccines Rand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls MORE (R-Ky.) last year to allow for temporary remote voting