Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejected suggestions that Congress could conduct its business remotely. “It’s not that easy,” she said.
However, it appears that Pelosi has caved to pressure, as The Hill is reporting that the speaker has gotten behind a proposal by Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) that would allow representatives to vote from their homes.
“We don’t know how long this pandemic will threaten public health, or how long state stay at home orders will last. We all know, though, that Congress needs to be working, whether in person, remotely, or both,” a statement from the Massachusetts Democrat read.
“We should not wait for this pandemic to end to make changes to the rules that help us to do our jobs in such an unprecedented time,” McGovern continued. “I hope my colleagues, Democratic and Republican, can work together to implement this temporary solution.”
Rather than applying to all legislative matters, McGovern’s proposal would only cover those matters relating to the coronavirus pandemic.
Concerns over “hacking or interference by foreign bad actors”
What’s more, the remote voting proposal would not provide a replacement for floor debate, nor would it permit hearings or allow members to engage in committee work.
For those reasons, fellow Democrat Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) feels the proposal doesn’t go far enough, referring to it as simply “one piece of the puzzle.”
“It’s a good step,” The Hill quoted Gottheimer as saying. “But it doesn’t really solve the broader issue that many of us are trying to address.”
Congressmembers are still holding briefings with administration officials, the website reported, leading House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) to stress on Wednesday that “oversight is occurring.”
Still, the veteran lawmaker conceded that such oversight is “not occurring as effectively as it would be if we could have committee hearings with administration testimony.”
McGovern’s idea is to have members engage in proxy voting, an option that could be more quickly implemented than some kind of video-based conference system.
“This system would enable members to vote remotely in a secure way, without using the kind of technology that is susceptible to hacking or interference by foreign bad actors,” he explained.