- The Washington Times - Monday, April 27, 2020

Moderate Democrats petitioned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants to implement remote voting procedures, with or without Republican support, by the time Congress returns in early May.

Rep. Derek Kilmer, chair of the New Democrat Coalition, endorsed the plan to vote by proxy and hold virtual committee hearings. He argued that if organizations and workers across the country have adapted to working from home, so should Congress.

“While we hope a bipartisan agreement with Republican Leadership that results in temporary remote capabilities on the floor and in committees can be reached in the coming days, if House Republican leadership does not engage on this matter in a constructive way, we must move forward,” Mr. Kilmer, Washington Democrat wrote in a letter to leadership.

“Therefore, we urge you to commit to bringing a resolution that allows for remote voting and virtual committee proceedings to the floor no later than the week of May 4.”

The House, like the Senate, is not set to return in a full session to Washington, D.C. until May 4th because of the pandemic.

He warned that the current system makes legislation potentially “hamstrung by relying on unanimous consent agreements.”

House members had to scramble to return to Washington to vote on the $2.2 trillion coronavirus package, which passed in March, after one member challenged a voice vote.

The latest package, the nearly $500 billion for emergency relief funds, was passed on a regular recorded vote — though 35 House members were not able to make it back to Capitol Hill in order to cast their ballots.

Last Wednesday, House Democrats scrapped their plan to move forward with a historic rules change to allow remote voting, after Republicans opposed the proposal. The resolution members were initially slated to vote on would have instituted a proxy voting system, which would allow members to designate one of their colleagues to vote on their behalf.

The emergency rule would extend only to bills related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Republicans argue that members should be expected to come work on Capitol Hill, with proper social distancing and health policies, and do essential work regular Americans are doing to fight the pandemic and keep the country functioning.

While Democrats were onboard with adopting remote voting procedures, there was internal debate on the best approach. Many had called for using some sort of technology to digitally vote and hold hearings, though Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. McGovern have repeated cited their concerns about security.

With the resolution on hold for now, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy are tasked with leading a small committee to determine how members can do their jobs safely and efficiently during the pandemic.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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