Growing Number of Senators Want to Change Rules to Allow Remote Voting

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As the battle to legislate a coronavirus relief package to help Americans and the economy drags on in the Senate, and members are testing positive for the virus, a growing number of lawmakers are calling for a rule change to allow them to cast their vote remotely.

“I totally support the idea of remote voting so the Senate can continue to operate during this crisis. We should make this change before the Senate leaves town,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Twitter.

“I’m ready to support remote voting,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) tweeted. “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.”

“It is time to bring the Senate into the 21st century,” Cramer tweeted.

So far, five Republicans are or have self-isolated, including Graham and Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Cory Gardner (R-CO). That leaves the Senate majority, which usually stands at 53-45, at 48-47.

Business Insider reported on the development:

If more Senate Republicans go into quarantine, and remote voting is not permitted, this could effectively result in the GOP ceding its majority in the chamber to Democrats.

But it might take some time for remote voting to occur, given changing rules in Congress can be tedious and could require a vote, among other potential challenges.

Roll Call reported on Senators taking action on the issue:

Several senators are pushing for remote voting. Ohio Republican Rob Portman and Illinois Democrat Richard J. Durbin, who collaborated on a resolution to pursue remote voting, took to the floor Sunday evening to discuss the topic after the Senate failed to advance the stimulus package.

Durbin called for establishing “a verifiable technology and procedure so members do not have to be physically present.”

Portman and Durbin’s resolution would give the Senate majority and minority leaders joint authority to allow secure remote voting for up to 30 days during emergency situations such as the current pandemic. Under the measure, the Senate could vote to extend the initial authority in additional 30-day increments.

Durbin said:

Five of our Senate colleagues were unable to come to the floor of the Senate and vote because they’re in self-quarantine at this moment. The numbers could grow to the point it could reach an extreme where there’s a question of an actual quorum on the floor of the Senate.

“It affects both sides of the aisle,” Portman said. “We’re all vulnerable. If we can find a practical solution which respects the integrity of the voting process of the United States Senate, let’s do it.”

Business Insider reported that almost 70 House Democrats on Monday formally requested that rules be changed so lawmakers can vote remotely  if national emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic are happening.

The lawmakers wrote in a letter to House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern:

Unfortunately, during such circumstances, requiring members to vote in person may pose public health risks or even be physically impossible for persons under quarantine. We need to provide a mechanism through which Congress can act during times of crisis without having to assemble in one place.

“There are people who want us to move forward on remote voting and there are others who have hesitation, which probably means that if you’re trying to make that kind of change, it would require votes,” McGovern told CBS News on Sunday.

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