WASHINGTON—Prospects for Congress establishing some form of emergency remote-voting process were boosted March 22 when President Donald Trump endorsed the idea and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) began self-quarantining after testing positive for the CCP virus.
“I would certainly be in favor of it, where they could remote-vote from some outside location,” Trump told the nation during his CCP virus daily news conference at the White House.
Trump said he was thinking about the remote-voting possibility after Paul and another congressional Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, confirmed they had tested positive for the disease and had opted to self-quarantine. Rep. Ben McAdam (D-Utah) also has tested positive.
Four other Republican senators are also self-quarantining, including Mike Lee and Mitt Romney of Utah, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Rick Scott of Florida. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas previously self-quarantined for two weeks.
The CCP virus has hit the House of Representatives hard as well, with eight Republicans and 17 Democrats self-quarantining, at latest count. Sixty-seven House Democrats wrote to House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) asking him to change House rules to allow for a remote-voting process to be used temporarily.
The absent Republican senators have made Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnells (R-Ky.) job much harder as he oversees the tense negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and congressional Democrats on the $2 trillion economic stimulus package.
With only 48 of the Senates 53 Republican members available to vote, McConnell holds a razor-thin, one-vote edge against Democrats.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced a remote-voting resolution on March 19.
Under the resolution, the Senates majority and minority leaders would have to agree to allow remote-voting for 30 days. The full Senate would have to approve continuing the process.
“We live in an age where national emergencies, public health crises, and terrorism can threaten the ordinary course of Senate business,” Durbin said in a statement announcing the proposal. “We need to bring voting in the Senate into the 21st century so that our important work can continue even under extraordinary circumstances.”
As news spread March 22 about Paul, Portman told the Senate that the remote-voting resolution “is a bipartisan effort to ensure that we can be able to do our duty, as the legislative branch, Article I, we have responsibilities here. This is our duty station. And yet, if we cannot be here, we still need to be able to do it remotely. With the technology we now have, we have the ability to do that, as my colleague from Illinois has said, in a safe and secure way.”
Portman added that “my hope is that we can have this as a possibility, should we not be able to gather. I think what has happened in the last several hours as weve learned about our colleagues who are self-quarantining, one who tested positive, as I understand it, its very important that we have that ability.”
Also on March 22, two veteran advocates of remote voting took to the pages of The Washington Post to encourage adoption of the process and to remind readers that a similar public discussion was held in the months after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
“There are no provisions, constitutionally, legally or within congressional rules, to enable Congress to meet remotely,” _