WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top U.S. House of Representatives Democrat recommended measures on Tuesday to allow members to vote and do committee work remotely, even when they are back in Washington, to comply with social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wrote to the leaders of the House Rules and Administration committees urging them to update congressional rules to allow votes using videoconferencing technology.
Members of the House may be called back to Washington this week to vote in person for the first time in weeks on a nearly $500 billion relief package to help Americans deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Following calls by President Donald Trump for states to reopen despite the rising death toll, a handful of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress have been calling for lawmakers to return to Washington sooner rather than later.
The House is expected to vote on a rule change when it returns that would allow voting by proxy, but Hoyer’s proposal would take it further to allow remote votes and committee work.
“Our goal remains reopening the Capitol complex safely, but even after the Capitol has reopened and Members have returned, there will likely still be a need to make accommodations for the Floor and in committees for some time to maintain the necessary social distancing,” Hoyer wrote.
The coronavirus outbreak has killed more than 42,000 Americans, according to a Reuters tally, the highest number in the world, and there are more than 750,000 cases.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis