One Big Thing: Do you think our democracy is weakened if Congress works and votes remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic?
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What is it?
- The U.S. House of Representatives was set to resume working on Monday, May 4, but last week Congressmen and women were told to stay in their districts due to the worsening COVID-19 outbreak in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, the Senate is back in session.
- Members of both parties from the House and Senate are coming together to think about possible remote voting procedures to be put into place, but significant differences are emerging about how to proceed. Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell are cautious about such a significant change in voting procedures.
- It is important to remember that our elected officials are not immune to COVID-19 or its effects. Already, members and staffers have tested positive and the average age of senators(just over 60) is just under the CDC’s threshold high-risk for severe illness.
Why is it important?
- Arguments which oppose remote voting for Congress have emphasized that the House and Senate rules do not allow for remote voting as members must be physically present to cast their vote. Some members have said they are “essential workers” and must report to work.
- Others have argued that Congress should be setting the example for their constituents by following the same quarantine measures as everyone else. Also, because of the logistics of rollcall voting, it would be very difficult for members to effectively social distance. A bipartisan resolution from Senators Portman (R-OH) and Durbin (D-IL) proposes to allow for remote working.
- Regardless of how, it is essential that Congress resumes working and voting as soon as possible to ensure continuity of government. Passing bi-partisan COVID-19 stimulus bills raised Congressional approval ratings, but if Congress is unable to vote or continue to work in a bi-partisan manner to respond to the current crisis, the public’s goodwill could quickly shift.
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