On Friday, the United States House passed a measure to allow legislators to vote by proxy during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. This noteworthy policy shift will allow House members to cast votes remotely for the first time in the chamber’s 231-year history. On the same day, the House approved a $3 trillion stimulus package for coronavirus relief after few weeks of debate on Capitol Hill over how to adapt the close-quarters in the best way, the destruction of the work environment because of coronavirus outbreak that killed over 88,000 Americans.
The House voted Friday to let its members serve as proxies in Washington for colleagues who are in quarantine or otherwise homebound during the coronavirus pandemic, setting aside two centuries of precedent https://t.co/nuXoJgv9U8
— Bloomberg (@business) May 16, 2020
The move passed with 217-189 ratio of votes, with three Democrats and Liberian Representative Justin Amash of Michigan voting with Republicans against the change, whereas 24 members didn’t vote. Analysts took the proposal as the most significant change to House floor policy since the 1970s when the chamber started voting by electronic means, and C-SPAN began broadcasting debates. A senior member in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, Sarah Binder, called the move as a pretty big step, undoubtedly for Congress.
The votes by #proxy in the Democratic-led chamber was 217-189. https://t.co/a5I8xh1Yfs
— Thein Swe (@TheinSwe4) May 16, 2020
However, for the first-time proxy voting allowed on the floor of the House, until 1995, the practice allowed at the committee level when Republican party under the leadership of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich ended the practice.
Under the new proposal members can designate colleagues to vote for them
Now members can designate their colleagues to vote for them under the new proposal, after informing the chamber and give thorough written instructions to their designee. Members can perform as proxies for a maximum of ten representatives under the terms and conditions of the rule, which involves renewal every forty-five days and will expire at the end of the Congress ongoing session.
Under the new rules – members can designate colleagues to vote on their behalf, after notifying the chamber. A present member can serve as a proxy for up to 10 people.
— Samantha-Jo Roth (@SamanthaJoRoth) May 15, 2020
Moreover, the new rule also allows committees to hold virtual or remote hearings on a set of permitted software platforms to prepare law for the floor of the House and overthrow witnesses. Previously, the Senate allows proxy votes in committee hearings, and it already held several partially virtual hearings highlighting demonstration from the officials of the administration.
At the start, the leaders of the Democratic party fought against the efforts to implement remotely voting, but back proxy voting in late April. They put on hold a vote on the issue many weeks ago to give their leadership proper time to negotiate with the Republican leaders, but both political parties failed to reach on any deal.
Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader, said on Thursday that the revolution allows the whole Congress members to organize and act on behalf of the U.S. nationals in an unusual context. Whereas, House Republicans opposed the changes, and called on Democrats to bring back the House into the session with adjustments to committee work as well as voting procedures that might allow House members and staff members to maintain social distancing gap, lessen the density in the Capitol and follow other guidelines regarding health.
Reservations of Rep. Rodney Davis about the change
The topmost Republican on the House Administration Committee (HAC), Representative Rodney Davis, said in advance of the vote that it sends a terrible message to the whole country. Davis was one of the bipartisan group members that want to reach a negotiation on how to restart the Capitol. Furthermore, Davis explains that Democrats are going to implement a procedure during the coronavirus outbreak that will send a message to Americans that their first responders, such as doctors, nurses, and grocery store workers, are essential to go on their work. But it is not essential for the House members to actually come to the job physically.
Davis shows his worries that the change may use against the representatives, and that voting remotely from home instead of traveling to the swamp may become a badge of honor as against coming to Congress, doing accurately what build this institution. In defense of the proposal, Hoyer said that this simply works as per modern technology allow them to do, to perform their jobs. Hundreds of millions of United States citizens are doing the same thing, and they call it homeworking or teleworking.
The Democrat of Maryland also pronounced the change as a provisional move and said that leadership would continue to examine the option of implementing secure, rig free, and remote voting. The House voted successfully to change its voting practices. At the same time, the Senate mainly continued their sessions without making any changes in the rule, and continue to hold committee hearings as well as votes. In contrast, staff members and senators worked on following the guidelines of health experts by keeping social distancing to reduce the risk of virus transmission.
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