Dozens of US lawmakers on Monday threw their support behind efforts to allow remote voting in Congress, as members seek to have their say on critical legislation from home or quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic.
While 67 House Democrats signed a letter urging the rules committee to upend two centuries of Capitol Hill tradition and allow voting from outside the chamber during national emergencies, the movement has gained traction in both political camps.
Bipartisan measures recently have been introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives, and have taken on urgency as three lawmakers have tested positive for coronavirus and at least a dozen others entered self-imposed quarantine as a precaution.
“I totally support the idea of remote voting so the Senate can continue to operate during this crisis,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted Monday, as Congress considers new restrictions on Capitol gatherings.
“We should make this change before the Senate leaves town” for Easter recess in early April, he said.
Under longstanding rules, all voting in Congress is done in person, despite the existence of mobile voting technology for the past two decades.
But recent developments have highlighted the risks of bringing dozens or more lawmakers together in an enclosed area.
Republican Rand Paul on Sunday became the first senator to test positive for new coronavirus, and he and four other Republican senators are now in quarantine.
Their absence puts President Donald Trump’s Senate Republican majority on a knife-edge, 48-47, and potentially endangers critical legislation aimed at rescuing the staggering US economy.