The House of Representatives voted to allow members to vote by proxy and hold hearings remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. It is the first time in its history that House members will be allowed to vote without being physically present, an idea that has been considered for weeks as the pandemic worsened. The vote, which came before House Democrats passed a new $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that includes another stimulus check for Americans, was passed on a mostly party-line vote.
"I don't suggest these changes lightly, I still believe that we do our best work in person and side by side," Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said on the House floor Friday. "But we must temporarily embrace technology during this unprecedented time." The rules were set to go to a vote in April, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed the vote in an attempt to gain some Republican support. Those attempts did not work out and the final vote was 217-189.
BREAKING: House passes $3T coronavirus "HEROES" relief package in 288 to 199 vote; bill now moves to Republican-led Senate.May 16, 2020
Under the new rules, a single member can vote on behalf of up to 10 colleagues who cannot travel to Washington, D.C. during the pandemic, reports NPR. Committees were also allowed to hold hearings using video conferencing technology. Republicans opposed the idea, arguing it would be a drastic change to the way the House has conducted business since its first session in 1789.
The resolution also approved new options for remote voting in the future if better technology is developed, reports CNN. The House Administration Committee was ordered to research the idea of using technology to vote remotely on legislation. The new rules put remote voting and remote committee work in place for 45 days, and they can be extended based on the situation with the pandemic at that time.
Meanwhile, Pelosi also worked on getting more Democrats to support the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. The new coronavirus relief package includes new assistance for state and local governments, farmers, renters, homeowners and essential workers, while also extending family and medical leave, notes CBS News. The bill also includes hazard pay for health care workers, student debt forgiveness and another stimulus check for American taxpayers.
The massive bill has not been supported by Republicans and is expected to fail in the Senate if it reaches there. Some moderate Democrats have also voiced concern over the bills, while progressive Democrats have argued the bill does not go far enough to help struggling workers. Ultimately, only 14 Democrats voted against the bill, joining the Republicans. One Republican voted for the HEROES Act, so it passed 208-199.