For the first time in its history, the Democratic-led House approved rule changes that will allow members to vote by proxy and hold hearings remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. For weeks, lawmakers debated the proposal as the pandemic worsened and forced the House to extend its recess as public health risks were assessed.
House Democrats installed the new rules on a largely party line vote of 217 to 189 over Republican arguments that the move bucks the chamber’s institutional history and sets a dangerous precedent. Now, a member can vote on behalf of 10 others who can’t travel to Washington, D.C. Committees can also hold hearings and markups through video conference.
The Associated Press reports:
As President Donald Trump encourages Americans back to work, Democrats pushed the changes past the objections of Republicans. “It’s a very sad day inside this House,” said Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.
Neither Civil War nor Great Depression or any other national crisis had spurred the House to allow its members to vote from home, a sign of how deeply the virus outbreak act is disrupting the institutional norms of American life.
McCarthy, a top Trump ally, argued during debate, “The founders would be ashamed.” “You’ve got to be here,” said another Trump ally, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. “You can’t phone it in.”