Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTensions boil over on Senate floor amid coronavirus debate Rand Paul’s coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through SenateNo deal as Senate takes procedural vote on coronavirus packageMORE (D-Ill.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSome Democrats growing antsy as Senate talks drag onCoronavirus stimulus talks hit setback as crisis deepensRand Paul’s coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through SenateMORE (R-Ohio) penned an op-ed Tuesday calling for remote voting to protect their fellow lawmakers amid the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday.
The lawmakers, who introduced a rule change last week to allow for remote voting during a national crisis, wrote in an op-ed published by the Washington Post that it is imperative that our federal institutions find ways to continue to perform their constitutional duties during the pandemic.
Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Health Care Presented by PCMA Trump signals easing coronavirus restrictions | Tensions boil over as Senate fails to advance stimulus bill | Pelosi previews .5T House stimulus packageTrump says first lady tested negative for coronavirus11 things to know today about coronavirusMORE (R-Ky.) Sunday became the first senator to test positive for the coronavirus, and several senators are currently in self-quarantine and have missed votes.
The Senates work has not stopped. We are still responding to our constituents, performing casework duties to solve constituent problems and working on legislation to address this crisis. Over the course of the past few weeks, the Senate has been able to pass key pieces of legislation designed to alleviate some of the worst effects from the coronavirus pandemic, Portman and Durbin wrote Tuesday.
In an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner, we passed legislation providing $8.3 billion in federal aid to go toward slowing the spread of the virus and helping affected individuals get the treatment they need. We also passed bipartisan legislation that will extend sick leave to hard-working Americans, expand unemployment benefits for folks who have lost their job during this economic slowdown and provide free coronavirus testing, they continued.
However, the bipartisan lawmakers added that Senators are working under the possibility that the upper chamber may have to abruptly close to prevent the spread of the virus.
Durbin and Portman noted that former President James Madison called for Congress to be moved to a hotel so it could continue working after British forces burned down the Capitol building. They also noted that a bunker was created in West Virginia for Congress during the Cold War, and the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institute formed a commission on the continuity of government following the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
We are at a similar point today, only this time, it is not the Senates meeting space that is at risk it is the senators themselves. That is why we introduced a bipartisan resolution that would amend Senate rules to allow senators to vote remotely during times of extraordinary national crisis like we see today.
The resolution would give the majority and minority Senate leaders, Sens. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Trump looks at easing coronavirus restrictions | Health, economic advisers divided | Senators show frustration as stimulus talks stall | Fed rewrites crisis playbookOvernight Health Care Presented by PCMA Trump signals easing coronavirus restrictions | Tensions boil over as Senate fails to advance stimulus bill | Pelosi previews .5T House stimulus package Stimulus talks to miss McConnell’s Monday deadlineMORE (R-Ky.) and Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Tensions flare with senators deadlocked over stimulus Hispanic Democrats demand funding for multilingual coronavirus messagingSticking points force stimulus package talks to spill into Sunday MORE (D-N.Y.), joint authority to allow remote voting. The procedure would take effect for up to 30 days, and then the chamber would have to vote again to renew remote voting for another 30-day period.
We hope that this rule change is never needed, but we must be prepared. We know there is resistance to changing a Senate tradition, but we believe our constitutional obligation to govern and maintain a balance of power between the branches is more important than the tradition of in-person voting, Durbin and Portman wrote.
McConnell has previously rejected the suggestion of remote voting, saying lawmakers could lengthen votes and practice social distancing.
House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMnuchin, Schumer brief Trump, expect coronavirus stimulus deal TuesdayHouse Democrats propose cash payments of ,500 per personOvernight Health Care Presented by PCMA Trump signals easing coronavirus restrictions | Tensions boil over as Senate fails to advance stimulus bill | Pelosi previews .5T House stimulus packageMORE (D-Calif.) also rejected the idea for House lawmakers Tuesday, saying that “There are serious constitutional, technological and security concerns about it,” in an interview with MSNBC.