WASHINGTON – A group of over 50 members of Congress requested Speaker Nancy Pelosi to allow remote voting in the House of Representatives and Senate as the world continues to battle the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The unprecedented move comes after it was reported Wednesday that GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams of Utah have contracted the disease and have entered home quarantine.
But even before Mario Diaz-Balart and McAdams tested positive for coronavirus, several legislators, including Ted Cruz (R-TX), entered quarantine after coming into contact with people who had been diagnosed with the illness.
In their letter to Pelosi, Congressional members argued that “remote voting is a key part of maintaining continuity of operations. It will allow every Member to continue to vote and represent the concerns of their constituents.” The members stressed that “especially in this moment, the nation wants to see us continue our work.”
They added that “We in Congress are asking businesses, schools and local government to execute strong plans to ensure continuity of operations. Congress should do the same.”
Moreover, the signatories cautioned that obligating hundreds of members of Congress to the House floor and the Senate to hold important votes conveys a contradicting message to the American public over the need for social distancing. “The moment demands that we have the courage to change,” they wrote. “The House of Representatives should expect of itself the same flexibility that we are asking of others.”
Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), one of the members promoting the move, wrote on Twitter: "When it comes to social distancing and public health best practices, Congress should be an example, not an exception."She urged Pelosi "to allow remote voting, so we can keep doing our jobs."
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The issue is also being examined in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party is trying to postpone the opening session of the 23rd Knesset, in which Likud and its coalition partners will lack a majority.
Likud lawmakers claimed the health crisis is the reason preventing the Knesset from convening, but Israel’s Health Ministry has explicitly stated that the Knesset should be exempt from the new directives barring public gatherings of over 10 people.
Supporters of Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz – who was tasked Monday by President Reuven Rivlin with forming a governing coalition after winning the majority of recommendations from Knesset lawmakers – proposed that at least some Knesset committees would convene and hold discussions through video conferencing.
Earlier this week, the government held a discussion through video call, but it remains unclear whether Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein of Likud will authorize such a discussion again.