WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Senators still on Capitol Hill are pushing to allow remote voting so they can continue their work, but not risk their health.
“We should not be physically present on this floor at this moment,” Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin said.
With Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul testing positive for COVID-19, and at least four other Republican senators in self-quarantine, Durbin says the Senate must change the way it does business.
“It’s time for us to have this conversation, about how to protect members and their families,” Durbin said.
To avoid a potential congressional shutdown, Durbin, a Democrat, along with Ohio Republican Rob Portman, wants a new emergency voting system.
“If we cannot be here, we still need to be able to do it remotely,” Portman said.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes the idea so far, Durbin and Portman want the ability to work during a crisis.
“The numbers could grow to the point it could reach an extreme where there’s a question of an actual quorum on the floor of the Senate,” Durbin said.
“And with the technology we now have, we have the ability to do that,” Portman said.
The health concerns are personal, given that many of the lawmakers are part of the age group hardest hit by the coronavirus.
“Given the vulnerability of most Senators, and given how far most Senators have to travel to get here, there is some active discussion about whether we shouldn’t be now making emergency provisions,” Delaware Sen. Christopher Coons said.
Coons and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin see remote voting as an important option.
“We have to keep the government open, we have to continue to do our job, and we’re going to get through this,” Manchin said.
The current absences are already impacting votes, making it harder for Republicans to pass legislation without bipartisan support.