Pelosi Sidelines Remote Voting After GOP Backlash

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi waits to speak with reporters Tuesday after the Senate approved a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid bill. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Hitting the brakes Wednesday on a plan to allow remote voting in the U.S. House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formation of a bipartisan task force to determine how Congress will continue to run amid the coronavirus pandemic.

House Democrats unveiled a plan to change the way lawmakers vote during crises as the Covid-19 outbreak rages on. The standing order would have allowed House members to cast votes on behalf of their colleagues, also known as voting by proxy, during the pandemic. 

“In order for a member to designate another member as a proxy for purposes of section 1, the member shall submit to the clerk a signed letter (including in electronic form) specifying by name the member who is designated for such purposes,” a House resolution submitted by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Md., on Wednesday said.

The idea was to use technology to accommodate lawmakers who are maintaining social distancing practices to go on record with votes.

A vote on the change was initially expected to take place Thursday when the House reconvenes. But according to multiple news reports, Pelosi called off the impending vote in a caucus phone conference.

Congress has never voted remotely and several GOP leaders who advocated for in-person voting expressed concern over the proposition. 

Republican opposition persisted after word of the initiative spread, according to news reports, causing Pelosi and other House Democrats to reconsider at the eleventh hour. 

“The Committee on House Administration, in consultation with the Committee on Rules and the clerk, shall study the feasibility of using technology to facilitate the remote participation of members in the House of Representatives who are unable to physically attend the proceedings of the House of Representatives due to extraordinary circumstances such as a pandemic emergency,” Pelosi’s written order says.

Studies on how or whether to proceed remotely will now be conducted by a bipartisan group and will include assessments of remote procedures and cybersecurity. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will be part of the group.

In addition to considering whether to create a specific coronavirus oversight committee, the House is also expected to vote Thursday on a coronavirus aid package totaling nearly $500 billion.  

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