Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves The U.S House of Representatives and Voting.
The House of Representatives on Friday approved the most radical change to its rules in generations, allowing its members to cast committee and floor votes from afar the culmination of a months-long struggle to adapt the 231 year old institution to the coronavirus pandemic. According to The Washington Post;
Despite bipartisan frustrations with the virus’s effect on the legislative process, the changes, which include temporarily authorizing remote committee work and proxy voting on the House floor, were adopted along party lines. The vote was 217 to 189.
Democratic leaders pushed forward with the changes this week after failing to come to terms in two weeks of negotiations with Republicans, who firmly opposed several key measures in the proposal.
The House has sputtered for the past two months as other organs of the federal government most notably the Supreme Court and schools, localities and the private sector have embraced video technology to conduct business. The smaller, 100 member Senate returned May 4 and has relied on remote committee work for hearings, though senators still must be present for roll call votes.
House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) addressed the balancing act of responsibility and health risks as members returned to the Capitol on Friday to vote on the rules changes and a $3 trillion emergency relief package. Washington remains under a ‘stay at home’ order through June 8.
Republicans argue that the current 430-member House could instead make more modest adaptations to its operations. They have raised several objections, including that lawmakers should report to their workplaces like other essential workers, that the rules changes erode the rights of the minority and that they represent a major break with the customs of the House.
Several Republicans said Congress did not change its rules and continued to meet even as the Civil War raged fewer than 100 miles from the Capitol. Others recalled the onerous conditions the nation’s founders faced in traveling to Washington.
The changes appear to be the most significant to the chamber’s operations in at least 25 years, perhaps longer.
In the years after the Watergate scandal, a bumper crop of Democratic freshmen pushed through changes that diluted the power of powerful committee chairmen and increased the transparency of the lawmaking process culminating in 1979 with fully televised proceedings.
After Republicans took over the House in 1995, they instituted changes meant to address what they saw as Democratic abuses of power including the use of proxy voting in committees.
And after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the House formulated procedures to ensure it could function in case of a mass casualty event affecting Congress. But House leaders believed those procedures were ill suited to the circumstances of a pandemic and opted against invoking them, aides said.