March 23, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, today announced that he is cosponsoring a bipartisan resolution to amend the Standing Rules of the Senate to allow senators to vote remotely during a national crisis. During certain crises, such as the current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in five Senators self-quarantining, guidelines from the CDC may advise against convening the full Senate in the Capitol. However, that should not prevent Congress from safely engaging in its constitutional responsibility to convene during a crisis, conduct its basic constitutional duties, and enact responsible legislation for the nation. Specifically, during a national crisis that makes it infeasible for the senators to vote in person, the resolution gives the Majority and Minority Leaders the joint authority to allow secure remote voting. Remote voting would then be allowed for up to 30 days. The Senate would have to vote to renew remote voting every 30 days.
“The coronavirus is creating unprecedented challenges to every aspect of our society, and we all need to be prepared to adapt,” said Senator King. “In the weeks ahead, the Senate must still be able to fulfill its Constitutional duty to do the people’s work – which is more important now than ever. But the obstacles are growing more daunting – as of this moment, 5 of our Senate colleagues are in self-isolation after either contracting or coming into contract with someone who has contracted coronavirus. The good news, though, is that 21st century will allow us to evolve our procedures and demonstrate safe behavior. Let’s do the right thing, and create a backup that lets us both follow the CDC’s recommendations and continue to do our jobs during this crisis.”
Senator King has strongly pushed for proactive efforts to encourage social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. In the last several days, he has urged the President to issue an executive order directing federal agencies to maximize telework, called on the President to use his existing authority to help address widespread shortages of medical equipment including ventilators, and joined a group of his colleagues to call on the Federal Communications Commission to temporarily use E-Rate program funding to provide Wi-Fi hotspots or devices with Wi-Fi capability to students who lack internet access at home. He also successfully led a bipartisan effort to delay the federal tax filing deadline from April 15th to July 15th.
In addition to Senator King, the resolution is supported by Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), and Steve Daines (R-Mont.).