The shift will dramatically change the look, if not the operation, of the legislative branch — launching a 21st century WFH House, like others, “working from home.”
Debate over the changes has been fierce.
As President Donald Trump encourages Americans back to work, Democrats pushed the changes past the objections of Republicans. “It’s a very sad day inside this House,” said Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.
Neither Civil War nor Great Depression or any other national crisis had spurred the House to allow its members to vote from home, a sign of how deeply the virus outbreak act is disrupting the institutional norms of American life.
McCarthy, a top Trump ally, argued during debate, “The founders would be ashamed.”
But like the rest of the country, lawmakers are weighing risks and responsibilities. Since the virus outbreak shuttered Capitol Hill in March, the 435-member House has largely stayed away while the smaller Senate resumed operations. Several lawmakers and dozens of staff in the sprawling complex have tested positive as the virus hits close.
Democrats argue the House can rely on technology for remote work as the pandemic drags on. But Republicans objected to what they see as a power grab during the crisis.
Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the rules panel, warned the changes will fundamentally alter the nature of the institution, “and not for the better.”
Under the new rules, House lawmakers will no longer be required to travel to Washington to participate in floor votes. Some will. But others can assign their vote to another lawmaker who will be at the Capitol to cast it for them. A single lawmaker can carry 10 proxy votes to the chamber.