WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved an historic change to its rules, allowing lawmakers to vote by “proxy” from remote locations temporarily, as they also moved toward a vote on $3 trillion in new coronavirus emergency aid.
By a mostly partisan vote of 217-189, the House approved the rules change proposed by Democrats, allowing Speaker Nancy Pelosi to trigger the remote voting procedure for the first time in Congress’ history if she deems it necessary.
Currently, House members must appear in the House chamber to cast their votes on legislation. That requirement has become cumbersome as lawmakers shelter in their homes in an attempt to help limit the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus that has killed more than 85,000 people in the United States.
The special procedure is intended to be in effect during the coronavirus crisis.
Republicans argued the Democrats’ rules change proposal was unconstitutional and unnecessary.
The House is next expected to vote on whether to approve the new emergency aid package – an estimated $3 trillion on top of $3 trillion already enacted – that Republicans also oppose. If passed, the Republican-controlled Senate is expected to block it.
Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California, and Patricia Zengerle, Lisa Lambert and Mohammad Zargham in Washington; Writing by Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Paul Simao and Grant McCool