CONTINUITY OF CONGRESS: House of Representatives
Activity on remote proceedings for the past week fills two pages on our ongoing timeline. Sunday was not a day of rest, as the New Dems Coalition sent a second letter to House Leadership, urging them to bring a remote voting resolution to the floor no later than May 4 (today).
On Monday, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced the House will return for the week of May 4, which meant both chambers of Congress would return for legislative business. Spoiler alert: the Senate is back today, but not the House.
Tuesday was a flurry of activity. Majority Leader Hoyer says never mind and announced that the House will not return the week of May 4, due to guidance from Dr. Brian Monahan, the Capitol’s attending physician. The same day, the House and Senate Sergeant at Arms released a statement extending the closure of the Capitol Complex to May 16 due to the pandemic.
Also on Tuesday, House Republican Whip Scalise released a press statement criticizing Democrats’ decision to not return to the Capitol on May 4, saying that essential workers continue to perform their jobs everyday so Congress must do the same. House Rules Chairman McGovern pens an op ed calling on Congress to enact temporary changes to allow remote voting on the House floor and virtual proceedings across committees.
Still on Tuesday, there’s a flurry of remote proceedings as the House Veterans Affairs Committee held the first bipartisan virtual committee forum on “The Impact of Economic and Healthcare Services on Homeless Veterans in America.” Majority Leader Hoyer reaffirmed his support for virtual proceedings and released a press statement regarding the second meeting of the Virtual Congress Task Force. Finally, the Congressional Progressive Caucus wrote a letter to House Leadership urging them to find a way for Congress to safely vote for both the proxy voting proposal and the CARES 2 package as soon as possible.
On Wednesday, Majority Leader Hoyer released a press statement on the latest weekly meeting of House Committee Chairs over video conference, using one of the platforms currently being tested for remote work. House Appropriations Committees Labor-HHS Subcommittee announced it will hold an in-person hearing on coronavirus response on May 6. Congressional experts joined Civic Hall’s virtual discussion on how Congress can work remotely during emergencies. Congressional Progressive Caucus held its first remote congressional “hearing” to examine solutions to the coronavirus crisis.
On Thursday, the Virtual Congress Task Force encouraged House Committees to hold remote roundtables to further test video conferencing platforms. House Minority Leader McCarthy said the House should not come back at once. Instead, committee Members should come back and adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Finally, on Friday, House Homeland Security Committee held a series of virtual forums, including one with FEMA Administers the other with the former Ebola Response Coordinator to further coordinate a coronavirus response. House Administration Committee Ranking Member Davis sent a letter to the CAO requesting the House to enroll in Apple Business Manager, which would allow for the limited distribution of apps specifically for congressional use.
CONTINUITY OF CONGRESS: Senate
On Tuesday, Majority Leader McConnell said the Senate will still convene even though the Senate Sergeant at Arms released a statement extending the closure of the Capitol Complex to May 16. Sens. Portman and Durbin write another op-ed in support of remote voting, this time laying out specific security requirements that should be considered by Congress to successfully transition online.
On Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein released a statement urging Majority Leader McConnell not to reconvene the Senate. Sen. Chris Van Hollen echoed the same concerns to the Senate Majority Leader in a separate letter. Yet McConnell reaffirmed his decision to bring the Senate back for legislative business.
On Thursday, Dr. Monahan, the Capitol’s attending physician, said coronavirus tests will be available for staffers and senators who are ill, but not enough to proactively test all 100 senators (and therefore obviously no testing for staff). HSGAC’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held a virtual public roundtable on “Continuity of U.S. Senate Operations and Remote Voting in times of Crisis”. As noted, the staff memo is superb and worth a read.
Finally, on Friday, the Office of the Attending Physician released its latest guidance in anticipation of the Senate convening the week of May 4.