DC Bureau

Why can’t members of Congress work from home?

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nexstar) — The White House has ordered all Americans to stay home, but on Capitol Hill, it’s still business as usual.

James Wallner with the R Street Institute says technically Congress can’t pass legislation remotely.

“The Constitution requires that both bodies maintain a quorum to do business, and if there is not a quorum they technically have to adjourn,” says Wallner.

This means members must be present in the chamber to cast a vote — unless they vote to change the rules.

“The Constitution gives the House and Senate the authority to set their rules and proceedings, so technically they can do whatever they want to do,” Wallner says.

Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman introduced a resolution on Thursday to amend the standing rules of the Senate to allow Senators to vote remotely during a national crisis.

Portman says the CDC guidelines to stay home and practice “social distancing” should apply to everyone, including Congress.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says there are other options.

“We could lengthen the amount of the roll call vote, people could come over one at a time, come over in small groups, we will deal with the social distancing issue without fundamentally changing the senate rules,” McConnell says.

And House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says that while “no decisions has been made” to allow remote voting, House leadership is “discussing all options.”

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