The House of Representatives held 21 roll call papers over the past week, mostly on bills with broad bipartisan backing. While that is unusual – such bills have traditionally been passed by voice voting – what is more remarkable is how quickly the votes are cast: about 30 minutes at a time.
That’s far from the days before the COVID-19 pandemic when the House of Representatives, using its electronic voting system, organized party whip groups and restless members were able to pass two dozen votes. in one day, at a rate of two minutes per vote counting. But it’s less than the 45-minute-per-vote system that the House of Representatives has run to keep members away and be able to vote without worrying about a viral infection.
And it’s a sign that Capitol Hill, like so many other areas of life in America, is slowly but surely starting to get back to normal as more legislators and vaccinating staff are coming and going. Worrying levels of coronavirus. Lawmakers say there is still a long way to go.
Sen. Roy Blunt, the top Republican on the Senate’s regulatory oversight committee and its office buildings, told MarketWatch: “There is a lot of desire for mediocrity, but we There is still a long way to go back to normal. He particularly noted that it is not possible to bring groups to meet senators or staff directly.
Senate Democrats have met for their first face-to-face meeting earlier this week since their arrest earlier in the pandemic, each sitting three at tables 6 feet apart. They also wear masks, said Sen. Ben Cardin, a member of the Maryland Democratic Party.
“I think it works well,” he told MarketWatch.
The hike in votes in the House of Representatives was announced by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, another Maryland Democrat, in early April in a letter to his Democratic comrades.
“With more Members and growing numbers of Capitol employees and workers now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and with safety measures such as mandatory masking and voting of authorization remains is applicable, we can resume the normal voting process. to speak.
Members are still required to wear masks on the floor, vote in groups of 87 members, each group of 430 members in the body currently has 430 members and leave the floor immediately after voting.
One of the pandemic changes made in the House, but not the Senate, was to allow members to vote on the floor for other members absent but wrote in writing how they would vote. . That system has been temporarily renewed several times and will likely be renewed after the next scheduled expiration date on May 19.
Senator Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republican party in the House, said the renewal should not be renewed and an estimated 75% of House members are currently vaccinated.
“If you get into the Senate, you don’t need to wear a mask if you’re the steward of the House of Commons trying to impeach someone. But if you are indoors, you still have to wear a mask. I don’t know the scientific difference between the House and Senate, ”he said Thursday.
While House Republicans sued to stop proxy voting because of unconstitutionalism, some Republicans used the system. McCarthy said he opposes anyone using it, except for Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican who is recovering from eye surgery.
“One thing you can say is [there’s] pay more attention to how we get back to normal, ”said GOP’s Blunt.
He said senators are waiting to see what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say are activities allowed for fully vaccinated people and when things like cafes and cafeterias are in place. The Capitol campus is reopened for staff reopening. Some have reopened.
“I think it’s all going to happen in the next six months,” Blunt said.
Cardin agrees with that timeline. “I think in the fall, after Labor Day, you’ll find us going back to a much more traditional arrangement,” he said.
Not everyone wants to go back, at least not.
Rep. Derek Kilmer, a Washington-based Democrat who heads a House committee looking at how Congress will modernize, said he hopes some changes are made in response to the pandemic. , like using digital signatures for lawmakers to sign documents and electronically transmit committee reports.
“It’s a bit like the first part of the TV show ‘The 6 million dollar man:’ we have the technology, ‘he told MarketWatch in an interview.
And those Zooms
Are committee hearings seen on C-SPAN?
“I think you’ll see some technical, some commission, kind of experimenting with hybrid models, even as we go on and, quote, get back to normal,” he said.
Cardin said while he will follow CDC guidelines, he won’t relax away from society or cover his face until both his family and grandchildren are vaccinated. For now, that means additional precautions have to be taken around two or three senators that he says have yet to be vaccinated.
“We may be on a committee, but I’m wearing my mask,” he said.
For lawmakers, whose jobs require the comfort of Olympian with the quasi-continuous human interaction that some other professions have, the return of face-to-face meetings will be a big change.
“It makes a difference, your ability to tell someone, ‘listen, I’ll see you for breakfast’ and ‘let’s sit down and have lunch’ or ‘let’s go have a cup of coffee at somewhere.’ Those are the different kinds of relationships you have on the phone or during a Zoom or WebEx call, ”says Blunt.
“I had a couple of people from the White House visiting this week, something they weren’t willing to do before. And it’s very helpful, ”he said.