McConnell Prefers to Slow Down Slo-Mo Senate Rather Than Voting Remotely

McConnell will be spending more time alone on the Senate floor as his colleagues drift in and out to vote. Photo: AP/Shutterstock

As national and state leaders continue to tell Americans to pursue social distancing and, if possible, work from home to slow the spreading of COVID-19, there are efforts in Congress to practice this preaching, as the Hill reports:

Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) want to change the Senate’s rules to allow for remote voting during a national crisis …

Setting up remote voting would require a change in the Senate rules. The proposal would give the Senate majority and minority leaders the ability to jointly authorize remote voting for 30 days. After that, the Senate would need to vote to reauthorize.

But Mitch McConnell is having none of it:

“We’ll not be doing that. There are a number of different ways to avoid getting too many people together,” McConnell told reporters. 

What Mitch meant is that he wanted to make the already tedious and mechanical process of Senate voting help accommodate individual senators coming and going with little or no overlap:

“We want to avoid congregating here in the well. I would encourage our colleagues to come and vote and depart the chamber so we don’t have gaggles of conversations here on the floor,” McConnell said …

“So I would encourage everyone, take full advantage of a full 30-minute roll call vote. Come in and vote and leave and be aware of the social distancing,” McConnell said, adding that if they followed his guidance they would be able to vote without “violating any of the safety precautions.”

The damage to Senate traditions would go beyond a lengthening of the window for votes. An awful lot of the personal conversations senators have with each other comes during these votes, which provide a sort of upper-chamber social-and-business interlude.

For once, McConnell has some bicameral as well as bipartisan support for this resistance to change, as Nancy Pelosi has also shot down remote-voting suggestions — though in her case she may simply mean getting through the immediate coronavirus legislative blitz before considering a dispersal of Congress. In other words, she may be trying to speed up rather than slow down congressional action. But the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, as the Senate styles itself, won’t be hurried.

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McConnell to Slow Down Senate Rather Than Voting Remotely