Durbin Calls on Senate to Allow Remote Voting During National Emergencies

Durbin, Portman resolution would ensure Congress fulfills constitutional responsibility to govern during a crisis

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called on the Senate to support his bipartisan resolution with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to amend the Standing Rules of the Senate to allow Senators to vote remotely during a national crisis.  Durbin’s call for action comes amid the coronavirus pandemic and the first report of a U.S. Senator testing positive, which has now lead to five Senators self-quarantining out of an abundance of caution.

“What Senator Portman of Ohio on the Republican side and what I have introduced with him on the Democratic side is an effort to establish a verifiable technology and procedure so that members can vote – once the decision is made that we’re in a time of emergency – and not be physically present on the floor of the Senate,” Durbin said.  “It’s time for us to have this conversation about how to protect members and their families, staff and their families, in the way that we vote on the floor of the Senate when we’re facing a public health crisis such as the one that we have at this moment.”

During certain crises, such as the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may advise against convening the full Senate in the Capitol.  However, that should not prevent Congress from safely engaging in its constitutional responsibility to convene during a crisis, conduct its basic constitutional duties, and enact responsible legislation for the nation.  Specifically, during a national crisis that makes it infeasible for the Senators to vote in person, the resolution gives the Majority and Minority Leaders the joint authority to allow secure remote voting.  Remote voting would then be allowed for up to 30 days.  The Senate would have to vote to renew remote voting every 30 days.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor are available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.