FORBES | The COVID-19 pandemic has rocketed the American workforce into the virtual space. Nearly any worker who can is working from home. Company boards are holding meetings and voting virtually. Physicians are seeing patients through telehealth.
What hasn’t changed? The United States Congress. Members must still travel to the floor of their Chamber to cast their vote in person, adhering to a strict dress code and a no cell phone policy. But as social distancing becomes the norm and in-person meetings have become a health hazard, why can’t Congress vote remotely?
The answer is more complex than you might think.
I spoke to my former parliamentary counselor who is working on this issue, and he said, “remote voting is probably the easy part.” Remote deliberations, such as debate and amendments are much more challenging, and “these contingencies have not yet sufficiently been thought through.”
Beyond the challenge of logistics, neither Leader Mitch McConnell nor Speaker Nancy Pelosi are keen on the idea of remote voting. As a former Senate Majority Leader, I understand how important it is to have your caucus in Washington, DC meeting and working together to move legislation. There’s a reason so many bills pass right before big holidays—keeping Members in Washington is one of the few tools leadership has to encourage cooperation and compromise. Giving that leverage up and allowing remote voting could hamstring leaders at a time when Congress is already notoriously divided.