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House to vote Friday on coronavirus relief, proxy voting rule

House members will likely again vote in small groups for safety reasons

The House is likely to vote on Friday on the next coronavirus relief package, as well as a rules change to allow proxy voting.
The House is likely to vote on Friday on the next coronavirus relief package, as well as a rules change to allow proxy voting. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House will vote Friday on Democrats’ proposal to provide more coronavirus relief and a rule change to allow members to vote by proxy during the pandemic.

“My expectation is that it will be ready by early this afternoon, and then I think members need to anticipate meeting on Friday,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer told reporters Tuesday of the coronavirus relief bill.

Less than two hours later, Hoyer sent a schedule update making the Friday votes official after Democrats released text of the bill, which they’re calling the HEROES Act.

The schedule notice said the House will convene at 9 a.m. Friday with the first vote as early as 9 a.m. and the last vote expected to occur into the evening.

The coronavirus relief bill will follow up on similar measures Congress has already passed to respond to the crisis, with more funding for state and local governments and coronavirus testing. The measure will also include funding for nutrition assistance and the Postal Service, as well as student loan relief, education, rental and mortgage assistance provisions, Hoyer said.

Hoyer declined to detail the proxy-voting rule change, saying the Rules Committee was putting that together. He did, however, confirm that the proposal would only reflect consensus among Democrats as the six-member virtual-Congress task force he is leading has not yet reached a bipartisan agreement.

House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., has been pursuing a proxy-voting rule change for weeks, in response to calls from within his caucus for leadership to establish a system for remote voting to allow the House to continue pressing legislative business during the COVID-19 crisis.

A Democratic aide told CQ Roll Call that the resolution moving this week is “largely the same” as a previous proposal pulled from the schedule amid opposition from Republicans but does include a few changes. It would authorize proxy voting in the House and allow for official committee proceedings to be conducted remotely during the ongoing public health crisis.

“I’m disappointed we have not reached an agreement,” said Hoyer. “We are continuing to work on reaching an agreement. Our Republican colleagues have made some very, very good suggestions as conditions of a virtual committee ability to act and a virtual House of Representatives. I am hopeful that we will get there, but we absolutely need to get there and we need to get there quickly. I’ve indicated that if we can’t reach agreement that we will nevertheless present a path forward to ensure that the Congress can do its duties.”

Members of the minority, including those on the Virtual Congress Task Force, had not seen text of the proxy voting measure, even after it was announced on the House Rules agenda on Tuesday.

“While there were a couple discussions about it between the bipartisan task force members, unfortunately, this push is coming from the Democrats,” a Republican House Administration Committee aide told CQ Roll Call.

When the House returns Friday, voting procedures will be similar to previous efforts to ensure the maximum safety of members, staff, press and others working in the Capitol, Hoyer said.

“We will vote as we did last time, in small groups, so there are no large group of members on the floor at any one point in time. So we will be maximizing, but I can’t tell you Friday is safer than tomorrow or next Tuesday,” Hoyer said when asked how he determined that Friday would be safe to bring members back to Washington.

Hoyer said he expects the votes to be done in one day, but he did not indicate when House members would return to Washington again after Friday’s votes.

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