House Democratic and Republican leaders are preparing for the need to take a roll-call vote as early as Friday when lawmakers consider a $2 trillion economic relief bill.
House officials included the roll-call vote contingency plans on a list of other changes to respond to the coronavirus threat.
“To ensure Member and staff health safety, normal operating procedures will be temporarily modified on Friday,” Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Attending Physician Brian Monahan wrote to lawmakers Thursday.
Party leaders had hoped to avoid calling lawmakers to the chamber for a full roll-call vote in order to avoid the threat of spreading the coronavirus. But they have put in place the contingency plans in case a member demands a recorded vote.
“In the event of a recorded vote, Members will be notified,” Lawmakers are advised in the memo. “At such time, voting will be done alphabetically in groups of 30 Members over an extended period of time, to minimize the risks posed by placing too many individuals in one location.”
Lawmakers would be divided into 15 groups that would be summoned at different times to avoid overcrowding the chamber. During a typical roll-call vote, the chamber is packed with members and staff.
The extraordinary measure to avoid chamber crowding may not be necessary.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, said they expect the House to pass the measure Friday by voice vote, which requires only a few people to be in the chamber. But any of the 430 sitting lawmakers can demand a roll-call vote, and several have expressed opposition to the $2 trillion bill over the cost and scope of the measure.
The Senate passed the bill unanimously late Wednesday and left town without plans to gavel back into session until April 20.
Two House members and a senator have contracted the coronavirus, and dozens have been in quarantine after exposure to it.
An unknown number of lawmakers plan to return to the House to debate the measure on Friday. Many are over the age of 60 and are considered at the highest risk of becoming very sick from the virus.
“We have members on both sides of the aisle who have the virus,” McCarthy said Thursday. “We have members who are quarantined. We have members who have challenges with airlines that are getting their flights canceled. So, I think there will be enough [lawmakers] to make sure we get this through, but the floor will look different.”
House officials are limiting Capitol access Friday and urging lawmakers to remain in their office. They are prohibiting reporters from gathering in the hallway near the chamber, where press interviews are normally permitted.
The memo warns lawmakers they must use hand sanitizer before entering the chamber and remain 6 feet apart. Lawmakers have been instructed to limit elevator capacity to one or two people at a time.
Or, House officials advise, think twice about coming.
“Members should use extreme care and deliberation when making the determination to travel to Washington, D.C.”
The post House plans health safeguards for possible roll-call vote on economic aid package appeared first on Washington Examiner.