The second-highest-ranking Democratic senator says the Senate should look into the possibility of working and voting remotely, amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“It’s time for the Senate to wake up to the 21st century and make sure we’re using technology that allows us to communicate with each other without any danger or risk to public health,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).
On the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Durbin said some senators were exploring the option of changing Senate rules to allow them to vote while not physically present in the Senate chamber. Durbin said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) are looking into the possibility.
“Let’s find a way to do this, which protects the integrity of our voting procedure but acknowledges the reality that our physical presence on the floor may not be required,” said Durbin.
The CDC is warning against gatherings of more than 10 people and urging older people to stay home. The average age of the 100 members in the U.S. Senate is 63, according to the Congressional Research Service.
“Let us do it in the context that we are preaching to America,” Durbin said. “As we hold the press conferences in Washington and tell Americans, avoid going to work physically if you can, let us try to find ways to make the Senate work without putting anyone’s health at risk. We can do that. But we need to do that together.”
Durbin floated the idea of holding committee hearings on Skype or via teleconference, instead of meeting in person.
“Let’s try to abide by the same guidelines we’re preaching to the rest of America. Let’s use new technology, let’s use our our best thinking and come up with bipartisan answer. That, to me, is the way to manage the Senate in the midst of this national emergency,” said Durbin.
The senator also urged the Senate to quickly vote on the House-passed coronavirus relief bill, saying any delay puts staffers at risk. The U.S. Capitol complex is shut down to the public and many congressional staffers are working from home.
Yahoo Finance reached out to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office but did not immediately hear back.
Jessica Smith is a reporter for Yahoo Finance based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaASmith8.