Several House committees have started holding virtual forums and roundtables as a test run for remote hearings, The Hill reported Sunday.
Although House rules say official committee hearings and votes on legislation should be in person, a bipartisan task force has been looking at different options due to the coronavirus crisis.
A virtual forum held by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a virtual forum had mixed reviews. The panel’s chairman, Democratic Rep. Mark Takano, called it “historic," while the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Phil Roe, said it was an “effort to respond” to logistical challenges but was “not an equal substitute for an in-person hearing.”
Republicans have urged Congress to meet in person instead of permitting virtual meetings and complained about other forums, saying the Democratic committee chairs didn’t invite them.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has said remote work should not take place and instead committees could meet in person with increased physical distancing by, for example, holding hearings in larger rooms, wearing masks and limiting the number of staff.
The Senate, controlled by the GOP, reconvenes on Monday, with numerous committees planning in-person hearings this coming week.
House Democrats plan to vote on a rule change to permit absent members to authorize colleagues present in the chamber to vote on their behalf.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called off plans to have the lower chamber return for sessions this week after the Capitol physician warned it would be unsafe while Washington, D.C. continues to have a high number of coronavirus cases.
But Pelosi said it wouldn’t be as unsafe for committees, which have less people, to hold meetings, and some are hoping to do that this coming week.
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