(CNN)House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said she is hoping to avoid bringing the full House back to Washington to vote on the third coronavirus stimulus package, seeking to pass it instead through a process of unanimous consent, an option that would quickly advance legislation without requiring lawmakers to be present.
But Democratic leaders recognize that may not be possible, and they are readying contingency plans to advance the bill.
“My goal always has been to bring this bill to the floor under unanimous consent, where we’re all in agreement,” Pelosi said.
Unanimous consent is commonly used for uncontroversial measures. Under House rules, any one member can block a unanimous consent request, which means more contentious proposals wouldn’t be able to advance.
In recent weeks, a group of lawmakers has pushed against the idea of returning to the Capitol, where they fear they will contribute to the spread of the virus. Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of California, among others, have advocated for the House to adopt remote voting
, so Congress can take action during the pandemic without being in close quarters with each other or staff. Pelosi in return commissioned a report from the House Rules committee to evaluate the viability of remote voting.
The report, released Monday night, argued that “implementing remote voting would raise serious security, logistical, and constitutional challenges” and it “likely cannot be accomplished in time to address the current crisis.”
One of the primary alternatives the report suggests is what Pelosi is pursuing: passing the stimulus package by unanimous consent. But the report also recognizes how tenuous the strategy is, as any member can object to the request and derail the bill.
“While this is clearly the best option before us, it may be the most difficult to use,” the report acknowledges.
If a member of Congress objects to the unanimous consent request, aides say, Democratic leaders may turn to proxy voting.
Proxy voting provides a way for members to cast a vote in the House even if they are quarantined at home or unable to travel back to Washington. In this scenario, members who want to return to the Capitol to vote would do so — and the members who are unable or don’t want to vote in person would submit a form to the House that chooses another member to vote for them as proxy. One member could be a proxy for multiple members.
“There is currently no perfect solution to allow absent Members to vote on the floor. However, proxy voting is likely the best of the options available under the circumstances,” the Rules Committee report states. “Unlike remote voting, proxy voting has a basis in parliamentary tradition and is not accompanied by the same security and technology concerns.”
Such an approach would require a rules change — which would require unanimous consent to implement. House Democratic leaders are in discussions about the possibility.