21:17 GMT20 October 2020
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    With a 217-189 party-line vote, the Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives on Friday voted in favor of allowing lawmakers the ability to hold remote hearings and vote from home amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic.

    For the first time in 231 years, members of Congress are now permitted to cast votes and participate in hearings without needing to be present in the chamber. 

    According to the new voting guidelines, set to remain in place through the government-defined national emergency, lawmakers casting their vote remotely will be represented by a proxy on the floor and forced to abide by a strict set of rules. 

    Proxies will be required to "receive exact written instruction" from the lawmaker(s) they are representing, CNN reported, citing the House Rules Committee. The rules also note that a member is only permitted to serve as a proxy for up to 10 lawmakers. 

    “It is in keeping with the vitality of the House that we are doing this, not in opposition to the traditions of the House,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said prior to the vote, as reported by the New York Times

    However, many Republicans have expressed vocal disapproval of the Democrat-led allowance and have argued the matter's passage is representative of not only a break in a centuries-long tradition, but also a possible violation of the US Constitution regarding quorum. 

    Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) referred to the matter as the "Pelosi Power Grab" for Democrats. 

    Many have also cited the rules drawn up by the first US House of Representatives, which stated "no member shall vote on any question ... in any case where he was not present when the question was put by the Speaker."

    Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) argued on Twitter that the Friday vote was "a mockery and disgrace for this Congress."

    "America has faced more severe challenges and crises in our past, and Congress has rarely suspended our constitutional obligation and tradition to work from our nation’s capital," he added, following up with a tweet pledging to remain in Washington, DC. 

    Approval of the allowance comes ahead of the House's vote on Pelosi's Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which seeks to provide some $3 trillion in support through funding for contact tracing, money for state and local governments and direct stimulus checks to the majority of American taxpayers, among other measures.

    While it is expected to advance in the Democrat-controlled House, the Republican majority in the Senate is likely to kill the matter. US President Donald Trump asserted to reporters on Wednesday that Pelosi's proposed bill was "DOA," or dead on arrival. 


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