Speech ● Coronavirus
For Immediate Release: 
May 15, 2020
Contact Info: 
Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of H.Res 965, a resolution to temporarily implement remote voting on the House Floor and virtual committee proceedings during the coronavirus pandemic. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery and a link to the video: 

Click here to watch the video.
“Madam Speaker, I want to remind us today of President Lincoln’s words to Congress. He said: ‘the dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.’ So it is today.
“Our challenges are piled high, and this House must rise to meet them. We find ourselves in new and unprecedented circumstances, so we must think and act anew. The House has a duty to the American people to do its job, even in a crisis like this one. Especially in a crisis like this one.
“Let me say at the outset that there is no substitute for the personal interaction of Members in a committee room or on the House Floor.  But when that is not possible – because it poses a mortal danger to the health of Members, staff, press, and the public – we must provide for alternative ways to do the people’s business.
“This resolution will enable the House to conduct its work in full without risking the health and safety of Americans in communities across the country, from which Members come and to which they will return. It allows committees to use remote technology to conduct hearings and mark up legislation – technology already in use safely and effectively by millions of Americans, including the Supreme Court and the United States Senate. It will also permit the use of proxy voting on the House Floor and takes steps toward adopting remote voting once a platform has been deemed secure.
“I had hoped that Democrats and Republicans could move forward with such changes on a bipartisan basis. Indeed, we had many productive discussions through our bipartisan task force, and a number of Republican proposals were included in this resolution, such as requiring any software platforms to be approved by the Chief Administrative Officer and allowing committees to hold hybrid meetings with both remote and in-person participation simultaneously.
“However, we were unable to reach a consensus on adopting twenty-first-century tools that would allow the House to meet its constitutional responsibilities during this emergency, which is why Democrats are bringing this resolution to the Floor today. I hope, however, with this resolution now on the Floor, that Republicans will join us in voting for it, and I urge them to do so.
“We know that remote technologies work because the committees have already been using them to hold meetings, host forums, and engage in discussions about legislation. Many state legislatures and foreign parliaments have already adopted these technologies successfully.
“The Washington Metro area is still experiencing a high rate of infections, which has not yet peaked. That is why the Capitol physician has cautioned against bringing Members to Washington. At the same time, more than half of those employed here as staff or support workers commute to the Capitol complex on public transit. We have an obligation to protect them and their families as well.
"This change is not permanent; indeed, it is an emergency provision specific to this coronavirus pandemic that must be renewed every forty-five days. It will not advantage or disadvantage either party. And it does not fundamentally alter the nature of the House or how it operates. There is no ‘dangerous precedent’ here, only a commonsense solution to an unprecedented crisis that demands our ingenuity and adaptability as an institution. Indeed, this is how, to paraphrase Lincoln, we think anew and act anew.’ We need to have a system in place not only to deal with the current crisis but future emergencies – including the possibility that another surge of COVID-19 occurs this autumn.
“This resolution isn’t just about adopting remote working tools for the House; it is about ensuring that the House of Representatives – the people’s House – conducts its constitutional duties of policy making and oversight effectively and safely. It is about making sure that our system of checks and balances remains fully in place by keeping the House functioning to the full extent of its abilities, even if it does so virtually.
“I want to thank Chairwoman Lofgren of the House Administration Committee and Chairman McGovern of the Rules Committee for their tireless efforts on this resolution. And I want to thank all the Members who have been patient while we negotiated with Republicans through the bipartisan task force, hoping to produce a resolution that was bipartisan in its authorship. This resolution remains bipartisan in its ideas, and I hope it will be bipartisan in its adoption. Once it has passed, I would ask my colleagues to familiarize themselves with its new proxy-voting requirements and to adhere strictly to them. That will allow the Clerk’s Office more effectively to fulfill its role of recording and counting Members’ votes with the utmost accuracy.
“Again, I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting this resolution and permitting the House to do its work safely and in compliance with social- and physical-distancing practices. Thank you, and I yield back.”