WASHINGTON -- Bipartisan efforts to encourage the Senate to adopt procedures for remote voting are gaining steam, with at least two more Republicans speaking out for the need to make operational changes in the face of the coronavirus crisis and one day after a Senate colleague revealed he tested positive for the virus.
Republican Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina endorsed the Senate moving to remote voting during the growing COVID-19 pandemic. They join an effort led by Illinois Democrat Richard J. Durbin and Ohio Republican Rob Portman, who are calling for limited-time authority for remote voting during emergency situations.
"I totally support the idea of remote voting so the Senate can continue to operate during this crisis," Graham tweeted. "We should make this change before the Senate leaves town."
The positive diagnosis of Kentucky Republican Rand Paul with the new coronavirus seems to have more lawmakers considering the consequences of gathering together to vote and the threat of spreading the disease among themselves and others working in the Capitol.
"I'm ready to support remote voting. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. It is time to bring the Senate into the 21st century," Cramer said in a tweet Monday.
The Durbin-Portman resolution would give the Senate majority and minority leaders joint authority to allow secure remote voting for up to 30 days during emergency situations such as the current pandemic. Under the measure, the Senate could vote to extend the initial authority in additional 30-day increments.
The Senate has taken some measures to encourage social distancing during votes, including doubling the time that each vote is open to 30 minutes and urging lawmakers to vote promptly and then exit the chamber. But that guidance from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has gone unheeded by many. Senate clerk staff have posted signage at their desks asking senators to step back and keep their distance.
McConnell said last week that the Senate will continue to vote in-person and votes on Monday went ahead, but he has not addressed the remote voting issue directly since Paul tested positive.
Paul has initiated a self-quarantine, and his positive test led Utah Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney to do so as well because of time they spent with Paul. Romney's concerns are not only for himself, but also for his wife, Ann, who has multiple sclerosis and could have a much harder time fighting the virus if exposed.
Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar announced Monday that her husband has been hospitalized with COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. Klobuchar said, however, that the couple have been apart during his illness.