A COVID-19 appeal to all PFers regarding our Congress

Discussion in 'Coronavirus Pandemic Discussions' started by Statistikhengst, Mar 23, 2020.

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  1. Statistikhengst

    Statistikhengst Well-Known Member

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    I am not sure how many people realize that US Constitution requires a quorum to be present in the chamber of each House of Congress in order for legislation to be voted upon.

    The two Houses are allowed to set their own rules for committee meetings, because those meetings are not specified in the Constitution of the USA, but the quorum requirement for voting (on legislation that will go to the President to sign or veto) within the respective Houses is indeed very specifically mandated in the US Constitution, there is no getting around it:

    https://www.usconstitution.net/xconst_A1Sec5.html

    If you don't believe me or your own eyes yet, then check out the Senate and House websites:

    https://www.senate.gov/reference/reference_index_subjects/Rules_and_Procedure_vrd.htm

    2020-03-023 COVID-19 Senate Quorum.png

    http://clerk.house.gov/legislative/legfaq.aspx

    2020-03-023 COVID-19 HOR quorum.png

    Also: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/98-870.pdf

    Since a quorum (majority of each chamber) is necessary to be present in order to vote on legislation, we have a real and present problem with the COVID-19 pandemic.

    In the last 2 days alone, three members of Congress have tested positive for the COVID-19-virus and at least one has a spouse who is positive:

    Mario Diaz-Balart (R, FL-25)
    Ben McAdams (D, UT-04)
    Rand Paul (R-KY-SEN)
    Amy Klobuchar's (D-MN-SEN) husband has tested positive

    Surely, more congressmen and women are going to be infected. And as you can see, the virus does not discriminate between "R" and "D".

    Until now, the Congress has interpreted the requirement to be present in the chamber as a prerequiste to mean "physically present", which up until now made a lot of sense. At the time as the Constitution was written, the only way to be present somewhere and have your voice heard was to be physically present.

    But now we are facing the REAL possibility that a wave of COVID-infections could actually cause one or both Houses of Congress to be unable to vote on any legislation because less than 50% would be healthy enough to be able to be present in the chambers of Congress.

    As you all already know, Rand Paul took his COVID-19 test one week ago and did not inform any of his colleagues that he took the test. Neither did he do that nor did he self-quarantine. Then, at the weekend, he went to the swimming pool, the gym and a congressional lunch and had close contact with a number of colleagues.

    For that reason, at least 2 other Republicans are already self-quarantaining, both from Utah: Mitt Romney and Mike Lee. 2 others are also still in self-quarantine, so right now, 5% of the Senate cannot vote.

    A number of congresspeople have indicated that the congress needs to pass a bill redefining presence in the chamber to allow remote (via internet, ala SKYPE or the like) attendance in order to vote. This is not a small thing. It's a BFD, to say the least.

    Were the Congress to fall under the minimum quorum-requireent, it would either not vote, or it would decide to vote, but then literally everything it would vote on at that time could and surely would be challenged in court, placing the validity of legislation in doubt.

    I want to encourage each and every one of you to contact your Representative and both of your Senators and strongly encourage them to help craft legislation for both houses (identical wording would be best) to to recognize remote attendance in the chamber as officially "present" for the purpose of debate and voting.

    Here is how you can contact your congressmen and women:

    https://www.senate.gov/senators/How_to_correspond_senators.htm

    https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

    This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue of COG (continuance of governance).

    The COVID-19 curve is exponential, and especially high in the USA.

    Just one month ago, barely an American was talking about COVID-19. Right now, there are over 40,000 positive cases in our Republic and, unfortunately, 483 deaths.

    These cases are likely to grow into the many, many millions in the next 8 weeks. MANY.

    Surely, more of our Congressmen and women (or their families) are going to be infected. Dan McAdams (UT-04) is in the hospital. BTW, Ben is only 45 years old, lean and in good physical condition. Well, at least he was before he was infected. We are facing the real and terrifying possibility that elected officials or candidates for elective office may die from COVID-19 during the 2020 election season.

    Please, totally irregardless of your political affiliation, contact your congresspeople and encourage them to do this, like, right now.

    BTW, I also think the President should be far better protected. He is having contact to too many people and is in serious danger of infection, no matter how careful people are. Ditto for the Vice-President. Regardless of what you think about this President, the USA does not want to lose it's highest elected official to this virus in a time of economic meltdown, or frankly, at any time. Think about it.

    -Stat
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2020
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  2. RP12

    RP12 Well-Known Member

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    To be fair Paul had no systems but was tested anyways due to contact with people who might have had it... Yes he tested positive with still no symptoms...

    Why did the test take a week and why would anyone who does not have any symptoms lock themselves up just in case.. You are speaking about anyone and everyone
     
  3. Statistikhengst

    Statistikhengst Well-Known Member

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    I am reupping this thread because this really is important
     
  4. Statistikhengst

    Statistikhengst Well-Known Member

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    False edit. Sorry.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
  5. HereWeGoAgain

    HereWeGoAgain Banned

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    Because he knew he had been exposed and that you can be contagious for a week or more before exhibiting symptoms.

    But then I'm a physicist and he's only a medical doctor. I guess someone should have explained this to him.
     
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  6. HonestJoe

    HonestJoe Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Don't the references you quote suggest that while a quorum is technically required, it often isn't actually present in normal circumstances and that only prevents proceedings if a member formally raises it? On that basis, it seems they could continue as normal with those members who are able to safely attend and unless any members take advantage to block something they don't like (which I suspect would be universally frowned upon) it doesn't need to be an issue.

    If a larger proportion of legislators become unavailable due to the pandemic, I suspect they'd have to approach it differently, potentially suspending non-urgent business much like everyone else has needed to. Anything urgent can presumably be managed via emergency powers with the President and other key leaders (this is exactly the kind of situation those powers exist for after all).

    There are lots of potential risks and difficulties with using remote digital connections for this kind of thing and while it isn't impossible to make work, I don't think it's the kind of thing you'd want to rush in to place in an emergency situation. If it is deemed necessary, it should be put in place (and tested) at times of peace and stability so that it can be triggered at times of need.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
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  7. Blaster3

    Blaster3 Well-Known Member

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    i'm all for remote attendance, it should be required that every senator & every representative to vote on every issue, all the time with no 'abstaining'...

    hold them all accountable to do the job they were 'hired' to do...

    now, as far as, having any vote in (let's say) the senate while this epidemic is upon us, if they're going by current rules, what happens when 30 R's are out sick, should the D's gain automatic majority? same issue in the house... seems unfair to the voters that wanted R's to be majority in the senate & D's to be majority in the house...

    maybe they should keep the proportions correct, so that regardless of absentees, we'll only accept voting using the same proportion of R's & D's in both house & senate...

    ie:
    senate
    53 R's
    45 D's

    if 11 R's are absent due to virus, that's 20% of them, so we take 20% of D's away, which is 9 D's.
    let the D's decide which 9 aren't allowed to vote in order to keep the ratio of R's to D's the same.
     
  8. Statistikhengst

    Statistikhengst Well-Known Member

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    Indeed, that possibility exists, but one of my stronger points is that if they do that, then all legislation they effect as of that point and time can and would surely be challenged in a court of law by (very likely) a number of people. For this reason, it would be far better to have a clean bill clearly allowing for remote-voting options, at least in such an emergency situation.

    I see very few risks with using remote digital communication, secure communication. The White House uses it. The Pentagon uses it. The FBI/CIA and co use it. the State Department uses it. So, the technology is there and could be installed at a moment's notice.

    BTW, thank you for your input. Nice to hear from you.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
  9. HonestJoe

    HonestJoe Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    My point is that the implication is that would be a problem with loads of legislation over a long period of time. It isn't an issue specifically related to the current situation so why does it require a sudden solution now?

    Can I take it that you have no understanding of either the technical or legal issues involved in actually implementing that? As I said, it's certainly possible but would be by no means simple and, frankly, suggesting it could be installed "at a moments notice" demonstrates gross ignorance of the realities involved.
     
  10. Statistikhengst

    Statistikhengst Well-Known Member

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    Actually, I know exactly what is required.
     
  11. AmericanNationalist

    AmericanNationalist Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure the Congress will find a solution. It's politicians, they don't ever want to surrender their power.
     

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