Key Democrat Hoyer says House will look at 'all options' to tweak voting as coronavirus hits Congress

Key Points
  • House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer expects the House will "adjust" voting processes to conform to CDC guidelines on the coronavirus. 
  • Two House members, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ben McAdams, said they tested positive for COVID-19 this week. 
  • The disease has reached Congress even as Washington pushes to pass desperately needed plans to hold off economic calamity. 
  • Hoyer says he will not call back the House, which is on a recess, until it has another economic relief proposal to vote on.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., speaks during a news conference calling for the removal of a bust from the Capitol of Chief Justice Roger Taney in Washington on Monday, March 9, 2020.
Caroline Brehman | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer expects the chamber will "adjust" its voting process to comply with CDC guidelines on stopping the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"No decisions have been made on exactly what these changes will be, but we will be discussing all options," he said in a letter to House members on Thursday morning. 

His message, sent while the House is on a temporary recess, comes a day after two representatives announced they tested positive for the coronavirus disease COVID-19. Multiple other lawmakers went into self-isolation after contact with those congressmen, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah.  

The outbreak, which has devastated the U.S. economy as businesses are forced to shut down across the country, has now hit Congress as lawmakers try to pass desperately needed relief measures for workers and families. The Senate is working on an economic rescue package that could easily top $1 trillion — only part of a historic response expected from Washington. 

In his message Thursday, Hoyer said "it is my intention that the House will not return to session until we are in a position to vote on the third piece of emergency legislation to respond to the economic impact of this crisis." Lawmakers already passed an $8.3 billion emergency medical funding plan and a more than $100 billion relief package that includes enhanced unemployment insurance, expanded paid leave and additional food assistance funding. 

The CDC has recommended that Americans work from home whenever possible and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. In that context, a 435-member legislative body voting in the House chamber carries risks.

The Senate took additional precautions on Wednesday when it passed the second economic relief proposal. It left its votes open for more than a half hour, allowing members not to crowd. 

Many senators simply walked into the chamber, gave a thumbs up or thumbs down, and walked out of it. The standing and chatting often seen on the floor during votes was virtually nonexistent. 

CNBC could not immediately reach the House and Senate rules committees on Thursday about what potential changes they may make to voting processes.

More than 9,400 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S., and at least 150 people have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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