“I think legislative bodies don’t function well unless they function collectively,” Mr. Blunt said, adding that other Senate leaders shared his view.
“We’ve dealt with these issues and even more difficult scenarios than whether you should get on an airplane or not because you might catch a virus,” Mr. Blunt said. “I think it’s in the past been decided — and my guess is we will continue to decide — that legislative bodies have to meet in order to function.”
But the House appears to be headed in a different direction. Mr. Hoyer, who also opposed remote voting at the outset of the coronavirus crisis, told reporters on Wednesday that he now favors voting by FaceTime. Other lawmakers have been impressed with an electronic voting system, developed by a private technology firm, Markup.Law, that runs on the Microsoft Teams platform and uses two-factor authentication.
One thing they all seem to agree on is that whatever method is chosen, it should be used sparingly.
“I was very resistant to it in a way that I think the speaker has been,” Representative David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat who is also a member of leadership, said in an interview Wednesday. “I think this pandemic has obviously raised the specter that we may have to develop a system where in a very narrow set of cases we are able to vote remotely, but I feel very strongly that it has to be in very limited circumstances.”
Beyond voting, lawmakers must also figure out how to conduct hearings and debate legislation remotely. They are taking tentative steps into the virtual world.
While Ms. Pelosi conducted her weekly news briefing on Thursday by phone from her home in San Francisco, Mr. McCarthy live-streamed his from his office in the Capitol. Seated in front of his laptop and wearing wireless earphones, the minority leader he took questions, a bottle of hand sanitizer visible on the bureau behind him.
Mr. McGovern’s committee met privately Thursday on Zoom — its first bipartisan virtual meeting. Also on Thursday, more than a dozen former members of Congress convened a private virtual mock hearing on Zoom, as a kind of “proof of concept” demonstration to current members of Congress.