Ahead of Virtual Roundtable Tomorrow, Portman, Carper Release PSI Memo on Continuity of U.S. Senate Operations & Remote Voting

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tom Carper (D-DE), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), released a joint memorandum for discussion during tomorrow’s roundtable entitled “Continuity of Senate Operations and Remote Voting in Times of Crisis.”  The memorandum examines the possibility of amending the Standing Rules of the Senate to allow senators to participate and vote remotely during a national crisis.  

The memorandum also examines current remote voting and participation proposals, including the bipartisan resolution introduced by Senators Portman and Dick Durbin (D-IL) to allow senators to participate and vote remotely during a time of national crisis.  

Under current remote voting and participation proposals, decisions about specific technology solutions would rest with the Senate Sergeant at Arms, the Director of the Doorkeepers, and the Secretary of the Senate.  Based on conversations with technological experts, however, this memorandum describes three principles the Senate should consider in developing and implementing any remote voting system to ensure its security: encryption, authentication, and verification.   

“The coronavirus pandemic has caused unprecedented change to every facet of our lives. Millions of Americans are working remotely, performing the essential functions of their jobs away from their workplaces, often at home,” said Senator Portman. “But right now members of Congress can’t perform some of the key functions of their job because they are back in their home states and districts, unable to cast votes, debate or hold remote hearings. We must address this to ensure senators can fulfill their constitutional duties in any instance when it is not safe to convene in the Capitol. I look forward to discussing the ideas and concerns outlined in this memo tomorrow with Senator Carper and the experts joining our virtual roundtable.” 

“My service on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee started less than a year before the attacks on September 11th, 2001,” said Senator Carper. “One of the planes hijacked that morning was likely heading for the U.S. Capitol. In the wake of that tragic day in our country’s history, we had to start sobering conversations about how to reconstitute Congress in the event of significant vacancies in the House and Senate or how to assemble in a secure location. Today, nearly 20 years later, as COVID-19 plagues our communities, we must resume those conversations and have a thoughtful conversation about how Congress can carry out its duties as we grapple with a new threat.” 

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