Widespread Coverage Highlights Portman-Led First Virtual Hearing in Senate

May 6, 2020 | Portman Difference

A number of the nation’s media outlets are highlighting how Senator Portman led the Senate’s first virtual hearing last week. The virtual hearing examined the possibility of allowing senators to participate and vote remotely during a national crisis and how it can be done effectively and safely from a technological perspective. It was a successful test run of the technology, complete with opening statements, witness testimony and questions from Subcommittee members. Portman is championing a bipartisan resolution to allow remote voting and deliberation in the Senate during national crises like the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. According to a recent poll, 80 percent of the American people support remote voting during emergencies like a pandemic.

Excerpts of the coverage can be found below. 

WKSU: Portman Wants Congress to Work Remotely, Sees Fixes to Paycheck Protection Program

“Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) is back in Washington along with the rest of the Senate. However, Portman is advocating for Congress working and meeting remotely, as millions of Americans have begun to do during the coronavirus pandemic. The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Portman, held the first remote meeting in the history of the Senate last week. The hearing is part of a change Portman says he wants to lead, as he thinks conducting hearings and potentially voting remotely is necessary in this time of crisis.”

Axios: Why Congress is Lagging on Remote Voting Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

“Republican Sen. Rob Portman has been a leading voice for remote voting. On Thursday he convened what is believed to be the Senate's first virtual roundtable — appropriately enough, on the subject of remote voting. Portman and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin have proposed a resolution that would allow the Senate majority and minority leaders to permit secure remote voting temporarily during a crisis. Security measures would include identity authentication before voting and verification afterward, along with encryption. "We need this tool in our toolbox moving forward," Portman told Axios. "Today, we face a pandemic. Tomorrow, there could be a new national crisis, preventing members from convening safely."

The Hill: House Committees Move Toward Virtual Hearings for COVID-19 Era

“One Senate Homeland Security subcommittee led by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) — a proponent of finding ways for Congress to do its work virtually during the pandemic — conducted a virtual roundtable with experts on the continuity of Senate operations and remote voting.”

National Journal: Graduating from Conference Calls, House Panels Livestream Committee Work

Today, our gathering itself is really part of our case,” Chairman Rob Portman, a longtime advocate for remote voting, said in his opening remarks. “This is, as I understand it, the first time we’ve been able to do this … in the Senate. We want to show that it is possible to have a hearing without physically being in a hearing room.”

Lawfare: Senate Subcommittee Examines Viability, Constitutionality of Conducting Senate Proceedings Remotely

“Throughout the roundtable, Portman similarly encouraged his colleagues to consider the long-term importance of giving the Senate the flexibility to hold votes and other proceedings remotely when a crisis leaves the body no choice. “This is not about this pandemic,” Portman said. “This is a broader question” about the Senate’s institutional preparedness to continue its operations during future crises, too.”

National Geographic: A Virtual Congress? America’s Founders Would Have Approved

There are legitimate concerns about permitting remote voting, and those need to be addressed,” wrote Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) on April 8 in The Hill, after introducing a resolution with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) to allow the procedure. The resolution would require a vote every month in order to extend the practice into the next 30 days. “We cannot let the pandemic stop us from doing our essential work.” Given the founders’ brush with a devastating epidemic, they no doubt would have applauded that sentiment.”

E&E News: Congress Insists on Returning to Work, But How?

“Subcommittee Chairman Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said remote voting should "never be the norm" but should be in place for times when senators cannot safely "be in the same place." "This is something that I think should be not looked at strictly in terms of the pandemic but the general concern that there are times when Congress either cannot physically or should not be gathering," Portman said. Portman and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced a resolution in March to allow for temporary remote voting within the Senate rules.”

Washington Post: Senate to Return to Washington as Congress Struggles to Reconcile Constitutional Duties with Risk of Pandemic

“The message is that this can be done and it can be done successfully to enhance our ability to govern,” Portman said Friday. “People are figuring it out and it’s time for Congress to catch up.”

Crain's Cleveland Business Editorial: New Realities

“It’s inconceivable to us that Congress still has not enacted remote voting. Several members of both the House and Senate have introduced measures to do this. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, has co-sponsored a proposal with Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., to assign the Senate's technology adviser to set up a remote voting system. Their measure would give the majority and minority leaders joint authority to allow secure remote voting during a crisis. It would be allowed for up to 30 days, and the Senate would have to vote to renew remote voting every 30 days. That's eminently sensible. Safe technology exists, with end-to-end encrypted and blockchain-based voting systems. And yet leaders in both the House and Senate have dragged their feet on alternatives to in-person voting. They must move forward. The country's legislative branches can't be crippled if the pandemic takes a turn for the worse and our leaders are not able to gather in a shared space.”