/  Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During H. Res. 965 Floor Debate

Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During H. Res. 965 Floor Debate

As delivered on the House floor, during debate on H. Res. 965:
We’re back here to consider the resolution implementing the most consequential change to the Rules of the House of Representatives in my time in Congress, and possibly the most consequential rules change since the establishment of the modern committee system in the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946.
Today, the majority is proposing, for the first time in our history, a system of proxy voting on the floor of the House of Representatives. That change also allows for the adoption of a totally remote voting procedure upon the certification of a single member of Congress. Second, it would allow committees to perform remote proceedings, including markups.
Above all else, Republicans believe that any change to centuries-old rules of the House should only be done in a bipartisan way that achieves consensus. Unfortunately, these proposed rules changes do not meet that goal. While I have no doubt of the Chairman's good intentions, I believe these changes will fundamentally alter the nature of the institution, and not for the better. And as such, I simply cannot support them.
Though this resolution is intended only to deal with the present public health emergency, we must never forget that the temporary changes we make today become the precedent that we follow tomorrow. I am deeply concerned that shifting to remote activity, both in the form of proxy voting and in the form of remote committee work, will fundamentally change the way the House operates, and will remove the collegial environment we enjoy when we meet in person, get to know one another and use our knowledge of each legislator as a person to move toward bipartisan consensus. I fear that that would be lost with remote activity.
I am also deeply concerned that these changes will not pass constitutional muster. Why we would risk exposing important legislation to obvious constitutional flaws does not make sense to me.
Most of all, I am concerned that we are moving forward with these changes on a partisan basis. Any change that is this consequential should only be done after we reach bipartisan agreement, no matter how difficult it may be to achieve. I think a bipartisan agreement was possible on much of what my friends are trying to accomplish, but today’s resolution is simply not it.
I have a modest suggestion for my friends. Let's take appropriate precautions and go back to work. That's what the executive branch is doing. That's what the United States Senate is doing. That's what millions of Americans do each and every day. We should be no different. The House should do the same. 
I urge my colleagues to reject these rules changes today and return to the drawing board so that we can act together in a bipartisan manner to ensure that Congress can continue to operate during this crisis.
Created: May 15, 2020