Can the US House and Senate make allowance for self-quarantined members to vote remotely?

Is the requirement that a member be in chamber in the constitution or law - or is it part of the senate or house's rules which they could amend for this specific crisis?

1 Answer 1


As far as I'm aware, there is not explicit rule one way or the other - just tradition and the assumption about what words like "quorum" and "absent" mean.

Constitutionally, this falls under the "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings" catchall. It does require a "quorum" to do business, and "absent" members can be compelled to attend, both of which imply physical presence, but both of which can theoretically be satisfied via telepresence as well.

The House has rule III(1), which says

Every Member shall be present within the Hall of the House during its sittings, unless excused or necessarily prevented, and shall vote on each question put, unless having a direct personal or pecuniary interest in the event of such question.

A resolution has been introduced to change this requirement, although at least a quorum of Representatives would have to gather in person in order to pass it.

As far as I can tell, the Senate rules don't address physical presence at all, although they presumably use the standard, in-person, definition of "quorum".

This Washington Post article gets into it a little deeper (before veering off into opinion), including precedents for changing the definition of quorum.

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