While the Supreme Court of the United States has suspended hearing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has demanded that the House continue working.
Pelosi has announced that the House will shift from physical documents to digital documentation. The move is to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading between House members.
Meanwhile, the Senate has completely suspended the floor to ensure the safety of its members.
During the pandemic, Pelosi appears to be making political moves that she knows will benefit her and her party.
For example, she has already authorized House committees to look into the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic response.
One such committee even has subpoena power to investigate the administration’s handling of the coronavirus stimulus package.
More details on Pelosi’s attempt to digitalize the House below:
Pelosi has announced that the new policy will stay in effect until April 19, but has the potential to be extended based on the pandemic.
Democrats are hoping to pass a fourth stimulus bill and bring it to a vote in the House by the end of the month.
Many are worried that Pelosi will attempt to use the pandmic to pass legislation that would otherwise be unable to pass.
The country is focused on news around the outbreak as well as the development of a potential vaccine.
Keeping the House open for business while the Senate and Supreme Court have both postponed activities appears more questionable than it does inspiring.
The Hill has more on Pelosi's latest move:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday announced that the House will shift to a digital system to submit floor documents to help prevent members and staff from catching or spreading COVID-19.
In a Dear Colleague letter sent to lawmakers, the California Democrat said leaders are looking to ensure that the necessary precautions are taken to keep individuals safe amid the pandemic so lawmakers “are best able to serve our constituents.”
“In that spirit, in consultation with the Rules Committee, Committee on House Administration, Office of the Clerk and Office of the Parliamentarian and in accordance with current social distancing guidelines, the House will soon take additional action to reduce the physical presence of Members and staff in the Capitol, by formalizing a new system for submission of documents related to Floor action,” she wrote.
“Beginning Tuesday, staff must electronically submit all Floor documents – including bills, resolutions, co-sponsors and extensions of remarks – to a dedicated and secure email system, rather than deliver these materials by hand to staff in the Speaker’s Lobby or Cloakrooms. At this time, Members may still drop off materials in person,” she continued.
Pelosi informed members that they would be able to submit the documents electronically when the lower chamber is in a pro forma session and during a 15-minute window before and after the session begins.
While the $2 trillion stimulus bill received widespread bipartisan support, there was criticism that it was based on a "voice vote" rather than a recorded vote.
There is now no official record for which representatives supported or opposed the measure.
Because the digital documentation is supposedly temporary, it is unclear what protocols or guidelines will be followed to ensure security, integrity, and transparency.
While Pelosi is forcing the House to go digital in an attempt to pass legislation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court has postponed its cases.
Some cases may even be postponed until next term.
The justices on both sides of the aisle are opposed to broadcasting their proceedings.
If such digital coverage happened during the outbreak, it would be nearly impossible to stop the expectation once things go back to normal.
The Supreme Court is exercising respect and deference to decorum, while Pelosi attempts to engineer new legislation through any means possible.
NPR has more details on the Supreme Court's postponed cases:
The U.S. Supreme Court has once again postponed oral arguments scheduled for this spring, but this time the court seemed to hint it might not hear arguments in most cases until next term.
Following postponement of arguments scheduled for the last two weeks of March, the court on Friday announced that it would delay another round of oral arguments — its last for the term — scheduled for the second half of April.
In a press release, the court said it would "consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the courtroom before the end of the court term," which usually is, for all practical purposes, at the end of June when the court completes its work and recesses for the summer.
The wording of the press release would seem to suggest, however, that the justices may postpone some cases until next term and extend the current term to hear a few particularly pressing cases.
Among them are three cases involving subpoenas for President Trump's financial records: two involving congressional subpoenas, and another involving a New York grand jury subpoena for financial records relating to alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and another woman during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Two other cases from Washington state and Colorado could have a direct impact on the upcoming 2020 presidential election. They provide a test of state laws that punish or remove Electoral College delegates who do not cast their ballots for the presidential candidate they were pledged to support.
Some of the justices might prefer to defer the Trump cases, on theory that if Trump were to lose the election, the claims of presidential immunity would go away, but such a postponement would likely draw criticism that the court is acting in a political manner and in aiding President Trump.
Some advocates of live TV coverage have instead been pushing to have the justices hear oral arguments via remote TV hook-up. While some lower federal courts have done that with three-judge panels, most court observers believe that would be too unwieldy for a court with nine members, eight of whom ask as many as 75 or more questions altogether in a half hour of argument.
As it is, the justices often interrupt each other and counsel to the point that the chief justice sometimes has to gently restrain his colleagues. Only Justice Clarence Thomas abstains from asking questions; he doesn't ask questions for years at a time. For the rest of the justices, though, oral argument is often something of a dignified free-for-all.
Moreover, the justices themselves have adamantly opposed live broadcast of their proceedings, and they know quite well that if they allowed such coverage now, it would be hard to put the genie back in the bottle after the coronavirus crisis is over.
Still, as SCOTUSblog publisher Tom Goldstein has suggested, it is possible that it will be too dangerous for there to be open court proceedings at all for at least a year or more, or until there is a COVID-19 vaccine. It is not only a question of public safety, or the safety of lawyers who would have to travel to Washington, D.C., to argue their cases, but there is also the safety of the justices themselves to consider.
Six of them are 65 or older, putting them in the high-risk category. They sit quite close to each other on the bench, not in the safe social-distancing range. But even assuming that their chairs could be somehow rearranged to be 6 feet apart, which is quite an assumption, the public could not be safely admitted. Indeed, only the roughly 25 permanently accredited reporters who cover the court could be accommodated, sitting several seats apart in the courtroom.
If the highest court in the land has postponed cases, why can't the House?
Exceptions can be made, of course, for emergency bills such as the coronavirus stimulus relief package.
However, observers will be closely watching to see if any partisan proposals are made durting this time of crisis.
This is the time to prioritize safety and health, rather thanm attempting to pass legislation that would otherwise be deemed unpalatable by the general public.
Eyes will be on Pelosi and how she chooses to handle this new digitalization of House business.