At times of past health threats, like the 1918 flu pandemic, members of the House met in person. When anthrax spores were found in the halls of Congress in 2001, the House shut down, but the Senate remained in session, with lawmakers meeting in alternative spaces.
Meeting in person is so important to Congress that terminally ill senators have had to make their way to Washington to cast decisive votes, as John McCain did in 2017, and Ted Kennedy did in 2008.
In recent weeks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she supports proxy voting. But younger members like Representative Katie Porter, a California Democrat, have called for remote voting. Will Covid-19 be the crisis that finally brings change? Stay tuned.
This article was adapted from a Twitter thread that was created with support from a Brown Institute for Media Innovation grant recognizing the need for accurate information about the Covid-19 virus. Learn something new from history: Subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on Twitter @RetroReport.