June 14, 2021

Dear Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell:

We write to commend the bipartisan effort led by Senators Durbin and Portman to address the critical issue of maintaining continuity of the United States Senate in the event of an emergency. We urge the Senate to explore all appropriate avenues to address this issue in a timely fashion.

Senators Durbin and Portman recently introduced S.Res.201, A resolution amending the Standing Rules of the Senate to enable the participation of absent Senators during a national crisis. The measure would allow for members of the Senate to use technology certified by Senate officers to cast their votes from outside the Senate chamber in circumstances when the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders jointly determine an “extraordinary crisis of national extent exists.”

Over the last 18 months, several events could have imperiled the ability of the Senate to convene and conduct business for days, weeks, or months. This underscores the susceptibility of our political system to crises and the importance of securing the smooth operation of the Senate and respect for the prerogatives of its members. While we hope that no such circumstances will arise again, prudence dictates that the Senate must be ready. We commend to your attention the bipartisan approach taken by Senators Durbin and Portman and urge you to take such steps as are necessary in advance of future emergencies.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We welcome the opportunity to discuss this further. Please contact Kristie De Pena, Vice President for Niskanen Center at kdepena@niskanencenter.org, or Daniel Schuman, Policy Director for Demand Progress at daniel@demandprogress.org.


Campaign for Accountability

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)

Consumer Action

Demand Progress

Democracy Fund Voice

Government Accountability Project

Government Information Watch

Issue One

NALEO Educational Fund

Niskanen Center

Project On Government Oversight

Protect Democracy

Rachel Carson Council

Senior Executives Association

Social Security Works

Norman Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research*

Lorelei Kelly, Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University*

Robert Cook-Deegan, Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes*

Brian Baird, Member of Congress (Retired)*

Tyler Fisher, Unite America*

Kevin Esterling, University of California, Riverside*

* Affiliations listed for identification purposes only.