The Problem Solvers Caucus called upon Congress to ensure its responsibilities were not abdicated as the coronavirus pandemic continued.
“We need a clear process to debate and vote on vital legislation remotely, while still following public health guidelines,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a co-chair of the caucus.
The caucus, a bipartisan organization consisting of 50 members of the House of Representatives, working to develop bipartisan cooperation on key policy issues, argued it’s essential all members of Congress be able to meet their Constitutional responsibilities by representing their constituents even amid the pandemic.
The letter called for ensuring voting be accessible to all members of Congress even if they could not travel to the capital due to public health guidelines limiting travel.
“Unlike the flu pandemic of 1918, modern technology offers us a host of options to govern from afar, safely and securely, during these exigent circumstances. Governments around the world, including England and Japan, have deployed these options, and are voting from home,” the caucus wrote.
Telephone voting, video conferencing, and voting machines in district offices or homes were offered as technological solutions for the issue. Additionally, the caucus urged the voting system be transparent for constituents.
Members wishing to debate on the floor could showcase their positions in writing or via video, the caucus noted. The media, whether written or recorded, could be displayed on C-SPAN for reasons of transparency.
Additionally, video conference debates could be established to allow for more real-time discussions on specific tests. The members noted district offices, military bases, and even members homes could serve as forums.
“Traditional travel to Washington, and Congressional committee and floor work could create unnecessary risks,” the letter stated. “Likewise, it would be imprudent to proceed in these times without the input of the larger body and the ability for us to represent the voices of our constituents.”
Committee Debate and Mark-Ups
To recreate the committee debate and mark-up processes, the caucus advocated secured video conferencing as an attractive option. Additionally, it argued oversight of debates should prioritized agenda items related to the current process.
Under their proposal, the mark-up process could be replicated via secure video or traditional telephone. The letter argued the process was an essential function of Congress and could not be delayed because of the pandemic.
“I hope Congressional House leadership will seriously consider the recommendations outlined in the letter put forth by the Problem Solvers Caucus so that our important work can continue now and in any extraordinary circumstances ahead,” said co-chair Rep. Tom Reed.