Congressional experts discussed the need for emergency, time-limited measures to allow for remote congressional proceedings during the coronavirus emergency. Speakers at the online event included:
- Norm Ornstein, who was pulled off a flight at Dulles on 9/11. He has worked extensively on continuity of operations.
- Marci Harris former staffer and CEO of POPVOX, a community engagement platform.
- Daniel Schuman, former staffer and Policy Director at Demand Progress (Daniel and Marci recently wrote about emergency measures to allow Congress to convene remotely).
- John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center who writes Congress needs a plan now.
- Lorelei Kelley of Georgetown’s Beeck Center, who also recently testified before the House Committee on Appropriations Legislative Branch subcommittee on continuity and the need for an Article I Renaissance.
Watch the briefing below or on online here.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPDb5jARr3Y&w=560&h=315]
Extensive work was done on continuity of government after 9/11, but Congress failed to act and put procedures in place. Speakers emphasized the need for a functioning Congress during a pandemic.
The good news is that Congress could amend its rules to allow for remote participation during this emergency by deeming Members “present” if they appear electronically. However, such a change must be done in person and should be time limited (i.e., expire after 30 days unless Congress renews it).
If Congress fails to act, the only option is to have leadership (or very few Members who may not represent the whole or individual districts) operate under unanimous consent or proxy voting. That is, a handful of Members would negotiate and pass legislation for all 435 voting members, or we simply would not have a Congress.
While there are challenges to implementation, the speakers agreed on the need to address now to ensure Congress can continue to operate.