House Bill, Citing COVID-19, Would Let Congress Work Remotely

On the same day that several members of Congress entered into voluntary quarantine after interacting with an individual who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus at the Conservative Political Action Conference in late February, Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., and Rick Crawford, R-Ark., reintroduced the Members Operating to Be Innovative and Link Everyone (MOBILE) Resolution.

The bill, which Swalwell has introduced every year for the last three years, would enable members of Congress to participate in hearings virtually, and allow them to vote remotely on suspension bills.

“From coast to coast, some of the country’s largest companies are already using technology to communicate and conduct business remotely,” said Swalwell, who represents one of the states hit hardest by COVID-19. “Modern technology belongs in Congress and my resolution would allow Members to not only spend more time with their constituents and their families, but would prove useful for a number of situations, including the public health crisis in which we currently find ourselves.”

Rep. Swalwell’s colleague on the other side of the aisle agreed.

“The ability for Members of Congress to vote remotely if need be has been technologically feasible for decades,” said Crawford, whose state – as of today – has yet to have a confirmed case of COVID-19. “The ongoing Coronavirus outbreak underscores the need for Congress to embrace what the 21st Century has to offer,” he said.

The legislation would mandate the development of a “secure remote voting system” that could be used on suspension bills, which Rep. Swalwell’s office described as “generally non-controversial bills that require a two-thirds vote to pass.” Additionally, members of Congress participating in hearings remotely would count toward rules on quorum. Neither congressman has commented on how the legislation would impact congressional staffers.

The House legislation does not appear to have a companion bill in the Senate.

Kate Polit
About Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.

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