Pandemic rewires the future of Congress
The pandemic is pushing Congress toward remote hearings and votes, and is changing lobbying, fundraising and campaigning.
Why it matters: The coronavirus is forcing one of the most change-averse institutions in the U.S. to rethink how it's always done things.
- This could change who influences the creation of the nation's laws.
The state of play: Many lawmakers are spending more time in their districts and home states — and less with donors and lobbyists.
- Some lawmakers got sick themselves or lost loved ones to the virus. That's sensitized them to the fear, pain, stigma and uncertainty that constituents with less of a safety net are experiencing.
Flashback: The Senate returned in early May, while the House has continued to conduct most of its work remotely.
- For the first time in more than two centuries, House members were allowed to vote remotely, by designating a proxy to cast their ballot for them.
- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Axios the House may extend that 45-day window, given the COVID-19 surge across the country.
What they're saying: Lawmakers tell Axios they expect the expansion of virtual interactions to last past the pandemic.
- Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas): More reliance on video conferencing “is going to mean we get access to more witnesses" who can't afford to travel to D.C.
- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.): "We discovered something we should have already known — that you could do these conference calls and get to a lot of people."
- Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.): "Society has crammed 10 years of experience, in telework and telehealth and telecommuting and Zoom meetings, into three months."
The pandemic has also sparked a serious discussion about the effectiveness of remote voting.
- Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.): "You might not want to make remote voting the norm, and I think that's the fear of some traditionalists. But certainly it ought to be available in situations like this. And I think of other situations that would be even more urgent, like if there was an attack on the country."
- House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who led an effort to sue Speaker Pelosi and block voting by proxy: "This is not simply arcane parliamentary procedure. It is a brazen violation of the Constitution, a dereliction of our duty as elected officials."