House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern appears to agree. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, he seems pretty fed up: “Covid-19 has exposed just how unprepared Congress is to continue its business during an unforeseen crisis,” he writes. “It is time for this institution to finally embrace technology so it can safely continue legislating during an unexpected emergency.”
“The status quo has become unacceptable and dangerous—not just to members of Congress, but more importantly, to everyone we come in contact with,” he continues. Yes, but it also means that the entire nation is held in limbo as Congress tries to figure out traveling back and forth and getting a quorum for voting and just the logistics of them doing their damn job. Enough of that—McGovern is absolutely right. They need a goddamned plan, one that doesn’t endanger everyone because a bunch of Republicans who are trying to demonstrate their fealty to Trump, or some damn thing, refuse to wear masks and ignore the safety protocols developed by the Office of Attending Physician and the House Sergeant at Arms.
That’s what happened last week when the whole House had to come back to vote on the Phase 3.5 bill that gave an infusion of cash to the small business loan program and more funding to testing and for hospitals. McGovern doesn’t want to see a repeat and says it’s about time that “members of Congress [who] have varying degrees of comfort with different technologies” get over it (in more polite terms). He suggests beginning with remote voting by proxy, which allows a relatively small number of lawmakers to vote on behalf of colleagues. He suggests starting with that as it will “evolve our approach to use more sophisticated options as we ease into this crisis.”
“Inaction, however, is simply not an option,” he concludes. “The need to adapt is urgent. Experts have made clear that even if the crush of coronavirus lessens in the immediate future, this pandemic could come back even stronger in the fall. I don’t want to look back and wish we had made changes now.”
Here’s the other part that he doesn’t talk about: The Senate is coming back because McConnell has another unqualified judge he wants to promote who’s on the hearing schedule for the Judiciary Committee next week. That’s a very big worry, but so is whatever McConnell can cook up to prevent the next big, very necessary coronavirus bill—the bill the House says will be a people’s bailout. He’s already trying to take hostages with it. The House can’t let that happen. Pelosi can’t let that happen.
They needed to figure out remote voting weeks ago. The fact that they didn’t shouldn’t keep them from fixing that now.