Another Harebrained Idea

Congressman Eric Swalwell (D, CA) and two colleagues, Steve Pearce (R, NM) and Cynthia Lummis (R, WY) actually think this is a good idea.  They want to

amend House rules so lawmakers can vote remotely through a secure communications system[.]  The resolution would allow lawmakers to vote on bills that require a two-thirds majority in the House to pass, meaning they are being considered under a suspension of regular rules and are typically noncontroversial….


Under the proposed resolution, lawmakers and witnesses would be allowed to participate in committee hearings held in Washington via secure videoconferencing technology….

No.  This defeats a major purpose and a major advantage of requiring an in-person quorum in order to conduct business and to vote on that business: getting our elected representatives in the same room together for face-to-face interaction.  No matter how good the virtual links get, they cannot be the same as being there in person, seeing, hearing, and interacting with everyone and everything on the floor and not just with the parts conveniently within camera or microphone range.

Also, it overstates the noncontroversial nature of votes requiring a two-thirds majority: little things like a veto override, or an impeachment vote.

It also overstates the noncontroversial nature of bills needing a suspension of regular order to pass, including a vote on the suspension of the rules.  As recently as the 108th Congress (the 2003-2004 session), for instance, the House considered some 920 bills under suspension, and only about 620 achieved final passage.  That seems a shade controversial to me, especially those 300 that failed.

Leave things alone, guys.  It won’t hurt you to show up in your place of work and do a little work there.

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