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Thursday, July 1, 2021

Remote Voting in the House: A Problem for Deliberation

Don Wolfsenberger at The Hill:
Just before adjournment on Monday, the House Clerk read a letter from the Sergeant-at-Arms declaring, after consultation with the Attending Physician, that the pandemic health emergency remains in effect, thereby extending to mid-August special rules allowing remote floor voting and virtual committee proceedings

It’s not unusual for the House to adopt special rules to address special circumstances, and the pandemic shutdown has certainly been a special circumstance. But, once the crisis has mostly passed, members decide they liked the convenience of not having to fly in and out of Washington each week. They are much more comfortable staying at home, working their districts, helping their constituents with case work, looking after those special federal projects, and laying the groundwork for the crucial mid-term elections just around the corner in 2022. Never mind that members already have one or two district offices fully staffed with folks to do that work.

Yesterday’s emergency mandates become today’s convenient necessities (pardon the oxymoron). It might have some appeal to the more fiscally conservative citizens: think of all the taxpayer dollars being saved on roundtrip plane flights each week Congress is in session. I suspect, however, that most voters would like to know their representatives are actually earning their pay by being physically present in their committees and floor sessions in Washington. Isn’t the essence of deliberative democracy, after all, face-to-face deliberations between proponents and opponents of a particular bill or amendment?