Should Congress Telework?

spirit of america/

Bill would let members of Congress participate in hearings and cast some votes remotely.

A resolution introduced by two House lawmakers last week would allow members of Congress to become teleworkers.

The Members Operating to Be Innovative and Link Everyone (MOBILE) resolution (H. Res. 287), introduced last week by Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., and Steve Pearce, R-N.M., would enable lawmakers to participate in committee hearings and vote on non-controversial suspension bills from their home districts using video-conferencing technology and a secure, remote voting system.

“Northern Silicon Valley, where I represent, is leading a technological revolution, and Congress shouldn’t be left behind,” Swalwell said in a statement. “I pledged during the campaign that I would bring Congress into the 21st century, and this is a first upgrade.”

More specifically, the MOBILE resolution would require that lawmakers and invited witnesses be allowed to participate in committee hearings remotely, with that participation counting toward rules on quorum. It also would require the development of a secure remote voting system that would enable lawmakers to vote on suspension bills, generally non-controversial bills that require a two-thirds majority to pass.

The federal government is leading the trend on telework adoption, with all agencies required to implement telework policies as part of the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act. While enabling members of Congress to work from their homes would be inappropriate, allowing them to participate in votes on non-controversial bills and in hearings from their home district offices doesn’t sound like much of a stretch, particularly if it leads to cost savings and productivity gains.

“Imagine the opportunity to discuss key legislation with your representative even minutes before he votes on it, or watch committee debate conducted in a town-hall setting from your hometown,” Pearce said.

What are your thoughts on the MOBILE resolution? Is telework appropriate for members of Congress?    

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