Should Congress telecommute?
Freshman Democratic Congressman Rep. Eric Swawell filed a resolution last Friday to change the rules of the House of Representatives to allow members to vote remotely, presumably from their home districts, but in any event, without being physically present in the House of Representatives chamber. Jennifer Martinez reports in The Hill:
Swalwell, whose district is located just north of the heart of Silicon Valley, hopes the amendment will update how Congress works and allow lawmakers to spend more time at home with their constituents.
The resolution would create a secure, remote voting system so members could vote on bills that arebeing considered under a suspension of regular rules, meaning they require a two-thirds majority in the House to pass. The process is usually reserved for bills that are noncontroversial.
Two American Thinker writers have explored this possibility. In 2006, Rosslyn Smith wrote:
Many businesses have discovered that there is no real need to keep people in one physical location, in order to effectively and efficiently coordinate their work effort. Telecommuting, the pratice of working from remote locations, be it a client's premises or even from home, offers many advantages. It is long past time for Congress to consider the possibility of applying the lessons learned in the private sector. The benefits mught be numerous and substantial. (snip)
But what of the need for that hands-on legislator with a strong network of relationships? A good many hearings are sparsely attended, with members coming and going throughout and generally relying on staff for full information about the bills under consideration. I doubt that much would be missed if Congressman participated via a video link instead of being there in person, especially if their staffs remained based in Washington where they could keep an eye on the executive agencies. (snip)
My personal suspicion is that a number of very bad things have happened because the personal relationships that develop over our long Congressional sessions are currently far too strong. In the very worst cases, getting along with other members of Congress seems to have taken a higher priority than representing the folks back home.
And in 2011, C. Edmund Wright wrote:
Consider the ruling class of elites governing us from Washington: they exist in a bubble of money and influence that they rarely leave. We are told that they must stay there to "do the peoples' business." Thus they are oblivious to -- and protected from -- the awful realities they have foisted upon us. This would include the over reaching army of do-gooder bureaucrats -- that we are paying by the way -- to screw up our lives. How could they know and why should they care about all of this? They're never in the real world anyway. Human nature is what it is.
In the meantime, elected officials are exposed to the fake world of lobbyists and influence peddlers as well as others in Congress and the various apparatchiks of big government and big politics. They have far more face time with naïve recent law school graduates who now work on congressional staffs than they do with anyone who knows anything about the real world. Their social life is far more influenced by how they get along with liberal members of the media than it is by how they relate to the folks they represent.
Gee, what could possibly go wrong with that?
What could go wrong is what we have with government today. It is a self-serving and dangerous juggernaut.
I can see a number of downsides to the proposal, but it is incontrovertible that the Washington, DC imperium is dangerously detached from the reality of life for most Americans.
This subject is well worth discussing.