Time for Congress to start telecommuting?

posted at 8:41 pm on March 26, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

H/t Via Meadia, this Congressman thinks so, and I have to say, my interest is piqued.

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) wants to create a “virtual Congress,” where lawmakers would leverage videoconferencing and other remote work technology to conduct their daily duties in Washington from their home districts.

Under a resolution Pearce introduced on Thursday, lawmakers would be able to hold hearings, debate and vote on legislation virtually from their district offices. …

“Thanks to modern technology, members of Congress can debate, vote, and carry out their constitutional duties without having to leave the accountability and personal contact of their congressional districts. Keeping legislators closer to the people we represent would pull back Washington’s curtain and allow constituents to see and feel, first-hand, their government at work,” Pearce told The Hill in a statement.

Obviously, there’s plenty of work that Congress needs to do in person in DC, but if adopting some of the same remote-work methods used throughout the private sector mean that Congresspeople can cut out maybe a couple of the back-and-forth trips they make between DC and their districts every year, and then you spread that over the 500+ members of Congress and their aides… that’s a lot of time and cash for the saving, once a telecommuting framework (electronic voting, video conferences, etc?) was up and running.

Plus, it would give Congresspeople a great opportunity to practice what they preach, both in terms of budget savings and being “green” by shaving off some of that carbon-emitting travel they’re constantly doing, as well as affording them more time to spend in their home districts. Major companies can make it work, so why couldn’t Congress in some capacity?


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Not good enough. Amend the Constitution to REQUIRE lawmakers be in their home district/state when voting.

If Washington’s the problem, let’s get rid of Washington.

JSchuler on March 26, 2013 at 8:42 PM

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) wants to create a “virtual Congress,”

Why not..

We have a virtual Commander in Chief.

Electrongod on March 26, 2013 at 8:43 PM

I wasn’t too long ago that Congress voted against allowing laptops and other ‘technology’ to be used while Congress was in session. I’m not sure if that rule has changed. I can understand why it’s important to have them in one place for certain votes, but I don’t see the harm in trying something new. Having said that, I don’t think we’ll see tele-voting in our lifetime. There are too many old-timers who will resist that kind of change. But, maybe, one day…

joejm65 on March 26, 2013 at 8:47 PM

Amend the Constitution to REQUIRE lawmakers be in their home district/state when voting.

If Washington’s the problem, let’s get rid of Washington.

JSchuler on March 26, 2013 at 8:42 PM

I like the idea of making them vote in a town hall or other public space. Make them sweat when they pass the next Obamacare.

blammm on March 26, 2013 at 8:49 PM

It would allow Congress to be in session more often. Probably not a good thing.

Mark1971 on March 26, 2013 at 8:49 PM

Things like hearings are never going to go virtual. It’s all about camera time for the politician and not about the answer from the grillee.

I’m for telecommuting but only if it means that these bastards don’t go into recess every couple weeks to consult with the folks back home.

In short, the real value in telecommuting is setting stuff up so that Congress has to spend fewer days back in their districts because the technology exists where they can communicate with their constituents while staying put in DC. Saves the planet by less travel costs, gives the taxpayer more days their Congresscritter is actually working, and puts the Congressional more in line with real people and less in line with the Presidential vacation plans.

Happy Nomad on March 26, 2013 at 8:49 PM

Not good enough. Amend the Constitution to REQUIRE lawmakers be in their home district/state when voting.

If Washington’s the problem, let’s get rid of Washington.

JSchuler on March 26, 2013 at 8:42 PM

Conventional wisdom says isolate a virus, don’t send it home to create further problems.

Happy Nomad on March 26, 2013 at 8:52 PM

The next time Rand Paul filibusters..
He could claim his internet connection was temporarily lost while he runs to the bathroom..

The are some pluses here..

Electrongod on March 26, 2013 at 8:54 PM

Instead of telecommuting to the old capital, let them attend sessions in the new capital, which probably would have been Denver, except they f’d up. It will now probably be either Memphis, Fort Worth, or Kansas City. It will never be in the East.

Old Country Boy on March 26, 2013 at 8:54 PM

Not good enough. Amend the Constitution to REQUIRE lawmakers be in their home district/state when voting.
If Washington’s the problem, let’s get rid of Washington.
JSchuler on March 26, 2013 at 8:42 PM

New requirement in s/b from

Old Country Boy on March 26, 2013 at 8:57 PM

I don’t think this is wise.

Committee meetings? Sure. Debate? Fine. But not votes.

How do you certify that the person voting is who they say they are? No way you can make that secure enough.

There’s also the related issue of ‘who counts the votes’… I could easily devise a vote-counting system that makes changes to people’s votes that are within the margin of error.

“Oops, Senator Brown, you may have meant to vote against cloture on Obamacare, but the system recorded a ‘yea’… too late to change it now.”

I favor Happy Nomad’s system, but for different reasons. I’ll also note that remote conferencing with constituents is available now, and I bet the number of politicians who avail themselves of this are less than 1% of those in the Beltway.

Scott H on March 26, 2013 at 8:59 PM

Instead of telecommuting to the old capital, let them attend sessions in the new capital, which probably would have been Denver, except they f’d up. It will now probably be either Memphis, Fort Worth, or Kansas City. It will never be in the East.

Old Country Boy on March 26, 2013 at 8:54 PM

Actually, you hit on something here. NYC was the original capital, I believe, then it moved down to DC. Seeing that institution leave DC and head out to middle America might not be a bad thing. I also feel the same way about the major networks. Take away the trappings of NYC, and we might get some real reporting. Maybe.

joejm65 on March 26, 2013 at 9:00 PM

They should spend most of their time at home where their constituents can get better access. With technolgy they could submit bills and maybe even read them in front of the voters for an up or down vote.

Also think of the savings in travel costs and they would need fewer aides also a taxpayer savings. For you greenies out there, since they travel less that would mean a lower carbon footprint.

banzaibob on March 26, 2013 at 9:01 PM

Add ‘they personally pay for the privilege’ and I’ll listen.

locomotivebreath1901 on March 26, 2013 at 9:02 PM

JoeJM: And what incentive do you have for moving the capital? Certainly no one in the Beltway wants it to move.

There’s also the fact that the District of Columbia was specifically designed to be federal land; I do not think the national government should regularly meet on land that belongs to any one state.

Scott H on March 26, 2013 at 9:02 PM

banzai: When have the environazis ever cared about the size of their own people’s footprints? Seriously.

Scott H on March 26, 2013 at 9:03 PM

Get this kind of law passed, not likely though, and then get set max people per rep 100,000. With every election cycle our votes are diluted more and more.

WashJeff on March 26, 2013 at 9:04 PM

NO, NO, NO, NO, NOOOOOOOO! They cause enough trouble when herded into the capital and we The People have limited access to them. How do we hold them accountable when we can’t get them into the same room or corner them in the hallways? Yes, it would begin on a limited basis, but you know very well they will use distance to substitute for “cloak of darkness”.

InTheBellyoftheBeast on March 26, 2013 at 9:05 PM

So. The plan is that they go away, but we still get to hear from them.

How about, instead, they just go away.

trigon on March 26, 2013 at 9:06 PM

I got it. We say we’re building three great arks in space, to save the species, but we really only build one, the “B” ark . . .

Axe on March 26, 2013 at 9:10 PM

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) wants to create a “virtual Congress,” where lawmakers would leverage videoconferencing and other remote work technology to conduct their daily duties in Washington from their home districts.

While I would agree that IT would bring new levels of efficiency to the process, it would also put power in the hands of the IT people, the tech layer, or the person paying for the IT people and tech layer.

It would be just too easy to silence the opposition if a layer of tech is involved. It would be easy to cut a congressman off with a ‘technical failure’.

As an example, do you think Senator Paul would have been able to filibuster for 13 hours if everyone was telecommuting? Good luck getting an internet call to last that long without dropping some attendees. And such technical problems could lead to a change in rules, where the majority party would have an easier time silencing the opposition party.

Nephew Sam on March 26, 2013 at 9:12 PM

How about they work on legislation about three months out of the year, not exempt themselves from everything they pass, then go home and live under the very rules they impose on the rest of us for the other nine months?

predator on March 26, 2013 at 9:14 PM

Time for Congress to start telecommuting?

Silly Erika … your question is premised on the idea that Congress actually does something.

Forget C-SPAN — we need SEE-LOBBYIST coverage 24×7 if we’re ever to be free again …

ShainS on March 26, 2013 at 9:16 PM

Time for Congress to start telecommuting?

How is that going to work out when it comes to the hj’s they give each other?

arnold ziffel on March 26, 2013 at 9:16 PM

If Washington’s the problem, let’s get rid of Washington.

JSchuler on March 26, 2013 at 8:42 PM

It’s not for lack of trying… Stupid Windows 8, my linky button won’t work…

http://hotair.com/archives/2013/03/23/video-meteors-over-dc/

Fallon on March 26, 2013 at 9:19 PM

Instead of telecommuting to the old capital, let them attend sessions in the new capital, which probably would have been Denver, except they f’d up. It will now probably be either Memphis, Fort Worth, or Kansas City. It will never be in the East.

Old Country Boy on March 26, 2013 at 8:54 PM

OCB, I do believe you’re thinking within the box.

Why limit the Capitol to urban areas. Why not stipulate that Congress shall meet at the mean population center? That’s currently Plato, MO where they have several lodging options including a Holiday Inn Express (but that’s in Rolla). I’m sure Congress could find a nice VFW or American Legion hall to do their business. And surely, no Congressman would linger longer than it takes to do the business of government.

In short, I think Congress has become too comfortable. Make the bastards feel some inconvenience in the same way that it used to be an inconvenience to leave home and go to DC.

There’s a Congressman who goes to my church here in DC. He met his wife here while working as a staffer. He married her here. His kids were raised here. Yet his constituency is 1500 miles away. You tell me where he calls home?

Telecommuting isn’t a bad idea but I think it is time to put Congress on the road.

Happy Nomad on March 26, 2013 at 9:20 PM

Better idea: Limit sessions of Congress to three months/year. What doesn’t get done then, doesn’t get done.

Second better idea: Make Senators and Representatives voluntary positions (no pay/expenses only) with restrictions on subsequent employment (such as no lobbying for five years).

petefrt on March 26, 2013 at 9:21 PM

I have long loved this idea. The last thing we want is these Congresscritters drinking together and hanging out with lobbyists. Let them eat, drink and hang around with the people they represent, not each other.

Pablo on March 26, 2013 at 9:23 PM

How about they work on legislation about three months out of the year, not exempt themselves from everything they pass, then go home and live under the very rules they impose on the rest of us for the other nine months?

predator on March 26, 2013 at 9:14 PM

^ crazy talk

Axe on March 26, 2013 at 9:24 PM

Obviously, there’s plenty of work that Congress needs to do in person in DC,

Like….what?

Read bills before voting on them? Participate in cloakroom deals? Ride their private choo choo train?

On second thought, its a bad idea. How would we be sure they’re the ones actually voting? Besides, they’d have to give up the subsidized haircuts and $2.00 gourmet lunches.

Not to mention the free parking at National Airport.

BobMbx on March 26, 2013 at 9:25 PM

Second better idea: Make Senators and Representatives voluntary positions (no pay/expenses only) with restrictions on subsequent employment (such as no lobbying for five years).

petefrt on March 26, 2013 at 9:21 PM

How about putting approval of those expenses subject to a referendum vote by the folks back home?

Happy Nomad on March 26, 2013 at 9:25 PM

I can see it deal with positively regarding a few issues such as lobbying and the convergence of wealth surrounding D.C. (7 of top 10 richest counties). And with that, the thud you hear is bi-partisan rejection; congratulations on that accomplishment.

How about lowering Federal salaries to max at $100K, setting dates for Session(s) of Congress, and removing a lot of expenses account monies (no need to fly-in/out for 3 days every week). Your ideas, as well as mine, are fantasies; which is why I did not deal with consequences of either.

John Kettlewell on March 26, 2013 at 9:27 PM

Better idea: Limit sessions of Congress to three months/year. What doesn’t get done then, doesn’t get done.

Second better idea: Make Senators and Representatives voluntary positions (no pay/expenses only) with restrictions on subsequent employment (such as no lobbying for five years).

petefrt on March 26, 2013 at 9:21 PM

Term limits is the solution. The only solution. No benefits after they leave office, either.

Just like drugs……take the money out of it.

BobMbx on March 26, 2013 at 9:27 PM

^ crazy talk

Axe on March 26, 2013 at 9:24 PM

I blame the “tea” that I drink.

predator on March 26, 2013 at 9:27 PM

I blame the “tea” that I drink.

predator on March 26, 2013 at 9:27 PM

Learn to love overpriced, designer coffee that someone else paid for like the rest of us and quit all that “reading” and “thinking” and “resisting” and some such. :)

Axe on March 26, 2013 at 9:33 PM

You think you’ve got huge spending now? Just wait till every congressman gets a visit every day from special interests. Just imagine what would happen if Democrats controlled Congress and didn’t have to even see Republicans, let alone talk to them.

cpaulus on March 26, 2013 at 9:35 PM

BobMbx on March 26, 2013 at 9:27 PM

Yup, term limits would be a good start.

petefrt on March 26, 2013 at 9:48 PM

Why not..

We have a virtual Commander in Chief.

Electrongod on March 26, 2013 at 8:43 PM

…is he going to start telecommuting all his vacations and golf outings?

KOOLAID2 on March 26, 2013 at 9:52 PM

JoeJM: And what incentive do you have for moving the capital? Certainly no one in the Beltway wants it to move.
There’s also the fact that the District of Columbia was specifically designed to be federal land; I do not think the national government should regularly meet on land that belongs to any one state.
Scott H on March 26, 2013 at 9:02 PM

Actually, what I meant was that for those who want them to meet in the old capital, they can do that. The incentive to move to a new capital would be 300 million firearms, a NORK bomb, or the gods of the copybook headings with terror and slaughter return

Old Country Boy on March 26, 2013 at 10:07 PM

Worth some thought. That said, a lot of the legislative deals get hammered out during the face-to-face meetings between Representatives and Senators, and telemeetiong just isn’t conducive to this.

NorthernCross on March 26, 2013 at 10:08 PM

Worth some thought. That said, a lot of the legislative deals get hammered out during the face-to-face meetings between Representatives and Senators, and telemeetiong just isn’t conducive to this.

NorthernCross on March 26, 2013 at 10:08 PM

Having deals happen is the problem. We do not need government changing the rules on a damned daily basis.

astonerii on March 26, 2013 at 10:20 PM

The Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, decreed that the seat of government would be a new city, built in a previously uninhabitable swamp, with horrible environmental conditions for much of the year. Central heating and air conditioning came along and we now have the largest entrenched permanent bureaucrat class in history.

The heck with telecommuting, we should sequester the funds to run the HVAC.

cthulhu on March 26, 2013 at 10:39 PM

The amount of stupid in this thread is amazing.

NoStoppingUs on March 27, 2013 at 4:32 AM

You better google (number of staff for congress) you’ll get a different picture.

mixplix on March 27, 2013 at 6:58 AM

Time for Congress to start telecommuting?

I’ve been advocating telecommuting for Congress for well over a decade.

Overnight, this would make national lobbyists’ jobs 50 times harder, while simultaneously giving the REAL constituents unprecedented access to their representatives.

The only thing you’d lose is the ability to exile annoying neighbors by electing them to Congress: effectively voting them out of the neighborhood.

landlines on March 27, 2013 at 10:13 AM