Congress desperately needs a contingency plan

Before Congress is forced to self-quarantine, it must act. First, Congress needs to pass a plan that allows for a virtual Congress, an idea originally proposed after 9/11 by Representative Jim Langevin of Rhode Island. And. at the same time, Congress needs to put into place the most sophisticated and secure remote-meeting software and hardware for its members. Every congressional committee and subcommittee needs to develop the same capacity, with the same authority. If members have to work from their district offices or even from home, they will need the ability not just to meet remotely, but to cast secure votes when necessary.

We also need, urgently, a plan to deal with the possibility that our election in November will be disrupted, if the pandemic makes voting at the polls difficult or dangerous. At a minimum, Congress should pass a law to allow no-excuse absentee balloting in every state for federal elections, while urging states that have no such requirement to do the same for state and local elections. And, ideally, we need a plan to deal with other possible election disruptions for which we have no options or workable alternatives in place. Leaving states to respond ad hoc is not a good way to deal with the many possible disruptions and dislocations. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could also help by upholding his patriotic duty and allowing quick votes on the many bipartisan plans to combat Russian or other foreign interference in our elections. And we need to make sure that President Trump does not misuse his emergency powers to postpone or cancel the election.

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