The following is a statement from John Richter, director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Congress Project, on potential action to address Congress’s operational needs in light of the spread of coronavirus:
“At pivotal moments, our country’s leaders have typically coalesced around a common sense of mission. During this time of significant uncertainty due to the coronavirus, America needs to know it has a functional Congress. The Bipartisan Policy Center calls on the bipartisan, bicameral leadership of Congress to publicly and literally stand together in the Capitol, before the American people, to reassure the nation that they are unified in developing and implementing a plan for the continued fulfillment of Congress’s core constitutional obligations.
“Recent reports have raised legitimate questions about the legislative branch’s capacity to continue its operations effectively. Leadership should jointly announce they are tasking the appropriate House and Senate panels, such as the House Rules and Administration Committees and the Senate Rules Committee, with coming together to forge an operational blueprint, by a date-certain in the very near future, to ensure Congress can continue to vote on legislation, oversee the executive branch, provide for our national and economic security, and address the immediate challenges of the COVID-19 threat.
“Among the questions this plan should address are: What if significant numbers of lawmakers are incapacitated, or dispersed across the country and unable for any reason to return to Washington to debate and vote? How can key committees continue to rapidly respond and perform crucial oversight to COVID-19 related activities? And what are the mechanisms and technical platforms that will allow members and staff to continue to fulfill their roles while remaining as safe as possible?
The best thing Congress can do at this juncture is to do its job and offer an unmistakable signal that the people’s representatives will continue to perform their constitutional duties.”