Congress breaks tradition during pandemic; House members can submit bills electronically

WASHINGTON — Faced with the prospect of an extended absence from Washington, the House of Representatives is moving at least some of its work online.

“It is a smart thing to move us forward,” Virginia Rep. Don Beyer said.

For at least the next two weeks, lawmakers like Beyer and Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott are required to submit proposed legislation and other documents electronically.

“It’s going to be great to be able to continue to not just file bills but gather another 10 or 15 cosponsors on a bill,” Beyer said.

“It makes it possible to introduce bills and resolutions without actually having to show up,” Scott said.

Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger says this makes a difference for those who live far away from the nation’s capital.

“That travel back and forth has implications not just for the members who may have to travel far, much farther than I do, but also for our local communities,” Spanberger said.

House members say this break from tradition could advance the use of technology in Congress.

“This may be a foreshadowing of remote voting in the future,” Beyer said.

“We need to automate more of government. We need to make it more user friendly,” Tennessee Congressman Tim Burchett said.

Burchett is embracing the change and agrees the electronic options could help the government work more efficiently. But for now, while they could be extended, the new filing methods are only in place until April 19.