Congress Must Return to Session
COMMENTARY

May 13, 2020by Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.)
Rep. Kendra Horn. (Photo by Mary Horn Photography)

There is no question that the United States is in crisis. A global pandemic and economic crisis have upended American life, costing lives and leaving millions of families without a way to make ends meet. In the face of this national emergency, those of us in Congress must be able to carry out all of our core constitutional responsibilities in a timely, targeted, and transparent manner. We must not only deliver relief for those in need and advocate for our constituents, but also conduct public hearings, mark up legislation and hold debate.

In this time of great challenge, we must have the ability to conduct the full scope of business in the House of Representatives. I was deeply disappointed by the decision to cancel session in the House earlier this month, and I have grown increasingly troubled by the inability of congressional leadership to find a sustainable path forward for commencing work during the pandemic. Whether safely in person or virtually, holding hearings and legislating is at the very heart of our duties, and these procedures provide needed transparency during our nation’s historic response to this pandemic.

Yet more than eight weeks after the House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Congress has still not implemented remote voting systems, procedures for safe in-person legislative work or a sustainable plan that would allow members of Congress to continue legislative business. Instead, a handful of party leaders, both Republicans and Democrats, have made sweeping decisions about stimulus legislation and our national crisis response. Transparency and good government have suffered.

Let me be clear, members of Congress never stopped working. The new and creative ways in which my colleagues have stepped up to serve their communities during the national shutdown are empowering and inspiring. We have held virtual and telephone town halls to connect with constituents across our districts. Congressional committees have held regular conference calls and virtual meetings. And federal, state and local officials have worked hand-in-hand to get relief where it is most needed.

In many cases, lawmakers are working harder than ever, but a critical component of our constitutional role has been put on hold. The result is less transparent decision making, delays to our work in the national interest, and for some members, fewer opportunities for across-the-aisle collaboration.

In the House, I serve on the Armed Services Committee, which right now would normally be holding public hearings and marking up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). While members on our committee are hard at work in conversations with committee leaders, transparency and the public’s role in the crafting of this legislation are indispensable.

I am proud of the historic bipartisan relief bills we have passed since the COVID-19 outbreak began, but the process for passing these bills has lacked public debate and opportunity for input. While it is understandable that an unprecedented pandemic reduced opportunities for due process, our leadership has now had more than a month to craft new procedural rules that would allow for greater public access and member participation.

There is room for bipartisan agreement on rules to allow for the legislative work of Congress to continue. Last month, I joined a bipartisan letter to congressional House leadership calling on Congress to begin planning and approving ways for the U.S. House of Representatives to fully function during the present COVID-19 emergency. Last week, I participated in a bipartisan “Virtual Congress” debate held by the Problem Solvers Caucus to demonstrate the viability of virtual legislative business.

While the Speaker has discussed bringing the House back into session this week, there is still no clear plan for getting the chamber back to business for a sustained period of time. There are no plans or alternatives for Congress to carry out its full work should there be another delay. So far, no proposal for remote legislative systems or safe in-person procedures have been brought to the floor for consideration.

You can always find a reason not to try something new. It is easy to reject change in a historic institution such as Congress, but the tradition most important to our democracy, the one we must preserve, is our work to ensure transparency and accountability in a government by and for the people.

America is in crisis, and Congress must resume the full scope of our work to help our nation through this national emergency.


Kendra Horn represents Oklahoma’s 5th District and serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Opinions

Checking China’s Diplomatic Piracy in the South China Sea
Foreign Affairs
Checking China’s Diplomatic Piracy in the South China Sea
September 18, 2020
by Craig Singleton

China appears keen to bring piracy back as an instrument of foreign policy, but the days of eye patches and wooden legs are long gone. Instead, Beijing’s most effective raiding parties prefer business suits and briefcases, thus allowing them to ransack and plunder under the guise... Read More

The VA Needs to Follow the FDA’s Guidance on Smoking Alternatives
Opinions
The VA Needs to Follow the FDA’s Guidance on Smoking Alternatives

According to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’s (IAVA) annual member survey 34% of veterans use tobacco products versus 13.7% of their civilian counterparts (2018 data). Smoking cigarettes is detrimental to a person’s health, and quitting is the best path forward. For veterans, who use tobacco... Read More

Gen Z and Millennials are Unequivocally Resurging #MeToo
Opinions
Gen Z and Millennials are Unequivocally Resurging #MeToo

The #MeToo movement that started in 2017 is still very much alive and thriving in 2020, and with good reason. A recent report from Buzzfeed News shockingly revealed 36 former employees of the Ellen Show encountered harassment and sexual assault from top staff. DeGeneres’ former executive... Read More

Why an Anti-Trust Safe Harbor Is the Answer the News Business Needs
Opinions
Why an Anti-Trust Safe Harbor Is the Answer the News Business Needs

News consumption is growing exponentially, but for the past decade, the revenue to news publishers has been on a decline. This is, in large part, because of the unbalanced relationship between news publishers and tech platforms. But that relationship could be changing thanks to the bipartisan introduction... Read More

Moving Forward Together in the Face of a Global Pandemic
Opinions
Moving Forward Together in the Face of a Global Pandemic

This global pandemic knows no borders and has no regard for politics. Like Americans who have come together to take steps to bend the curve, our elected officials have also come together swiftly and in a bipartisan manner to provide much-needed federal assistance to the millions... Read More

COVID-19 Is About to Make Our Affordable Housing Crisis Much Worse. Here’s One Way to Help Stem the Tide
Opinions
COVID-19 Is About to Make Our Affordable Housing Crisis Much Worse. Here’s One Way to Help Stem the Tide

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic created a global economic downturn, the U.S. faced a mounting affordable housing crisis. In March, the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimated that the U.S. needs at least 7 million more affordable units to sufficiently house extremely low-income Americans. With more than 30... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top