Select Committee Offers More Advice On Improving Congressional Operations

July 31, 2020 by Dan McCue
Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., at a recent meeting of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress unanimously endorsed 12 new proposals on Friday aimed at improving the continuity of operations in Congress.

The new slate of recommendations is the fourth such package passed by the bipartisan panel.

Since many congressional offices began teleworking in March due to the global pandemic, the Select Committee has held six virtual discussions with guest experts.

In a number of the discussions, the members and participants highlighted best practices for remote work, and identified many of the challenges facing members and staff while teleworking.

A number of the recommendations reflect these conversations, and were crafted in response to feedback from congressional staff and the committee members’ colleagues in Congress.

“Especially when facing a crisis, Congress needs to be working effectively and efficiently to get the job done for our constituents,” said Chair Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Vice Chair Tom Graves, R-Ga. in a joint statement.

“These recommendations bring more certainty to our operations and will help the legislative branch continue operating at its best for the American people,” they said.

The new newly endorsed recommendations are:

  1. Each office should have a continuity of operations plan, including minimum safety requirements and an emergency communications plan, that is made available to all staff so offices continue functioning for the public. 
  2. Ensure that staff have the most up-to-date technology and equipment to continue effectively working on behalf of constituents in the event of a disruption or emergency. 
  3. Establish regular maintenance plans for office technology, so the equipment and technology needed during remote operations and telework is functional. 
  4. Crisis communications guidelines for constituent communication, including outreach plans for extended telework periods, should be approved and shared with all member offices. 
  5. To help streamline casework requests and help constituents better access federal agencies and resources, the House should implement a secure document management system, and provide digital forms and templates for public access. 
  1. The House should prioritize the approval of platforms that staff need for effective telework, and each individual staff member should have licensed access to the approved technology.
  2. Committees should establish telework policies on a bipartisan basis.
  3. The House should make permanent the option to electronically submit committee reports.
  4. Expand the use of digital signatures for a majority of House business, including constituent communications. 
  1. Committees should develop bipartisan plans on how technology and innovative platforms can be best incorporated into daily work.
  2. A bipartisan, bicameral task force should identify lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and recommend continuity of Congress improvements.
  3. Continuity, telework and cybersecurity training should be given to all new members of Congress. 

The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress was created by an overwhelming bipartisan vote at the beginning of the 116th Congress, and tasked with producing recommendations on rules to promote a more modern and efficient Congress.

Since March 2019 the Select Committee has held 16 hearings, six virtual discussions, and numerous member and staff-level briefings and listening sessions to solicit ideas and recommendations for reforming the legislative branch. 

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