A functioning national legislature has never been more necessary. America’s executive branch has proved itself unwilling or unable to mount a timely or effective response to an unprecedented health crisis that has already killed more than 30,000 Americans, infected at least half a million, and left millions more without jobs. The most important remedy available to Americans—removing the failed government by free elections, now just months away—is equally in jeopardy, absent critical increases in funding for both the federal post office and state election authorities to support voting by mail. And yet, Congress is not functioning at all. It has announced its determination to remain in recess until May 4 if not longer, at least 53 of its members are already infected or in isolation, and it has no credible plan to operate remotely. The prospect that Congress will be incapable of fulfilling its most basic duty to “provide for the common defense” is today frighteningly real.
Congress’s failure to have plans in place for the pandemic crisis America now faces is not excusable. The calamities of recent decades, including the attacks of September 11, 2001, have produced multiple calls for more rigorous continuity-of-operations plans for Congress, and several detailed proposals for how to carry on in an emergency. Multiple other countries and at least a dozen U.S. state legislatures have already implemented remote-voting procedures during the pandemic. Even the Supreme Court has embraced remote oral arguments for its upcoming cases. Indeed, Congress itself recessed last month with resolutions related to remote-voting capabilities pending in both the House and the Senate.