Members of Congress should get back to work

May 28, 2021
In The News

Over the past year, millions of people learned how to work, go to school, and “socialize” from their living rooms, and sadly, 200,000 businesses permanently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. For months, we waited with bated breath as Operation Warp Speed spurred vaccine development and began distribution at a record pace.

We were promised by our top doctors and scientists that once a vaccine was available, our nation would return to normal. Now, with the vast majority of Congress members and staff fully vaccinated, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi still refuses to end the harmful practices of proxy voting and remote committee hearings and remains defiant on masks on the House floor. These practices may have once been helpful, but thanks to countless doctors and scientists, we now have ample access to safe vaccines that effectively protect those who choose to take them.

Pelosi has admitted that at least 75% of Congress has been fully vaccinated, and the vaccines are available for free for any adult in America. How can Congress credibly encourage people to get back to work when members of Congress are unwilling to do their jobs? The U.S. House of Representatives must be open to the public, and its members must be together, in-person, to show the country that the time to get back to work is now.

The message is necessary. Recent reports from the Department of Labor revealed that while there were 8.1 million job openings at the end of March, unemployment rose to 6.1% in April. The National Federation of Independent Business recently said that 44% of small-business owners were unable to fill job openings in April, the highest level on record since the 1970s.

Congress should be leading by example. That is why I led a letter with every member of the House Republican leadership and every House committee ranking member asking Pelosi and Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to follow the science. Over the last year, we were consistently given the directive to “follow the science.” Now, when the science doesn’t match her talking points, Pelosi decides to ignore it.

It is easy to see why. Proxy voting consolidates Pelosi’s power. Proxy voting extends votes to several hours, which limits voting options and debate time, especially harming the minority party. Pelosi is presiding over one of the most closed Congresses in history, in which debate is stifled, and members are kept from working together on the House floor. Continued fidelity to unscientific COVID-19 procedures looks far more political than practical. It has created less time for members to speak to each other, meet with constituents and stakeholders, and get down to the work of governing the nation.

I have heard the argument that proxy voting and remote committee hearings are signs Congress is finally getting with the times, but these methods have significant downsides. When members of Congress are unable to look each other in the eyes and speak to each other in person, debate is not as effective, policies become more one-sided, and the country suffers. Retreating to our ideological and geographical corners ensures the growth of partisanship.

Pelosi has said that every eligible person should receive the vaccine, and she’s suggested the House would return to normal procedures when the public health threat was contained. I agree with her. Millions of people are returning to their workplaces, their houses of worship, their schools, and their favorite restaurants. If those millions of fully vaccinated people can get back to work while following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance, there’s no reason Congress can’t as well. Pelosi’s House of Representatives should be no different than every other state, city, and business.

It is time to get back to work, and I hope to see every member of Congress on the first flight back to Washington, D.C., as soon as possible.