Why Can’t Congress Telecommute?


Via Ezra Klein, Michelle Cottle reports that, nowadays, members of Congress are expected to maintain homes in their districts and keep their spouses and children there, so as not to appear “out of touch” with the constituents. Naturally, this places a strain on the family life, since it’s difficult to constantly shuttle between the Capitol and the home district all the time. The geographic split also forces Congress to shorten its legislative calendar to three days a week, so that representatives can race home to campaign and fundraise and maybe catch up with the kids. Everyone involved is miserable.

Well, here’s a radical idea. Technology can do a lot of cool things these days. Among them is teleconferencing. I see no reason why every single member of Congress can’t just live in his or her respective district all the time and telecommute to work. They can ask insipid questions at committee hearings and avoid reading lengthy bills just as easily from afar as they can from Washington. This way, they can spend more time with their constituents and their families. And as an added bonus, it would make things much more difficult for lobbyists, who would have to fly to 435 different districts to do their dirty work.

As a triple bonus, if we had publicly-financed elections, representatives could spend even less time fundraising and spending hours on the phone with potential donors, and could spend even more time with their families. Sounds good to me.

UPDATE: Hmm… this could be harder than I thought. Apparently there’s a rather insidious anti-teleconferencing bias lurking in Washington: “Nearly two-thirds of U.S. government employees haven’t been allowed to telecommute even after the U.S. Congress has established penalties for agencies that don’t allow telework options, according to a survey released this week.”

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