TBO.com: Tampa Bay Online.
Tuesday, Aug 23, 2016
Commentary

Phoning it in on taxpayers’ dime

An intriguing idea: Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) wants to create a “virtual Congress,” where lawmakers would leverage videoconferencing and other remote work technology to conduct their daily duties in Washington from their home districts. Under a resolution Pearce introduced on Thursday, lawmakers would be able to hold hearings, debate and vote on legislation virtually from their district offices. I have some doubts, though.
Although there would be certain benefits for constituents — the saving of money, for example, and more possible contact with the members of Congress — I also can see limitations this would bring. Telecommuting has become increasingly possible and demonstrably valuable. There’s nothing I do in my job that I can’t do just as well from home, except interact with people. That’s an important consideration for someone who expresses strong opinions about the public policy decisions some of those people make. I think it’s even more important for what is supposed to be a deliberative body. Every time they enact a law or make a decision on how to spend my money, I want to think it’s after they have thoroughly hashed it out with each other, giving and taking in a spirited debate. That process would be harder to accomplish if everyone were just phoning it in between breakfast on the patio and trips to the hardware store.