Marci Harris, Claire Abernathy, and Kevin Esterling at Brookings:
The chaos surrounding Congress’s switch to remote work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare weaknesses of Congress’s technical procedures and infrastructure, from its inability to hold hearings by video or to conduct remote voting, to the absence of policies and appropriate technology to enable staff to work from home. As is often the case, necessity has proven to be the mother of invention—the COVID-19 pandemic required Congress to experiment with new technology and procedures, accelerating innovation, toppling past obstacles, and, ultimately, jump-starting modernization efforts.
One of the most significant illustrations of congressional actions regarding the evaluation, decision-making, and deployment of technology for its own operations has been the question of remote committee proceedings. Committees began experimenting with virtual or hybrid fora and roundtables. The first bipartisan convening was held by the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs on April 28 and followed by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on April 30. The Senate held the first official hybrid hearing on May 5 in Senate Banking, and the House changed its rules on May 15 to enable committees to hold virtual committee hearings and markups.