Dem resolution would let ‘mobile Congress’ cast votes from home

A freshman House Democrat filed a resolution Friday that would allow members of Congress to vote remotely on bills from their home districts. [watch video]

Rep. Eric Swalwell's (D-Calif.) proposal for a mobile Congress would amend House rules so lawmakers can take care of business using the latest communication technologies, including video conferencing.

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Swalwell, whose district is located just north of the heart of Silicon Valley, hopes the amendment will update how Congress works and allow lawmakers to spend more time at home with their constituents.

The resolution would create a secure, remote voting system so members could vote on bills that are being considered under a suspension of regular rules, meaning they require a two-thirds majority in the House to pass. The process is usually reserved for bills that are noncontroversial.

Additionally, the resolution would allow lawmakers and witnesses to participate in committee hearings held in Washington via videoconferencing technology. Rather than jetting back to Washington to attend a committee hearing, a House member could join the hearing with a tap of a button right from his or her district office.

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Swalwell, who at 32 is one of the youngest members of Congress, introduced the resolution along with Reps. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.).

“Companies and families across the country are using technology to communicate remotely. There is no reason that the legislative branch of the world's oldest democracy cannot do the same," said Swalwell in a statement. "Our bill will allow Members of Congress to work more efficiently and stay better connected to our constituents.  It’s time to upgrade Congress to the 21st century."

Pearce introduced a similar resolution this spring, which is aimed at creating a "virtual Congress." His resolution is intended to allow lawmakers to hold hearings, debate and vote on legislation virtually from their district offices.

The New Mexico Republican believes letting lawmakers work virtually from their districts would make lawmakers more accountable to their constituents, rather than corporate lobbyists.

Swalwell filed his resolution as members left town for the fourth of July recess.