Congressional telework pros and cons

The Conversation: FCW's reporters and editors respond to your comments.

Rep. Steve Pearce

Rep. Steve Pearce would like to see members of Congress working from their home districts more, Washington less.

A commenter who dubbed him- or herself "earth" had some thoughts on the question of whether Congress and congressional staff members could do their jobs from their home districts. Earth wrote: It might get some research and development done on telepresence, but the security involved in ensuring [that] 400+ home offices haven't been taped, lines are secure, etc. seems daunting.

With everyone in the same room, the Chinese have a somewhat more difficult problem and security has a significantly less work. So committees, particularly those related to "national interests", are either less secure or much more costly.

If they map out each and every workflow and work out the full costs involved so an actual cost cost/benefit analysis can be examined, then a reasonable solution could be found. (Including full security controls.) Want to bet that is part of the bill? Want to bet they have even identified every workflow in Congress? I suspect Capitol Hill is a monument to ad hoc processes.

Adam Mazmanian responds: It's not just the elected Members who would be affected -- a virtual Congress would dramatically alter the way the legislative branch functions because of the effect on staffers. To go by the text of his resolution, Rep. Steve Pearce seems to think that staffers don't spend enough time in their home districts.

It's probably safe to say that few staffers would agree. Congress is kept running by legions of largely anonymous, poorly-paid young staffers who are building careers in government and legislative affairs, and may not have much if any attachment to the home districts of the representatives and senators who employ them. These staffers write legislation, interact with officials in the federal bureaucracy, assist key oversight duties, in addition to responding to constituent concerns.

Mapping these functions to district offices would completely change the way business is done on Capitol Hill. It also might make government service a less appealing career option for young people who view Washington, D.C. as the white-hot center of political universe.

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