The Adaptation of Legislative Continuity in the U.S. House of Representatives during the COVID-19 Pandemic

About U.S. House of Representatives

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Written on September, 2020




The COVID-19 pandemic has brought numerous challenges to various institutions globally, including the U.S. House of Representatives. The House had to adapt quickly and implement changes to ensure the continuity of their legislative functions. This essay will examine three significant changes made during the pandemic: the introduction of eHopper, proxy voting, and the electronic submission of committee records.


eHopper: Revolutionizing Bill Submission


eHopper emerged as a necessary alternative to the traditional method of submitting bills and resolutions, which involved physically placing paper documents into a wooden box on the House floor. Launched on April 7, 2020, eHopper is a secure email-based system that allows members and staff to submit bills for introduction, constitutional authority statements, and additional co-sponsors electronically. This innovative solution, developed by a collaborative effort from more than 20 clerk staff across four divisions, has become increasingly popular among staff working remotely. Nearly 2,000 bills were introduced electronically between April and September 2020, prompting discussions of a more permanent eHopper solution.


Proxy Voting: Maintaining Representation Amidst Crisis


The second notable change during the pandemic was the implementation of proxy voting. House Resolution 965, passed on May 15, 2020, authorized remote voting by proxy for a period designated by the Speaker. To vote by proxy, members must submit a signed letter to the clerk, authorizing another member to vote on their behalf before the start of the vote. The designated member then seeks recognition from the Speaker and announces the vote on behalf of the absent member. Between May and September 2020, there were 69 votes with 2,658 proxy votes cast. The highest number of proxy votes recorded during a single vote was 72, while the lowest was 28.


Electronic Submission of Committee Records: Streamlining the Process


On May 20, 2020, the Clerk announced, pursuant to House Resolution 965, that committee staff could begin electronically submitting reported measures, accompanying committee reports, and files used to produce the reports. Previously, much of this information had to be delivered in hard copy format, so the electronic submission of committee reports, like bills and co-sponsors via the eHopper, is a departure from procedural norms. Clerk staff created a secure email dedicated to these submissions, along with a quick guide to electronic filing committee reports. The tally clerks received 79 reports electronically until September 2020, with most of these submissions occurring between May 20 and June 30, 2020.




In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated rapid adaptation and innovation to maintain legislative continuity in the U.S. House of Representatives. The introduction of eHopper, proxy voting, and the electronic submission of committee records exemplify how existing technologies can be employed to facilitate the legislative process during unprecedented times. These changes not only ensured the uninterrupted functioning of the House but also laid the foundation for potential long-term improvements to the legislative process.

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