A Plan for the People’s House
Four Strategies to Reopen Congress and Restore America’s Voice
Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Recently, we called on Speaker Pelosi to establish a clear, safe, and effective plan for reopening the House of Representatives. This follows the White House and America’s governors releasing their own detailed plans for a phased reopening of society, and now, both the United States Senate and Democratic Speaker of the California State Assembly calling their members back into session.
In the interim, a bipartisan taskforce has been convened — on which we are all serving — to further explore ways in which Congress can operate during this challenging time. While differences remain, it has become clear through our initial meetings that all members of our taskforce share several fundamental beliefs.
First, the business of the People’s House is “essential work” that must not be sidelined or ground to a halt.
Second, there is intrinsic value in a Congress — a physical meeting of people and ideas — that should be dutifully guarded.
And third, any changes to centuries-old rules and precedents of the House should be done in a deliberate and bipartisan way.
As we enter this indeterminate period between outright mitigation and a return to normalcy, everyone recognizes that our typical ways of doing business will need to adjust. Simply put, Congress will look and feel different.
However, we believe there is a pathway forward that enables the House to fully perform its key functions without compromising our shared values or sacrificing bedrock norms.
To that end, we offer four strategies that should form the basis of any plan to reopen Congress and restore America’s voice. These strategies are based on the advice of public health professionals, as well as guidance from parliamentary experts with decades of combined House experience.
We believe embracing this approach would achieve the necessary balance between health and institutional concerns — and hopefully build a more resilient and productive legislative branch in the process.