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House moves to electronic filing of bills and floor documents to reduce staffing during pandemic

Staffers would submit documents to ‘secure email system,’ instead of delivering by hand

A House staffer writes out the names of various lawmakers to mark spots on the ground in an effort to follow social distancing measures before a March 27 bill enrollment ceremony for the coronavirus stimulus package.
A House staffer writes out the names of various lawmakers to mark spots on the ground in an effort to follow social distancing measures before a March 27 bill enrollment ceremony for the coronavirus stimulus package. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Monday that the House is moving to require the electronic submission of documents related to floor action as an effort to “reduce the physical presence of Members and staff in the Capitol.”

Starting Tuesday, all floor documents, “including bills, resolutions, co-sponsors and extensions of remarks,” will be submitted to a “secure email system,” the California Democrat wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter.

The move would comply more closely with current social distancing recommendations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by reducing in-person interactions among House staffers.

The electronic filing mandate will replace, for now, the existing system that requires staff to deliver these documents by hand to staff in the Speaker’s Lobby or Democratic and Republican cloakrooms.

Clerks, parliamentarians and doorkeeper staff are all on-hand whenever the House is in session, even for just brief pro forma sessions. With many House lawmakers encouraging or requiring their staff to work remotely, the in-person filing system likely required staff to come to Capitol Hill just for that task, when they could have otherwise stayed home.

Members stuck in Washington would still be permitted to drop off materials in person, Pelosi said.

The policy is expected to be in place through April 19, but Pelosi said it may be extended “if continued disruption of House operations remains necessary due to the pandemic.” In-person submissions will resume when the House returns to the Capitol for regular legislative business, she added.

It is not yet clear when the House will reconvene for legislative action, but the chamber is routinely holding pro forma sessions during the pandemic.

Electronic document submissions will be accepted when the House is in pro forma session and for 15 minutes before and after. The next pro forma sessions are scheduled for Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. and Friday at 9 a.m.

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