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Congress Adapts to its New ‘Normal’

The uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has required Congress to develop new and innovative ways of conducting business. The House has adopted rules that allow virtual committee work, including hearings and markups, as well as proxy voting for members of Congress who are unable to travel to Washington, D.C. for in-person voting. Although the Senate has not adopted the same rules and continues to conduct its business in person, social distancing and live-streamed committee work have become standard operating procedures.

There is limited or no public access to House and Senate office buildings, meaning only congressional members and staff are allowed. These limits have dramatically altered interaction with Congress. NATCA’s Government Affairs staff members are continuing our advocacy and outreach virtually, by holding meetings with members of Congress and their staff through phone calls or video calls until the Capitol re-opens to visitors. NATCA’s Government Affairs staff also have been tuning into all virtual committee work relevant to NATCA members and the National Airspace System.

The congressional schedule continues to be modified as a result of the pandemic. Congress faces a slew of deadlines for must-pass legislation before the end of the year, including the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), fiscal year 2021 appropriations bills, as well as surface transportation (more on this later in this update) and water reauthorization measures. The Senate also continues to advance and confirm judicial nominees. As the calendar inches closer to the November election, significant amount of time in late summer and early fall will be reserved for “District Work Periods.”