Face Time

December 1, 2020  • Institute Staff

In the pre-Covid world, most Thursday mornings the Institute’s Congressional Program would host a bipartisan gathering of members of Congress, who would trickle in for an hour of lively discussion on the week’s topic. But in March, the program scrambled to temporarily redefine a Capitol Hill institution that has served members of Congress for more than 600 breakfasts over 30 years. It joined the rest of the world to go where it never thought it could: digital. The move didn’t come without challenges—notably, navigating the mute button—but the program has seen glimpses of the bright side. With time-deprived members now able to log in from anywhere at a moment’s notice, more members, new faces, and a wider variety of perspectives have joined the conversation. In the first digital breakfast alone, there were double the average number of participants, with 34 members tuning in. These forums are particularly useful for those looking to stay sharp on ever-evolving Covid-19 scholarship. Members have discussed how to apply the public policy of past crises to Covid-19, the virus’s effect on the US-China relations, stories from an emergency-room doctor on the front lines of a New York hospital, and a mayor’s struggle to manage economic impact. Until Covid-19 is an issue of the past, the Congressional Program will remain off the record even as it goes online.