The Republican House leadership of the 112th Congress has shown more of a commitment to opening up the inner workings of Congress than the leaderships of the recent past. They've liberaized the rules on what technologies members can use, improved live video offerings of floor activity, and created a new website for accessing the texts of some bills. But on the essential issue of making the raw data of Congress available to the public in a reliable, timely and systematic fashion, they have come up far short.Read Full Article Comments (13)
As we've mentioned before, we're working with a volunteer researcher, Brady Ambler, on a survey of OpenCongress users with the goal of improving the OC user experience and to generally help us make Congress more accessible. We're just about ready to start analyzing the data, but we need to talk to a few more site users to increase our sample size.
Do you have a few minutes to chat with Brady over the phone about how you use OpenCongress? We would really appreciate it. Just email bradyambler at gmail d0t com, and he'll get back to you to set up a convenient time to talk. Of course, we'll be sharing our findings publicly on this blog once we've wrapped this thing up. Thanks, all!Read Full Article Comments (17)
The big item on the agenda this week is the House Republicans' budget resolution for 2013. This is the Rep. Paul Ryan [R, WI] budget plan that you've probably been hearing about recently, and it's basically just a political statment of the Republican party's fiscal agenda.
The resolution calls for a range of tax cuts, new non-defense spending cuts beyond what Congress agreed to in the 2011 debt-ceiling deal, and a revamp of Medicare that includes an eventual increase in the age of eligibility. The lower tax rate on money earned from capitol gains would not be affected, which would mean that wealthy individuals would generally benefit more from the Ryan plan than middle-income and poor people. Below is a full look at the House schedule for the week.
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(Ed. - re-publishing this post from last week Monday.) You've likely heard this morning that SCOTUS is reviewing H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, i.e. the major health-care reform bill from the previous 111th U.S. Congress that was signed into law March 22nd, 2010. Full bill text (including most-commented sections), roll call results, money trail, news & blog coverage, public comments.
The relatively-under-appreciated (in my opinion) Memeorandum has the wide-ranging overview from blogs & news around the Webnet; the must-read-every-day Wonkblog by Ezra Klein et al chez WaPo brings (as expected & appreciated & admired) the accessible primer: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know About #hcr & SCOTUS.Read Full Article Comments (16)
A couple weeks ago, the House passed a bill that closes a security loophole to clarify in federal statute that it is a crime to trespass on White House property or any other federal property protected by the Secret Service. That's a relatively innocuous change in law, and it's probably just a response to the embarrassing White House party crashers incident back in 2009. But the bill also does something else that may have much broader implications, including an expansion of the government's ability to lock up protesters. It amends a long-standing law againt "willfully and knowingly" trespassing on restricted grounds without lawful authority so that criminal penalties can be applied in a case where a person "knowingly" trespasses. "Willfully" has been dropped from the law by the bill.Read Full Article Comments (29)
Despite losing a vote in the Senate yesterday, congressional Republicans are doubling down on their efforts to let employers to pick and choose which health services are covered by their insurance plans under the new health care law.Read Full Article Comments (28)
OpenCongress is working with Brady Ambler, a volunteer digital researcher here in NYC, on a user survey to help improve our site as a free public service.
It's 12 questions, so should take just ten minutes at most, and respondents are entered into a drawing to win a $100 gift card from Brady. Head over to Survey Monkey to run 'er down. More info after the jump.
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After a week of recess, Congress has come back into session with a relatively light schedule. The House has scheduled votes on a handful of non-controvesrial "suspension" bills, a bill to repeal some new Department of Education program integrity rules for colleges and universities, and a bill to pre-empt state environmental laws for a river in California. Meanwhile, the Senate may or may not resume working on the transportation authorization bill.Read Full Article Comments (24)
One of the best ways to understand why Congress does what it does is to follow the money. Take a look at which corporations and unions are donating to members of Congress who support their pet bills and you can start to see the networks of influence that partly control what legislation gets considered and how senators and representatives vote. Unfortunately, in our post-Citizens United v. F.E.C. world, following the money is becoming much more difficult. In the 2012 presidential contest, Super PACs, which do not have to publicly disclose where all of their money comes from, have officially overtaken candidate campaigns in election fundraising and spending. Any semblance of separation between Super PACs and campaigns has completely disappeared as well, meaning that the traditional, regulated and disclosed candidate campaign has basically been replaced by the unlimited, secretive Super PAC.
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The U.S. Congress is a baffling, closed-off institution. OpenCongress works every day to make its workings more accessible
Help us keep OpenCongress alive as a free & open-source public resource.
OpenCongress will launch a new fundraising drive next month and we need some volunteer web development time to make it happen. Click through to see how you can help.Read Full Article Submit a Comment
It’s not official yet, but it appears that Democrats and Republicans in Congress are on the verge of striking a deal on extending the payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance benefits. While the payroll tax holiday would be continued in its current form under the deal, the policies governing extended unemployment insurance for the would change significantly. Under the deal, long-term unemployed workers in most states would see their maximum length of benefits restricted, and they may face new drug testing and job retraining requirements to continue receiving benefits. Here are the details of the the deal as it currently stands, according to an outline obtained by CNN:Read Full Article Comments (46)
One of the things that became clear in Congress’ push to pass Hollywood’s web censorship bills is that powerful corporations and the federal government do not want the rule of law to apply on the internet. The attitude that our basic freedoms and legal protections are somehow not valid on the internet is partly just the kind of reaction you would expect from entrenched powers whenever new technologies emerge, but it’s also a response to the particular peer-to-peer features of the internet that threaten to make their key sources of power -- control of information flow -- less relevant.Read Full Article Comments (29)
Last month’s flurry of Stop-PIPA & Stop-SOPA online protests were an apex of activity for OpenCongress. Not only was January 18th, 2012 the single-highest day of traffic on OC since our launch in February 2007, but also the stop-PIPA action was in many ways the height of user engagement with active legislation in the U.S. Congress. The huge “Internet blackout” event on January 18th was OC’s single largest day of traffic, with over 250,000 visits and more than half a million pageviews (and likely would have been much higher if we could afford more servers and cloud-scaling ability to handle the traffic rush).Read Full Article Comments (16)
By a vote of 75-20, the Senate has given final passage to a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that would make it tougher for transportation workers to unionize. Under the bill, the National Mediation Board -- the agency that manages labor issues for the railroad and airline industries -- would not be allowed to call for an union election unless at least 50 percent of the employees of a company sign authorization cards requesting an election.Read Full Article Comments (21)
House Republicans are starting to find ways around the earmark moratorium they voted for last year. The latest example, according to the New York Times, comes in the form of the 2012 Army Corps of Engineers budget. Instead of the $533 million worth of earmarks they included in 2010, the 2012 budget sets aside $507 in 26 slush funds, along withe a set of guidelines for making sure the money goes to Congress' favorite pet projects.Read Full Article Comments (9)