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Remember the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and its language "affirming" the military's power to indefinitely detain anyone, including U.S. citizens, without charge or trial? Well, the 2013 NDAA bill begins its journey through the legislative process tomorrow morning in the House Armed Services Committee; take a look at what power they'll be trying to affirm for the Defense Department this time around:

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The Week Ahead in Congress

May 7, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

Remember the harsh budget trigger the government was supposed to face as a reprecussion of the deficit supercommittee's epic failure? Yeah, well, Congress this week is going to start working on a way to avoid that. Under a series of bills to be voted on in the House this week, the budget trigger would be revised to eliminate $600 billion in scheduled defense cuts over the next decade and increase cuts to social programs. According to the AP, one quarter of the new spending cuts would "come from programs directly benefiting the poor, such as Medicaid, food stamps, the Social Services Block Grant, and a child tax credit claimed by working immigrants."

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After indicating that they may veto the House's cybersecurity bill (CISPA) over privacy concerns, the Obama Administration is reaffirming its support for a competing cybersecurity bill in the Senate, the Lieberman-Collins "Cybersecurity Act of 2012." Problem is, the Lieberman-Collins bill is nearly as bad on privacy as CISPA.

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CISPA Rushed to Passage

April 27, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

In a snap vote last night, the House of Representatives passed the controversial Cyberintelligence Sharing and Protection Act, more commonly known as CISPA. The final roll call was 248-168, with most of the Republicans voting in favor and most of the Democrats voting against.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

April 16, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

With taxes fresh on everyone's mind, Congress is returning from a two-week recess today and will immediately begin voting on a series of partisan tax bills. The first vote, which will be in the Senate, is the Democrats' so-called "Buffet Rule" that would ensure that people who earn more than $1 million per year pay an effective 30 percent tax rate. That vote -- technically on defeating a GOP filibuster on the motion to proceed -- will take place this afternoon.

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April 12, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

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.

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Can you help us out?

April 3, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

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!

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The Week Ahead in Congress

March 26, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

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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Affordable Health Care Act under SCOTUS review

March 26, 2012 - by David Moore

(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 trailnews & blog coveragepublic 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

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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.

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Republicans Not Giving Up on Birth Control Issue

March 2, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

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.

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Take the 12-Q OC User Survey

March 2, 2012 - by David Moore

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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The Week Ahead in Congress

February 28, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

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.

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Dems Re-Intro Super PAC Disclosure Bill

February 21, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

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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Help OpenCongress Fundraise (Not-For-Profit)

February 16, 2012 - by David Moore

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. 

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