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The current U.S. Congress is broken and corrupt. By broken, we mean the un-democratic rules of the U.S. Senate have crashed the system. By corrupt, we don't mean one party or another -- the ethics of the institution itself have crumbled in the wave of money in politics. We're working to fix it, as part of the reform community. And we have a good start, but there's a lot yet to do.

For us, it all comes down to this basic point: transparency, and only total transparency, breeds public trust. Click through to see examples and successful use cases of how people have used OpenCongress over the past year for greater transparency in our government and to get involved with Congress on the issues of health care reform, financial reform, and unemployment benefits. Then, please support our non-profit work with a tax-deductible donation.

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Congress Links

July 29, 2010 - by David Moore

Congress Links for Thursday, July 29th - to be continually updated over the day. Senate Democrats call for fillibuster reform. (CBS News) Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) faces ethics charges around 1pm ET today: latest news and blog coverage on him from around the Web, aggregated here on OC. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee unsure if hearing over New Start arms treaty with Russia will occur. (NY Times, and Associated Press). Congress passed S. 1789 -Fair Sentencing ...

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Announcing Our First-Ever Donation Drive

July 28, 2010 - by David Moore

For the first time ever, we're asking for your donation to keep OpenCongress up and running.

OpenCongress is a non-profit project leading the fight for open and accountable government. We provide OpenCongress as an independent public resource, 100% free and open-source.

If you believe in transparent government, please support our work with a tax-deductible donation. With your help, we'll keep fixing what's broken with Congress: Donate Now.

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Congress Links

July 28, 2010 - by Moshe Bildner

Despite growing concern about Afghanistan triggered by the WikiLeaks' release of classified documents, Congress has passed an appropriations bill for the war there.  Republicans have so far been successful in filibustering the DISCLOSE Act, and Democrats introduced a bill that would lift the liability cap for oil companies pay for oil spills. All this and more in today's edition.

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The Vast Majority of Bills Go Nowhere (Encore)

July 27, 2010 - by David Moore

Earlier today we noticed a slight uptick in attention (esp. on the Twitter micro-publishing service) on a particular bill: H.R. 5741, the Universal National Service Act, introduced July 15th, 2010 and sponsored by Rep. Rangel (D-NY), with three official actions and zero cosponsors.

Some commentators have taken to comparing this bill to "slavery", which is inappropriate, and we wanted to add a corrective note of empirical context. It's important to watchdog Congress, but not with overheated rhetoric and misinformation. Yes bills can have hugely important public policy implications, yes we need total transparency and lots more public engagement with our government, but not at the expense of polluting the discussion with hysterical fearmongering and conspiracy theories. Please click through to see the crucial points, about this bill and others like it, made by our experienced blogger Donny Shaw from last year around this time: The Vast Majority of Bills Go Nowhere.

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Congress Links

July 27, 2010 - by Moshe Bildner

Yesterday, Congress reacted to WikiLeaks' release of classified documents, Democrats made a push to break the Republican filibuster of the DISCLOSE Act, and the heat has gone up on illegal immigration, even as the numbers of immigrants has fallen. Plus, pictured at right, we have explanations of how an ethics trial for Rep. Rangel would work -- see his profile, wiki, official House videos, and latest news coverage from all around the Web. All this and more, click on through.

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The Week Ahead

July 26, 2010 - by Moshe Bildner

Here's a look ahead on some major issues facing Congress: campaign finance reform, energy reform, and immigration. On the first topic of fair elections, the DISCLOSE Act appears likely to be passed by the Senate this week. The future of the other two isseus is much less certain. On energy, if bipartisan support can be reached, then Sen. Reid's forthcoming new energy bill has a chance of becoming law. On immigration, observers are coming to consensus that comprehensive reform has little chance of passing before the November midterms -- but there's still lots happening on this important issue. Click through for more details and links to news coverage.

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Congress Links

July 26, 2010 - by Hilary Worden

Taxes are expected to be a major point of contention in September, Sen. Reid seeks to change filibuster rules, and the first House Democrat calls for Rep. Charlie Rangel's resignation over his recent ethics charges. All this and more in today's Congress Links.

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On Friday I wrote about a vote in the Senate on an amendment to the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act that sets up the bill for a successful vote on final passage next week. Senate Republicans have been opposing a provision in the bill to create a $30 billion small business lending fund because, they say, it's too similar to the TARP big-bank bailout program that was pushed through Congress by the Bush Administration in 2008. But on Thursday evening, Senate Democrats, with the help of a couple wayward Republicans, were able to secure passage of an amendment to keep the small-business fund in the bill.

So, naturally, I wanted to compare Thursday's vote on the small business lending fund with the 2008 vote on TARP itself. As it turns out, a total of 22 senators voted both in favor of the TARP program, which leant $700 billion to the big banks to do pretty much whatever they want, and agains the small business lending fund, which would lend $30 billion to small banks to loan to small businesses for the purposes of creating jobs. Here's the list:

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Dems Moving on Jobs Legislation

July 23, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

After passing the unemployment relief bill, the Senate this week finally made some progress on what will probably be the final job-creation measure to be considered this year -- the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010.

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As you all probably know by now, President Obama has officially signed the unemployment extension bill into law, sending it the state unemployment offices for them to begin implementing. The bill extends unemployment insurance benefits for people who have been jobless for more than 6 months until November 30th. It will also pay benefits back retroactively for the more than 2.5 million people who have had their payments cut off since Congress let extended unemployment benefits expire on June 2nd.

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Congress Links

July 22, 2010 - by Moshe Bildner

Congress passes a major financial regulations overhaul and extends unemployment insurance for a fourth time; BP increased its lobbying spending to $1.7 million, and Republicans launch a Tea Party Caucus. All this and more in today's Congress Links.

On the major bill to extend unemployement benefits, H.R. 4213, here are some resources to keep you up-to-date: the most-recent votes available to us, latest news coverage, latest blog coverage, latest user comments, most-helpful user comments, wiki summary... and let us know your questions :: writeus at opencongress d0t org.

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Organizing Around Unemployment Online

July 21, 2010 - by Hilary Worden

Yesterday, friend-of-OpenCongress Micah Sifry penned an interesting & thoughtful piece on his blog on TechPresident: "How the Internet Organizes the Unemployed".

We're grateful the article prominently mentions OpenCongress -- more importantly, the organic community of concerned & engaged people that has emerged around the unemployment extensions bill (and our Benefit Wiki project). Click through for summaries and a handy list of links to all the free resources OpenCongress offers about the bill.

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Congress Links + Unemployment Benefits

July 21, 2010 - by David Moore

Elena Kagan gets approved by The Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Schumer (D-NY) is rated the most active member of Congress. House and Senate Dems go back-and-forth over the delay of the food safety bill.  And President Obama urges Congress for legislation on equal pay for women. Not to mention the major unemployment bill (H.R. 4213), which is of course our most-commented-on and most-tracked bill by users over the past month.

For all the best info: peruse the bill's latest news and blog coverage from around the Web, see the highest-rated user comments, visit our community-generated Benefit Wiki project to better understand how it affects your state, read our helpful past coverage of the bill's long journey, and send us your questions: writeus at opencongress dot org.  All this and more in today's roundup of links on Congress.

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UPDATE, 9:45 p.m.: I'm traveling, so a little late with the updates here, but it looks like this finally passed earlier this evening by a vote of 59-39. The bill now moves back to the House of Representatives for one more vote. They are expected to hold that vote tomorrow and the bill will most likely be signed into law tomorrow as well.

UPDATE, 5:45 p.m.: The Senate is voting right now on 5 Republican amendments to the bill and will vote on final passage of the bill after these votes. None of the amendments are expected to pass. Under Senate rules, the final vote on passage must happen before 9 p.m. this evening. You can follow along with the votes live on C-SPAN 2.

Original post below...

After 6 weeks of failure and delay, the Senate this afternoon finally voted to end a Republican filibuster of the unemployment insurance extension bill, allowing it to move forward towards final passage and becoming law. The Senate still has to take one more vote on the bill, but the motion they passed this afternoon was the big hurdle that, until now, they had been unable to overcome. The bill is now virtually guaranteed to be signed into law this week.

Read the rest of this post for everything you need to know on what's in the bill, what isn't, and what happens next on its journey towards becoming law.

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