The U.S. House of Representatives is more open and transparent than ever under Speaker John Boehner and the Republican majority. For the first time, legislative data is posted online in XML and in bulk; the House floor, committee hearings, and the Speaker’s public events are all streamed live online; earmarks are banned, there are more open debates on legislation, and much more. Here’s a quick look:
You can now watch the House floor (including debates and other events) on HouseLive.gov, committee hearings on thomas.LOC.gov, and the Speaker’s public events on Speaker.gov/Live. Each live stream is available on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. You can also search the video from the House floor.
READ THE BILL
One of the first acts of the new Republican majority in 2011 was to adopt rules requiring legislation to be posted online three days before a vote. This common-sense reform was part of the GOP Pledge to America. Bills to be considered can be read online at docs.House.gov.
Republicans renewed the landmark ban on earmarks for the 113th Congress. Speaker John Boehner called earmarks – which grew under both parties in the past – “a symbol of a Congress that has broken faith with the people,” and described banning earmarks as a “critical step to restore public trust.”
The Republican majority has considered 28 bills (so far) under an open process where all lawmakers have a chance to participate. Zero bills – yes, zero – were considered under an open process during the last Democratic-controlled Congress.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) launched a project giving Americans the chance to become “Citizen Cosponsors” and track legislation introduced in the House. The platform is built on Facebook's Open Graph and uses open data released by the House (see below). You can try it yourself at cosponsor.gov.
DOCS IN XML
The House adopted new electronic data standards to make legislative information available in machine-readable formats. On docs.House.gov you can find XML versions of bills to be considered and House committee documents (votes, bills, meeting notices, witness testimony, and more).
Bulk data makes it even easier to shine a light on Congress and follow the legislative process. So far, House legislation and bill summaries are available in bulk at GPO.gov, floor summaries are available at clerk.House.gov, available at and the entire US Code is available from the Office of Law Revision Counsel. Read more about House leaders’ commitment to bulk data and government transparency here.
AND MUCH MORE
- Low-cost video conferencing tools are now available for lawmakers to engage and keep in contact with their constituents;
- The House Administration Committee has hosted two Legislative Data and Transparency Conferences (photo here);
- Leader Cantor and Democratic Whip Hoyer hosted a “Hackathon” to explore “connections between legislative data, constituent correspondence, and social media”;
- The Library of Congress developed an app for the Congressional Record and unveiled beta.Congress.gov -- a new, robust “site for accessing free, fact-based legislative information”;
- And there’s more to come.