March 21, 2006
Keeping your eye on Congress
I receive a lot of e-mails from various organizations asking me to write a letter to my congresswoman or senators supporting or denouncing some bill or another. I often like to do a bit of background on the bills and track them as they have amendments attached and work their way to the floor for a vote. After a bit of trial and error, I've come across three sites that complement one another nicely for the task of legislative research.
The first is a nice "straight from the horses mouth" site managed by the Library of Congress, called THOMAS. At THOMAS you can search the text of Senate and House of Representatives bills or browse the legislation sponsored by a particular congress person. The page for each bill contains a multitude of information: text, sponsors, amendments, committees, related bills, keywords for cross-referencing, and more.
If you are interested in not only whether the bill passed but who voted for and who voted against the bill, the key term to remember is "roll call." Roll call votes are published in the Congressional Record and can sometimes be hard to find. The easiest way to find the roll call for a particular bill is to find the bill's page in THOMAS and then click on "Major Congressional Actions" or "All Congressional Actions". For House bills, the key is to look for the links that begin with "Roll no." The link will take you the roll call of that vote kept by the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. For Senate bills, the key is to look for the links that begin with "Record Vote Number." These links will take you to the roll calls on the U.S. Senate Legislation & Records site.
The second useful bill-tracking site is GovTrack. GovTrack was started by Joshua Tauberer, a graduate student who set up the site as a pet project. While the site gets most of its information from THOMAS, it offers the added bonus of signing up for bill tracking services. Once you register, you can click on the Monitor button on any bill's page. GovTrack can send you daily or weekly updates of bill activity via e-mail. If you don't want to register, you can also track bills using the RSS and Atom feed links. Another nice feature is the Browse Bills by Subject page. I find it is sometimes easier to find something in the list of subjects rather than a simple keyword search, and the subject hierarchy often gives me a better idea of how to narrow down a search.
A final site I've found useful is citizenJoe. The site bills itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit group interested in highlighting national policy debates. The have a team of volunteer contributors from the liberal, conservative, and moderate camps. (FYI: they have an open call out for more conservative contriubtors -- see asterisk (*) at the bottom of the About Joe page.)
What I like about citizenJoe is the easy, bite-sized format. Their home page gives a synopsis of what's happening in Congress this week and highlights a current topic. The rest of the site is organized by issue: business, education, government, health, etc. These give a nice way to get an idea of the current bills in these areas. One thing I don't like about the site is the lack of a search feature. They point you to their site map instead.
Well, it looks like Congress is off this week, so maybe it's a good time to catch up on all that I missed.
September 23, 2005
House Republicans' "Operation Offset"
The Republican Study Committee, a group of over 100 U.S. House Republicans, has created a plan to offset disaster aid and redevelopment spending, called "Operation Offset", which is truly interesting reading (view PDF file here). It's actually quite well written -- each of the six sections begins with a line-item budget reduction amount and all items have a concise explanation. In this one simple document, these Republicans are stating what they believe in and what they consider not worthy enough to use taxpayer money for. I must say, I find it refreshing to have such a black-and-white plan signed, sealed, and delivered to the American public. I must also say that it confirms my reasons for not being a Republican. I'm hoping to dive into the document to greater depths this weekend, but here's a snippet from a Salon.com article on the subject: (Note: I know that many who may stumble upon this blog are graduate students, so I took the liberty to highlight the belt-tightening task assigned just for us...)
The Republicans would freeze funding for the Peace Corps, the Global AIDS Initiative, U.N. peacekeeping operations and a wide variety of third-world development programs; eliminate the EnergyStar program, eliminate grants to states and local communities for energy conservation, reduce federal subsidies for Amtrak, eliminate funding for new light-rail programs and cancel the president's hydrogen fuel initiative; eliminate state grants for safe and drug-free schools because "studies show that schools are among the safest places in the country and relatively drug free"; and eliminate the teen funding portion of Title X, which provides "free and reduced-price contraceptives, including the IUD, the injection drug Depo-Provera, and the morning-after pill" to poor teenagers.
Along the way, they'd find a way to punish -- or simply eliminate -- some of their enemies, real and imagined. They'd cut funding for the District of Columbia, eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, eliminate subsidized student loans for graduate students, terminate the Legal Services Corporation, eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and kill the National Endowment for the Humanities.
There are actually parts of the plan that I find some agreement with. Did you know these Republicans are acknowledging that the War on Drugs might be flawed? And they have a plan to encourage federal employees' use of mass transit and car-pooling, but it's not with a carrot (funding mass transit), it's with a stick (end free employee parking).
For those of you curious about how the other half thinks, so to speak, check out the plan compiled over at Think Progress.
May 13, 2005
Do you really think Hillary could do it?
Just finished reading this NYT story, Oddly, Hillary and, Yes, Newt Agree to Agree, and it got me thinking. Do you really think Hillary could go all the way to become president?
One the one hand, there's a lot of vehement loathing for her on the Republican side. That kind of hate, like many Democrats' hate of g. w., seems to have a life force of its own. It's going to be another very polarized election, and the conservatives' anti-Hillary rallying cry is sure to bring out lots of folks.
I have to admit, I never thought she walked on water like many liberal women did during the Clinton era -- and still do. But I've gotta tell ya, I'm a bit giddy at the thought of a liberal woman in the White House. (I'm sure my brother is having an apoplectic fit at this point -- sorry, D.)
How many other women feel this way, I wonder? Enough to put Hillary in the White House in '09?
Updated to bring you -- Bonus Round Questions! (thanks to Emily)
Q1: Do you think being a woman would make it harder or easier (or no difference) for her to win the Democratic nomination?
Q2: If nominated, do you think being a woman or being a liberal (or both, or neither) would be the biggest hindrance to winning the presidency?