We live in the digital age. We expect to be able to do most of our communication through the Internet, while also being able to find almost anything we want to know from the Internet. We have access to all legislative bill information from Congress.gov or THOMAS.gov. Now we have another to add to the list of Websites geared to bring transparency to the legislative process. CoSponsor.gov is a new endeavor brought to you by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
If you understand the legislative process, you know that in the past a member of Congress would have to go around and ask his or her colleagues for support of a piece of legislation. The 21st century version of this is Cosponsor.gov. Majority Leader Eric Cantor launched this Website back in June 2013, and it allows individual citizens to "cosponsor" legislation.
Cosponsor.gov includes legislation that has been introduced by a member of Congress. Individuals can go in and search the legislation and add their sponsorship for legislation they agree with. Even though the Majority Leader launched this Website, this Website is about both Republican and Democrat bills that have been introduced in Congress. Right now if you visit the Website you will see that there are 4,208 bills to choose from to cosponsor.
When you visit the Website you have the ability to see bills listed by categories. The categories are Economy and Jobs, National Security, Working Families, Healthcare, Energy and Environment, American Leadership, Education and Workforce, and Science and Technology.
So if you click on "Economy and Jobs" you will see all the pieces of legislation on the site that pertain to that category. Then you can see the bill and the number of citizen sponsors. When you click on a bill it brings up the name of the bill, what congressional member introduced it and when, the number of congressional cosponsors, the number of citizen sponsors, and a summary of the current status of the bill. You also have the ability to see the complete bill. Additionally, you can follow the piece of legislation and/or cosponsor it. The site also allows the user to find bills depending on their status, such as Introduced, Referred to Committee, Passed Committee, and Passed House.
When interviewed by National Review concerning the role of the Website, Majority Leader Cantor had the following to say about the emphasis on the number of citizen cosponsors: "I don't think there's necessarily going to be a threshold, I think that it certainly will be one of the things that our Members, both Republican and Democrat, will be able to weigh in terms of how they look at particular issues and bills making their way through the process."
This Website has been a work in progress since Republicans took over the House in 2010. Their goal was to "facilitate online accessibility of information about legislation." So you should take the time to check out Cosponsor.gov and see how the House is working to increase transparency in government. Then if you feel like it you can choose to "cosponsor" some legislation while you explore the Website. Happy exploring!
Jennifer L. Crull is the IT Specialist for the Public Interest Institute in Mount Pleasant.