Washington's only a mouse click away
Published 5:02 am Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Have you ever wanted to obtain copies of bills before Congress or learn how Members of Congress voted on them? Until the Internet came along, you'd have to wait for such information to be published and then you'd have to sift through many different periodicals to find it all. Nowadays, a PC and a modem are all you need to gain timely access to congressional voting schedules, copies of the Congressional Record, and to review lawmakers' votes.
Today, anyone with Internet access can click in to the House and Senate via a number of comprehensive government-run web sites. These sites are so useful that many who work in Washington monitoring congressional activity regularly utilize them. In fact, congressional staff, including my own, find them particularly helpful in tracking down the status of legislation.
There are two principal web sites I recommend to people seeking information about Congress. The first, www.clerkweb.house.gov or "Clerkweb," is a good overall site with lots of links to current and historical facts about the U.S. Capitol and the Congress. It is maintained by the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The second site, http://thomas.loc.gov or "Thomas," is a database for legislation before the House and Senate. It is run by the U.S. Library of Congress. In it you can search a bill by its title or description, see whether or not it has been voted on, and learn how lawmakers voted. You can click the bill's title for the bill's text and "Bill Summary and Status File" and "Bill Status" for its history. You can then click "Roll no #" for a breakdown of how lawmakers actually voted.
If you are a political junkie, teacher, or student, Clerkweb will be a fascinating portal into the structure of the Congress and its history. From this site, you can tour the House Chamber, review the congressional legislative calendar, see what the House is doing this week, and spring board onto other useful sites such as the Federal Register. Additionally, school children may find the Clerkweb site www.clerkkids.house.gov/ useful in preparation of assignments.
For those interested in learning more about the U.S. Capitol building, the Architect of the Capitol offers an excellent site: http://www.aoc.gov. In addition to tour and historical information about America's most famous town hall, it also sports information about the newly planned visitors center currently under construction.
The Federal government maintains several "catch-all" sites that are good places to start your search for U.S Government-related information: FirstGov (www.firstgov.gov/), an on-line clearinghouse of government services and information to Federal employees and citizens; and GovBenefits.Gov (govbenefits.gov) a gateway to an array of Federal benefits programs. I encourage citizens interested in their Federal government to visit these sites.
Speaking of helpful governmental sites, my congressional web site can be reached at www.house.gov/everett. I have a built-in email feature on my site that speeds up emails to me, and I offer links to important federal services as well as my regular press statements.
Congress and the federal government are now within the reach of a computer mouse click. For those with Internet access at home, at school or in the local library, I invite you to visit Washington on-line.