The National Journal’s Tech Daily Dose blog explains:
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles Schumer and ranking member Bob Bennett took a large but simple step this week toward modernizing the way the chamber provides information about roll call votes by instructing the Secretary of the Senate to embrace XML format.
The change will allow the public to use computers to search, sort, and visualize Senate voting records in new ways and the costs associated with the transition are minor, said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who has championed the effort. By moving forward on XML, Schumer and Bennett are helping to increase Senate transparency and accountability, DeMint said in a statement. In a letter last week to the Rules Committee leaders, DeMint pointed out the existing policy was implemented because "senators want to provide their voting records to their constituents themselves. The idea that the Senate would intentionally hamstring the distribution of roll call votes so Senators could put a better spin on them is concerning," he wrote. "The public is capable of interpreting our votes on its own." For a number of years, the House has provided roll call votes to the public in a format that allows them to be easily read, processed, and shared.