Bipartisan Effort to Give U.S. Senate E-Transparency

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.

Immigration Reform: Yes or No in 2009

President Obama surprised many a few weeks ago by tossing immigration reform back onto the long list of priority issues for 2009.

There is no doubt that the topic, and any potential solutions, belongs at the federal level. Will something be accomplished in this year of stimulus, spending, proposed health care and environmental reform, and much more? I believe not, but that is yet to be seen.

Charles Schumer (D-New York), immigation subcommittee chairman for the Senate Judiciary panel, plans to get the ball rolling this week with a hearing to try and determine the feasibility of legislation to give the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

Supporters want the effort to resume full force in the fall. Opponents cite the difficult economic times and not wanting immigrants taking hard-to-find jobs from others.

Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan is expected to testify this week, looking at the economic impact of the legislation.