The Hill on The Net
Electronic Update #16


Ever since Congress first began turning up online several years ago, one seemingly obvious question about members has often proven difficult to locate; how did my Senator/Representative vote on X? If you knew what you were looking for, it was possible to dig the results of a recorded vote out of an online version of the Congressional Record, but this was cumbersome at best. Some excellent independent sites such as Project Vote Smart have helped to fill the gap, but finding votes from Congress itself was difficult if not impossible. But that is beginning to change. Last December the House of Representative began making Roll Call votes available on the House home page, and the Senate followed suit in February.

House Roll Call Votes

Senate Roll Call Votes

Project Vote Smart

As Congressional home pages mature and develop, new material of a different type has begun to turn up on some member home pages. Certainly a members web should first be certain to provide information about that members legislative work and constituent services, but it can also provide useful historical or educational material.

Two recent examples from Dakota Senators provide good examples. Senator Byron Dorgan and the Library of Congress have created an online exhibition about the North Dakota portion of the Lewis & Clark expedition to commemorate the upcoming bicentennial of the journey. And Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, with the assistance of the Senate Historical Office, has created a timeline which provides biographical and historical information about each South Dakota Senator who has proceeded him in his Senate seat (full disclosure: I had something to do with both of these sites, but I'd still think they were cool if I hadn't).

Lewis & Clark in North Dakota - Senator Byron Dorgan

South Dakota in Senate History - Senator Tom Daschle

Looking for the answer to some obscure question about Congress, its members, and how it functions? It can be a confusing place even for those who have been on the Hill for years. When I'm looking for such an answer, there is one place I turn to first, C-SPAN's Capitol Questions. C-SPAN's Resident Congressional Scholar, Ilona Nickels, responds to queries such as; What's the difference between an adjournment and a recess? and What is "the hopper" and where is it located? The answers are in plain english and succeed at clearing the fog of confusion that swirls around Congress and its often arcane methods. New questions are answered weekly, and previous responses are archived and searchable, making this a resource that becomes more and more valuable over time.

C-SPAN's Capitol Questions


Last November, in Update #14, I wrote about how the Clerk of the House had hung a sign where retired Representative Susan Molinari's home page had previously been. At the time I pointed out that Vito Fosella had won the election to represent New York's 13th Congressional District, and pondered how long it would take him to re-open the district's online office. Well Vito has turned up in the House's "What's New?" listing on April 2.

Is a four month wait unreasonably long to wait for a freshman to open their online doors? Stay tuned after election day to see if incoming members of the 106th Congress are any quicker.

Representative Vito Fossella (NY-13)

In Update #1 back in June 1996 I wrote about the newly formed Congressional Internet Caucus, a bi-partisan, bi-cameral organization that seeks to promote the education and use of the Internet and Internet related issues among members of Congress. Caucus members ship has doubled from 50 to 100 members since then, and recently a remodeled home page (hosted by the Advisory Committee) was unveiled at a new address of its own.

Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus

That's all for now!



Copyright 1998 by Chris Casey

Electronic Updates #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 ,#8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15 & #17.

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