Every two years, a new session of Congress begins flush with promises and renewed legislative vigor. This year, the 112th Congress dawns with a new House majority for Republicans, who are vowing to refocus on cutting government spending, create jobs and undo much of President Obama’s accomplishments of the past two years.
And you won’t need C-SPAN to watch it all unfold.
On Wednesday, House Republicans will stream the opening session of the 112th Congress on their Pledge to America Facebook page, a move that GOP leaders are billing as a down payment on a new era of governing in the public eye through Web-enabled technology.
Nick Schaper, the digital media advisor to incoming House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), said today’s event will mark the first time that the opening session of Congress has been streamed live on Facebook, writing in a blog post that the social networking hub provides a forum “where visitors can interact and discuss the event with others, and offer feedback directly to elected representatives.”
The festivities begin at noon, when members will be sworn in, and Boehner is expected to win the speakership in a unanimous vote.
The GOP’s new-media push won’t end there, as party leaders are advancing an effort to revise House rules to require all committee hearings and markup sessions to be streamed live over the Web. Additionally, the GOP leadership is asserting that all bills should be posted online in searchable format at least three days prior to a vote.
“No longer will bills be dropped in the middle of the night, then voted on the next day,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the Republican Transition Team, wrote in an op-ed in Politico.
While the chasm between the two parties’ governing philosophies stretches wide, the GOP’s renewed focus on using the Web to engage with the public and bring a new level of transparency to the mechanics of government recalls the populist message Obama rode into the White House two years ago. As a candidate, Obama made similar pledges to use government websites and new media tools to shine a light on government, including a pledge to post all bills online before signing them into law.
But that promise, like other administration new media efforts, has come under fire from critics who have complained that the White House tech team has talked more about transparency than it has delivered.
Nevertheless, the administration has greatly expanded the Web presence of the executive branch through an array of new sites, dashboards and other interactive tools aimed at bringing more government data online, including logs of all visitors to the White House.
Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.