It's the Facebook Like for legislation.
It used to be that if you ran for Congress and lost, you’d have to crawl back to your opponent’s secure district and kiss your chance at legislating goodbye. With luck and enough money, you might try again next time.
But that’s all changed. Now, even the least electable candidate can have a say in bills moving through Washington with a tool called Cosponsor.gov. A year in the works and launched late yesterday by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the website attempts to list all the bills the House is currently working on.
“You can search by title, sponsor or bill number,” Cantor wrote in a blog post announcing the site, “or browse issue areas and the tracker shows you exactly where the bill stands.”
By logging in with your Facebook credentials, you can “cosponsor” any bill on the site with a single click. Your profile photo then shows up on a list of fellow cosponsors (along with any actual cosponsors working on the Hill.) It’s a bit gimmicky, to be sure — using fancy lawmaker language to describe a simple upvote system that pushes more popular bills to the top of the list. Some of the bills still lack links to the actual legislation, a problem that Cantor spokesperson Rory Cooper said was in the process of being fixed. But as a way to get people more involved in policy, this isn’t a bad start.
Cosponsor.gov is supposed to showcase both Democratic and Republican legislation. For the moment, there seems to be more of the latter than the former; on Tuesday, all six of the featured bills that greeted users on the landing page were proposals from members of the House majority.
Currently leading the pack is the Border Security Results Act, an immigration-related measure introduced by Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. That idea already has some 200 cosponsors from the general public. But some select Democratic proposals are gaining traction, too. So far, about a dozen people have cosponsored Colorado congressman Jared Polis’ bill that would—what else?—legalize marijuana. Because of course. It's the Internet.