Rep. John Culberson is member of Congress who understands what’s happening on the Web today. He’s a congressman who is on twitter, and he uses the medium effectively. That is, he does not use twitter just as a vehicle to push blog posts (or has a staffer tweet for him), but engages in conversations and gives a great glimpse on his daily activities.
It’s refreshing to see a member of Congress who personally tweets updates about his work as a legislator, often from the House Floor. We love that he talks specifically about bills being considered in real time so we know how he is going to vote on a pending bill and why.
He agrees that we need more transparency about the work of Congress and thinks “the darkest and deepest hole in Congress” is the House floor. I learned that after @johnculberson engaged in an twitter conversation with Sunlight’s Communications Director @stereogab. She had tweeted about the APME earmarks series, to which he replied that he was one of the first members of Congress to disclose his earmark requests on his Web site.
He later brought up many good points highlighting how there ought to be more transparency on the House Floor, stating:
Major bills like Farm Bill, Iraq War funding bill were written in total secrecy by a handful of people and then filed the night before floor vote w no comm hearing, and then floor amendments are either prohibited or limited…Why not create a Sunshine Index for every day the House is in session? For every bill – how much time between bill filing and floor debate? Was there a Comm hearing? Amendments allowed in comm or on floor? How many? How much debate time? How many pages long is the bill? How much money does it spend? This is where Democracy is being killed every day – on the floor.
We’ve been working on spreading Sunlight on the House and are pleased that one of the collaborators on the Open House Google Group created the House Floor twitter account based on updates on the Web site of the Clerk of the House.
But, Rep. Culberson is onto something. More needs to be done. Bills certainly should not be written in secret. We even think all bills should be posted online for 72 hours before they voted on. There’s currently a House resolution that would require that. Perhaps Rep. Culberson would want to support that resolution?