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House Republicans' "Citizen Cosponsor" Lets Anyone Support Any Bill Before the House

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, June 4 2013

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced today a relaunch of the Citizen Cosponsor project, which allows members of the public to express support for House legislation online.

The new version includes all legislation introduced in the House by both Republicans and Democrats and exists on its own domain.

The initial version launched last year only featured a narrow selection of bills including several sponsored by Republicans, some bipartisan bills and one by a Democrat. That was a pilot, explained Connor Walsh, digital director in the Majority Leader's office.

The new platform built on that proof-of-concept is made possible through the bulk download of House bills in XML format that the Government Printing Office announced in January, Walsh said. The platform currently offers the chance to "co-sponsor" more than 2,500 bills.

Like the earlier version, the new platform integrates with Facebook's Open Graph, generating a Newsfeed notification when a user co-sponsors a bill and giving the user a red notification when action is taken on the legislation, he explained.

"It's open to both sides," Walsh emphasized. "If [Democratic Whip] Steny Hoyer wants to promote a bill he supports he's more than welcome to do it."

So far, though, it seems that mostly Republican House Members are embracing the platform. Walsh said that Cantor announced the platform in the Republican Conference meeting this morning.

The most popular bills Tuesday afternoon with over 100 co-sponsors were the Fair Tax Act of 2013 introduced by Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), the Border Security Results Act of 2013 introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), followed by the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act introduced Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and the Obamacare Repeal Act introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-Ia.)

On Twitter many Republican Members of Congress are pointing to the platform to promote their legislation. Some other Twitter users were drumming up support for Puerto Rico Statehood legislation, which has 36 cosponsors, introduced by Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico's representative in Congress, who caucuses with the Democrats but cannot vote on bills on the House Floor. The Global Free Internet Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), has 35 co-sponsors.

Walsh said the Majority Leader's office is interested in getting feedback on the platform via social media or an e-mail address at the bottom of the site.